Discovering Onion Rings, Ottawa, March 2015

“What do you want to eat?”

“Eat rice. Eat Cheese.”

Typical Mark, bridging French and Chinese cultures.

Still a North American kid, though—he won’t sit at the table, he’d rather “watch TV.”

Despite my occasionally tumultuous relationship with food and our respective cultural biases, our household is fairly straightforward with food. We have no known allergies, we don’t follow any specific diet and we cook most meals from scratch—nothing frozen but the occasional pizza. We each have our little quirks—Feng is partial to chewy cookies while I like them crunchy; I love runny eggs but Feng would rather eat dirt than touch a yolk that hasn’t been fried to death, and yesterday I caught Mark dipping a grape in ketchup.

Once upon a time, I may have entertained the thought of feeding precious snowflake organic, cruelty-free, 100% home-cooked meals, but then life happened and since he was eating sand and licking windows, I figured we could skip the Martha Steward moment.

I’m more (fucking) Gordon Ramsay, anyway.

Feeding a kid is not as easy as it seems. Most parents want to teach them good eating habits, but few can agree on the definition of “healthy eating habits.” Food is a touchy subject on which there is no consensus: tell anyone about a food choice you made and you will hear everything about it. Vegetarian? But how do you live without proteins? Organic food? Huh, must be nice to have money to spend on that crap. Convenience food? No wonder you are struggling with your weight with the one-and-half-store-bought cookie you’ve just eaten! Too much coffee is terrible for your health! Water should be filtered! No, water bottles give cancer! Whatever, paleo diet rules. Meh, no carbs is best. How can you let your kid eat fries? You know, you could totally bake your own bread. You gotta watch that sodium intake. Sugar is deadly too.

At one point, I decided we should all shut the fuck up and mind our own business, and eat whatever we like.

Oh, and also, everything and anything will kill us anyway.

So yes, Mark eats fast food once in a while. I give him store-bought cereal bars, I have never made fruit puree from scratch (unless handing him a ripe banana and having him open it alone counts—it certainly is pureed afterwards…). Wait, there is worse: Mark occasionally drank Coke (in China, when no drinkable water was available), he loves chocolate and candies, he snacks on peanuts and I let him lick the jam off the knife (double whammy, sugar + dangerous kitchen tool).

But he also loves broccoli and carrots, and tofu, eats fruits, is willing to taste anything (including stinky tofu, spicy food, etc.), eats when he is hungry and stops when he is full and he is active. He likes to cook with us (us, not so much…) and enjoys walking around the supermarket naming produce and familiar foods.

So all in all, I think we have it easy—I know some kids can be very picky. The main issue with Mark is having him sit at the table to eat. I like to contain the mess to the kitchen and it annoys me when he plays with food.

Mark’s new daycare (yes, I spared you the quest this time…) came with a much lower monthly fee, explained by the fact that this time, we had to provide snacks and lunch boxes.

I wasn’t too happy with the news (yay, more work and responsibilities!) but I took it in stride. After all, brown bagging is a North American tradition.

I bought a cute and easily washable lunch box, containers, a leak-proof cup with a straw, and toddler-friendly cutlery, and started crying as I set up the items on the kitchen counter. “He is too young to take his own lunch to school!” I wept. “Next thing you know, he will be asking me for change for the coffee machine and smuggling beer cans at home.”

Mark immediately loved “Mark’s box” and practised zipping it while I was deciding on the perfect lunch, knowing full well that he sometimes eats absolutely everything in front of him or refuses to have anything.

Yogurt, fruits, bread, cheese, a couple of cookies and a portion of whatever I feel like cooking—I have it figured out now. I think. Some days, he empties out the box, some days, he doesn’t eat much and it has nothing to do with the food, as I make sure to give him stuff he actually likes because I don’t want him to go hungry. I’m not that bad of a mother.

Now if Mark could just stop proudly telling people that he “eats McDonald’s” and “eats dogs,” that would be great… (Yes, he has McDonald’s at one point or another during any given month and no, he doesn’t eat dog meat—he means that he fakes biting as dogs do!)

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  1. Christiane April 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Aww nutrition. ..psshh nobody is perfect. We try to feed ourselves and our kids the best of our abilities. It’s awesome that Mark is everything. i hope my son continues to be an adventurous eater. Hoping that next year he asks for plantains !
    Lunchboxes and cutlery for toddlers are so cute. I used to pack my niece’s lunches and snacks for school and it was always challenging for me to not be redundant With the choices.

    1. Zhu April 27, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      I secretly wish someone would pack me a lunch too 🙂

      1. Christiane April 29, 2015 at 12:02 pm

        Right now, me too ! I would like lunch to magically appear right now !

