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Niche Blogs: What Kids Eat

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Chicken nuggets and pizza, right? That's what kids would eat if we let them decide for themselves, but we're concerned about raising the quality, and sometimes regulating the quantity, of children's nutrition. And of course, that leads to blogs that impress us one way or another.

Nine-year-old Martha Payne posts pictures of her meals at NeverSeconds, a school lunch blog that's caused a stir in England. The blog was only started last month, so it doesn't have a lot of posts yet. What the Sun doesn't know (they discovered LOLcats just this month) is that there are quite a few blogs dedicated to school lunches.

Sarah Wu started an interesting project in January of 2010. The public school teacher decided to eat a cafeteria lunch at school every day for a year and document her thoughts and post photographs, to raise awareness about the poor quality of school lunches in the U.S. It's all in the blog Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project and the book she wrote about it. After 2010, she continued blogging about various subjects related to school lunches and nutrition, with an occasional lunch post.

In contrast to the dissatisfaction of school lunch, Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything, has a blog that posts school menus from France. At French schools, there is no "kids' food," but school menus that adults would appreciate. Could they be as good as they sound?

If this picture is any indication, the answer is yes! It's from the blog What's For School Lunch? which brings us photographs of school lunches from around the world. The first page is heavy on Japanese lunches right now, but if you look through the archives, you'll find examples, both found and submitted, from nations all over the world. From what I gather, school lunches look delicious but skimpy in Africa and India, an adventure in Asia, sad in the former Soviet bloc countries, and vary widely in the U.S. and U.K. ...and a French school lunch is to die for.

Japanese School Lunches is by a student who has documented lunches for a couple of years now, with pictures and menu, but no commentary. Most look yummy if you like Japanese food, and the dishes are quite nice, too!

The Lunch Tray by Bettina Elias Siegel is about kids' food in general, but you know that includes a lot about school lunches -not necessarily documenting them, but information and advocacy about the school lunch program in the U.S. Siegel also has recipes, stories, and information about getting kids to eat right.

Blog for Family Dinner is a collaborative blog that invites your input. Recent posts cover recipes, policy, and meal planning, but what interested me was the personal stories of what a family dinner means, and how different they can be around the world and in other times. Dietician Natalia Stasenko wrote about the difficulties her family had eating in Russia 30 years ago, and how different her family life is now. It is only one of many thoughtful posts on family dining.

So maybe you want to pack your child's lunch? You can make it not only nutritious and delicious, but fun to look at! Anna the Red runs one of the premier bento blogs, as she is an artist with a lunchbox. A recent entry shows lunch in tribute to author Maurice Sendak. But there are plenty of bento box blogs, like Just Bento, What's for Lunch at Our House, Happy Little Bento, Lunch in a Box, My Meal Box, Leggo My Obento, and you'll find more at the Bento Blog Network.

One thing kids will eat is pancakes. But if you have a stubborn child, pancakes are easily made into artworks that will entice them! There are several pancake art blogs. The taco meal shown above is completely made of pancakes. It's from Michael Goudeau’s Pancake Project, which seems to have been discontinued since he published a book, but there are plenty of artful pancakes in the archives.

Jim's Pancakes appears to have gone the same way, ceasing publication when his book came out. Jim creates wonderful pancake sculptures inspired by his children, Allison and Ryan. One of the last posted was this all-pancake Star Wars At-At.

The latest pancake blog sensation is Saipancakes, by Nathan Shields, a stay-at-home-dad on leave from teaching math. His pancake creations show his interest in science (as well as everything else) as he pours pancakes in theme groups. A recent post has a video tutorial on how he does it.

Once again, I confronted a long list of interesting blogs to tell you about and got distracted when I explored more from the same genre. There will be a list of niche blogs on a variety of subjects to check out soon. See previous posts in this series also.

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Hamilton Broadway
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A Hamilton-Themed Cookbook is Coming
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Hamilton Broadway

Fans of Broadway hit Hamilton will soon be able to dine like the Founding Fathers: As Eater reports, a new Alexander Hamilton-inspired cookbook is slated for release in fall 2017.

Cover art for Laura Kumin's forthcoming cookbook
Amazon

Called The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, the recipe collection by author Laura Kumin “takes you into Hamilton’s home and to his table, with historical information, recipes, and tips on how you can prepare food and serve the food that our founding fathers enjoyed in their day,” according to the Amazon description. It also recounts Hamilton’s favorite dishes, how he enjoyed them, and which ingredients were used.

Recipes included are cauliflower florets two ways, fried sausages and apples, gingerbread cake, and apple pie. (Cue the "young, scrappy, and hungry" references.) The cookbook’s official release is on November 21—but until then, you can stave off your appetite for all things Hamilton-related by downloading the musical’s new app.

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15 Fascinating Facts About Julia Child
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TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Julia Child was much more than just a bestselling cookbook author and chef. Over the course of her life, she was also a breast cancer survivor, a TV trailblazer, and a government spy. It's the famed chef's spy game that will be the focus of Julia, a new series being developed by ABC Signature and created by Benjamin Brand.