  2. Jeruen April 27, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    This post reminded me of a childhood memory of mine. When I was in Denver (around age 3-5), I remember not wanting to finish my food. I dunno why, but I just didn’t want to eat everything on my plate. So somehow, my mom and I would have this food duel. My mom wanted me to eat the food on my plate, but I didn’t, so I would simply stuff them in my mouth, but not swallow them. I’d put food in my cheeks, underneath my lips, and so on, until I looked like a puffer fish. My mom and I would get into staring matches while I was fully puffed up. I would sit at the kitchen table for hours, storing my food in my mouth. Eventually, I’d get tired, my mom would tell me to spit it out, and it would be over. But I’ve sat there too long that the next meal would begin soon enough, and I’d have to do the whole food-storing routine all over again.

    1. Zhu April 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      I can imagine the “squirrel” routine! 😆 Funny, my mum has many memories of being forced to clean her plate as well, so she never forced us.

  3. Ling April 27, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Hahaha, I gave up on 100% organic, 100% homecook food and 50g of meat at max restriction for kids below 3 years old since I have my second one. She dipped her bread in my cafe at lait in the morning. We go to McDonald from time to time when I’m too exhausted to cook. She sure love fries and burger compare to my elder girl. Tonight, the “terrible two” went to bed only eating cheese because she refused to eat her gratin de Choufleur. It used to stress me that they don’t finish their food. Now, I’ll just say to myself that she’ll eat better tomorrow morning. You can be sure that she’ll have 3 slices of bread tomorrow morning.

    1. Zhu April 27, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      I feel for you because French are soooo picky and judgmental about food… that said, they feed kids the same thing grownup eat, which is easier. Here in Canada there is the whole “kid food” industry that drives me crazy.

      1. Ling April 28, 2015 at 4:50 pm

        Yeah, the pédiatre emphasize a lot on feeding the kids the same food as the adult. For a while, it was war between my mother in law when it comes to feeding my elder girl. 🙂

        1. Zhu April 29, 2015 at 12:25 am

          Is she French? The MIL?

          1. Ling April 29, 2015 at 4:12 pm

            Yes, she is. I don’t think it makes a difference if she’s French or Chinese. In fact, my mil was a difficult kid to feed when she was young. 🙂 She admitted that to us. She ate so little when she was young that she thinks both my husband and I pig feed our daughters. Hahaha.

          2. Zhu April 29, 2015 at 9:19 pm

            From my experience, Chinese parents tend to overfeed their kids while French parents give them very little and like to control what kids eat.

  4. I Say Oui April 27, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    A grape in ketchup?? Ha ha ha.

    So glad you found a daycare!

    Aw, your anecdote about crying at the kitchen counter really touched me! And then made me laugh. That sounds like a nice variety for his lunch and snacks.

    1. Zhu April 27, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      I should try the grape in ketchup. I would have. But I hate ketchup and I’m not big on grapes…

  5. Martin Penwald April 28, 2015 at 12:24 am

    Miam, rice with melted cheese. And a little bit of butter.

    1. Zhu April 28, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      He finds melted cheese weird though, I have to add it after I warm up the rice. Est-ce que tu faisais fondre du fromage au micro-onde à la cantine aussi? 🙂

      1. Martin Penwald April 28, 2015 at 7:56 pm

        Ah mais oui, c’est très bien de mettre le fromage râpé après. Mais attention, du bon fromage, genre du Beaufort, pas du machin industriel en plastique, même je me doute qu’à son âge, Mark s’en fout.
        Moi, j’allais pas à la cantine, je rentrais à la maison tous les midis jusqu’à ce que j’ai le bac.

        1. Zhu April 29, 2015 at 12:26 am

          J’habitais assez près de l’école aussi, mais j’ai eu une période “la cantine c’est fun”.

          Du Beaufort… mais j’trouve ça où moi? Ton camion livre à domicile??!

          1. Martin Penwald April 30, 2015 at 10:05 pm

            Ah ben oui, évidemment, ici, c’est pas évident à trouver. Cela dit, on peut trouver du Camenbert de Beauport qui n’est pas mal.

  6. Lexie April 28, 2015 at 8:31 am

    J’étais une enfant super pénible en termes de nourriture, du coup j’ai pas trop d’idées préconçues sur le sujet. J’ai fait bloqué des amies il y a peu en leur disant que je mangeais assez souvent des choses que je n’aimais pas. Pr elles, être adulte signifiait pouvoir skiper la partie “foie, celeri, brocolis”. Sauf que ça marche que s’il y a tres peu de choses que tu n’aimes pas! Bref, chez nous on mange de tout, mais on a pas de bonbons ni de coke ou autre. Par contre on mange plein de chocolat et de fromage 🙂 J’avoue que je n’ai pas hâte de devoir préparer les lunchs, ne serait-ce que parce que je me deculpabilise de lui faire des pâtes-fromage le soir parce que la garderie lui donne un repas complet et sain le midi. Si je dois lui donner du fromage et des crackers le midi, je suis perdue 😉

    1. Zhu April 28, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Est-ce que tes rejets alimentaires d’enfant sont passés ou est-ce que tu restes “difficile” (guillemets, car le terme est bizarre! On est toujours difficile pour quelqu’un qui ne mange pas de la même manière…).

      Pâtes-fromage pour une petite c’est pas mal, hein. Le trucs, c’est de privilégier les plats simples et faciles je trouve, car à leurs âges ils mangent pas tant que ça et ça peut être frustrant de revoir la gamelle presque intacte le soir, sans logique apparente car la fois d’avant, elle avait été dévorée.

  7. petite yaye April 29, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Yummi… cookies !!!! I love them both chewy and crunchy !! Sinon Michoco me semble plutôt comme Mark, il est un bon mangeur, le plus dur étant de le faire rester assis sur sa chaise… En ce moment il est en pleine phase du non, c’est chiant : “non, j’aime pas ça…”25 fois par repas… alors qu’il aime… mais bon j’imagine qu’à 25 ans ça lui aura passé !

    1. Zhu April 29, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Oui, ils ont leurs phases… ceci dit, nous aussi! Tu trouves de tout chez toi? Niveau aliments, j’entends.

  8. Gagan April 29, 2015 at 3:37 am

    Reading this, I went straight to my childhood and remembered the food I loved, crazy love, oh man I just remember that it has been probably over a decade that I have had that stuff. My mouth is watering, I’m having it this evening.

    I’m talking about

    J’ai faim 🙂

    1. Zhu April 29, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      J’ai faim aussi, du coup! I need to taste more Indian food…

      1. Gagan April 30, 2015 at 12:01 am


        What Indian food have you tasted already Zhu?

        1. Zhu April 30, 2015 at 8:02 pm

          I knew NOTHING about Indian food until we visited Perth, Australia, in 2003 🙂 There, I fell in love with curries and samosas! I like spicy food in general. I furthered my education in SE Asia, especially in Malaysia: I’m not sure if the food I had was “truly” Indian (and then, Indian food varies a lot depending on the region I think) but I loved it. Here in Canada we have several good Indian restaurants too, there is a big Indian community. Same goes for Toronto.

          How about you? Ever had French food? Any foreign cuisine widely available in India?

          1. Gagan May 1, 2015 at 1:06 am

            You are correct, Indian cuisine is quite diverse. So you have tried Samosas 🙂 I love Samosas, can’t have too many else I’ll become a Samosa myself 🙂

            Foreign cuisines available in India, well I’ll start with Chinese, every street corner has one however I am pretty sure it is not even close to the real thing. Almost all international cuisines are available in India, although I have never heard of Poutine anywhere here 🙂

            French cuisine, well we have plenty of les boulangeries francais here, some really good ones as well, but then I’ve mostly tried the baked stuff, the baguettes, cheese cakes (Je les adore) or sometimes a croissant. You see I have tried these however not the real deal yet 🙁

            But when I travel I indulge in the local cuisine, as a rule, I don’t go looking for my cuisine (I can make it, so no big wuff!). I loved the Japanese cuisine. It was brilliant and nothing I expected, of course I did read a lot beforehand but still. Sushi was what sushi is, salmon eggs were a delight, sake (do you have more), soba noodles, octopus…oh man! I fell in love with Japan, for real, what a beauty?

            I must stop, it says “Post Comment” not an essay, the thing is when the discussion moves to food, it is just hard for me to stop, really hard.

          2. Zhu May 1, 2015 at 4:22 pm

            No, please, let’s discuss!

            … but I have to kill a dream. Cheese cakes are not French… it’s an American specialty, they are virtually unknown in France. Have you ever had a croque-monsieur, a flan or crêpes?

            Yeah, poutine doesn’t export very well 😆 Even in Canada, I think you can mostly find it in Quebec, a little bit in Ontario and that’s it… unless you really look for it.

            Samosas are popular in France too but they are sold in Chinese restaurants, I thought it was a Chinese delicacy when I was younger!

          3. Zhu May 1, 2015 at 4:23 pm

            Is it your blog?

  9. Holly May 1, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    This is excellent! I am a vegetarian, but I definitely get enough protein :p I drink water from bottles (though am saving for a water bottle) and am saving to buy a water filter, I eat organic when I can afford it, but at the end of the day – we aren’t harming others with our food choices an we all have the right to make choices – it’s all legal afterall!

  10. Gagan May 2, 2015 at 6:05 am

    I always thought Cheese cakes were either Italian or French, I would have never concluded American. You see whenever I have had it I had it in either an Italian restaurant or a French bakery and I’m not just talking about in India, I saw the same thing in Bangkok & Tokyo. It is quite surprising. Nonetheless my wife and I still droll at the thought of a good cheese cake. Have you watched friends (this just might be a stupid question), in that episode where Chandler and Rachel kept stealing the cheese cake of the lady who stayed below (or above) their floor, and once it fell onto the floor and the way it crumbled, oh my…, ew have been searching that here in India, we found pretty good ones here however not that, the closest to that crumbling perfection was the one I had in Tokyo, but then the taste had something amiss, I wonder what. This is one our checklist if & when we make to Canada 🙂

    I have not had croque monsieur, flan or crepes; although they happen to appear a lot in my French lessons ;p So, I really have not had any French food, yet. 🙁

    Samosas are wonderful, and apparently quite difficult to mess up, yet some places do mess them up. I have had some really awesome Samosas, we get Samosas twice a week with our morning tea at work, on our desks. I eat them only once two or three months. Samosas are a north Indian food, that is where I come from, almost north of north 🙂 however Indian cuisine is awesome, there is so much, and the things that can be done with spices and herbs to the food that is just unbelievable. Some of my favorite recipes are Mutton Biryani (obviously the one I make 🙂 it has so many variations though, but I prefer the one made with original spices & herbs. This is a South Indian speciality), Aloo-Pyaz Paranthas (it’s a flat bread stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes & finely chopped onion, along with seasoning of your choice. This is a North Indian breakfast), Butter Chicken (This is another North Indian recipe. It makes an wonderful combination with alcohol). The best fish I had was on a beach in Goa, India has a huge coast line and you can find about thousand completely different recipes of fish, my favorite ones are all from the South of India. And if you have heard of Indian Dosa, well it is great gift from the South (my favorite kind of Dosa is called Appam, and I can’t tell what is more beautiful; to see how it is made or to eat it, really, it is pure art). However South has further variations and one of them is called Chettinadu Cuisine, I find their mutton recipes very interesting, this cuisine is not for weak hearted, seriously, I remember about two or three years ago I was in Chennai for some work thing and in the evening I went to a Chettinadu restaurant and ordered their mutton with Appam, for the first time in my life my forehead was perspiring, my eyes watering, these guys take hot & spicy to a whole another level. I have not tried Chettinadu since 🙂

    There is so much, so much that what I have shared with you is only about 5% of the Indian Cuisine. I just wrote whatever my taste buds told me, I didn’t even mention the great ‘Sarson-ka-Saag’, homely ‘Rajma-Chawal’ and dishes that escape my memory at present. (Sarson is mustard leaves, Rajma is kidney beans).

    My love for food, and my adoration for how it is made from scratch gets me to the kitchen so often; I even thought of blogging about it years ago and I started however I didn’t do justice to it, so it has been left unattended for years now.

    I will share photos of foods from here on Flickr in a few days.

    Sorry for the lengthy post 🙂

    1. Zhu May 2, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      So IT IS your blog! And you did bake these goodies! Man, that’s amazing. Seriously. I can’t bake like that… this apple pie of course, OMG! You know what (and I’m being serious), you should consider getting into the food industry in Canada. Canadian are foodies and they do appreciate “ethnic” food, plus you can probably get a base of newcomers customers if you do go for Indian food. And if you feel like trying something different, like a bakery, there is training available… Just an idea 🙂

      Samosas are the ultimate comfort food. Carbs, spices, easy to eat 🙂

      There are quite a few products from India at my local Walmart, some are very specific (i.e not just curry paste!). I’ll take a picture for you this week, remind me if I forget. Funny you mentioned fish, when I think of Indian food I don’t think of fish or seafood…

      1. Gagan May 2, 2015 at 11:16 pm

        Well yes, I did. You know I have always toyed with the idea of my own tea or coffee shop with some food to go along, and I always picture a books corner in that place. However cooking for two at home versus so many, I guess are completely different things. Let’s see ☺

        This is the first time I have heard about a curry paste, lol, but then I also heard about frozen pizza from you ☺ I would love to see what do they have in Walmart, it will be great, thanks.

        We love fish, well most of us, its my favorite fruits de mes ☺

        1. Zhu May 2, 2015 at 11:51 pm

          No frozen pizza in India??? This is a staple in France as well!

        2. Zhu May 2, 2015 at 11:52 pm

          Oh, BTW, I love Friends and I clearly remember the cheesecake episode! It puzzled me back then because I saw it in France. I think cheesecakes are a NY specialty. I ate some great ones there 🙂

          1. Gagan May 3, 2015 at 2:39 am

            No frozen pizza here, in fact the whole frozen food market is quite new here.

            So we will have to travel to NYC, well then

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