The project will draw its inspiration from Child's PBS program, Cooking for the C.I.A. “I was disappointed when I learned that in this case, the C.I.A. stood for the Culinary Institute of America,” Brand told Deadline. “Cooking Secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency always seemed like a more interesting show to me. Many years later, when I read a biography of Julia Child and learned about her experiences during World War II, working for the Office of Strategic Services—the precursor to the C.I.A.—the story of Julia quickly fell into place.”

Though Julia will be a work of fiction, here are 15 facts about the beloved cook.

1. SHE MET THE INVENTOR OF THE CAESAR SALAD WHEN SHE WAS A KID.

As a preteen, Julia Child traveled to Tijuana on a family vacation. Her parents took her to dine at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant, so that they could all try his trendy “Caesar salad.” Child recalled the formative culinary experience to The New York Times: “My parents were so excited, eating this famous salad that was suddenly very chic. Caesar himself was a great big old fellow who stood right in front of us to make it. I remember the turning of the salad in the bowl was very dramatic. And egg in a salad was unheard of at that point.” Years later, when she was a famous chef in her own right, Child convinced Cardini’s daughter, Rosa, to share the authentic recipe with her.

2. THE WAVES AND WACS REJECTED HER BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO TALL.

Like so many others of her generation, Child felt the call to serve when America entered World War II. There was just one problem: her height. At a towering 6'2", Child was deemed “too tall” for both the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC). But she was accepted by the forerunner to the CIA, which brings us to our next point.

3. SHE WAS A SPY DURING WORLD WAR II.

Child took a position at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was basically the CIA 1.0. She began as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, where she worked directly for the head of the OSS, General William J. Donovan. But she moved over to the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, and then took an overseas post for the final two years of the war. First in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and later in Kunming, China, Child served as the chief of the OSS Registry. This meant she had top-level security clearance. It also meant she was working with Paul Child, the OSS officer she would eventually marry.

4. SHE HELPED DEVELOP A SHARK REPELLENT FOR THE NAVY.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While Child was in the Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, she helped the team in its search for a suitable shark repellent. Several U.S. naval officers had been attacked by the ocean predators since the war broke out, so the OSS brought in a scientist specializing in zoology and an anthropologist to come up with a fix. Child assisted in this mission, and recalled her experience in the book, Sisterhood of Spies: “I must say we had lots of fun. We designed rescue kits and other agent paraphernalia. I understand the shark repellent we developed is being used today for downed space equipment—strapped around it so the sharks won’t attack when it lands in the ocean.”

5. SHE GOT MARRIED IN BANDAGES.

Once the war ended, Paul and Julia Child decided to take a “few months to get to know each other in civilian clothes.” They met with family members and traveled cross-country before they decided to tie the knot. The wedding took place on September 1, 1946. Julia remembered being “extremely happy, but a bit banged up from a car accident the day before.” She wasn’t kidding; she actually had to wear a bandage on the side of her face for her wedding photos. The New York Review of Books has one of those pictures.

6. SHE WAS A TERRIBLE COOK WELL INTO HER 30S.

Child did not have a natural talent for cooking. In fact, she was a self-admitted disaster in the kitchen until she began taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she and Paul lived for several years. Prior to her marriage, Child simply fed herself frozen dinners. It was probably the safest choice; one of her earliest attempts at cooking resulted in an exploded duck and an oven fire.

7. A LUNCH IN ROUEN CHANGED HER LIFE.

Child repeatedly credited one meal with spurring her interest in fine foods: a lunch in the French city of Rouen that she and Paul enjoyed en route to their new home in Paris. The meal consisted of oysters portugaises on the half-shell, sole meunière browned in Normandy butter, a salad with baguettes, and cheese and coffee for dessert. They also “happily downed a whole bottle of Pouilly-Fumé” over the courses.

8. IT TOOK HER NINE YEARS TO WRITE AND PUBLISH HER FIRST COOKBOOK.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking revolutionized home cooking when it was published in 1961—but the revolution didn't happen overnight. Child first began work on her famous tome in 1952, when she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The French women were writing a cookbook aimed at teaching Americans how to make French cuisine, and brought Child onboard as a third author. Nine years of research, rewrites, and rejections ensued before the book landed a publisher at Alfred A. Knopf.

9. SHE GOT FAMOUS BY BEATING EGGS ON BOSTON PUBLIC TELEVISION.

Child’s big TV break came from an unlikely source: Boston’s local WGBH station. While promoting Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child appeared as a guest on the book review program I’ve Been Reading. But rather than sit down and discuss recipe semantics, Child started cracking eggs into a hot plate she brought with her. She made an omelette on air as she answered questions, and viewers loved it. The station received dozens of letters begging for more demonstrations, which led WGBH producer Russell Morash to offer Child a deal. She filmed three pilot episodes, which turned into her star-making show The French Chef.

10. ALL HER ESSENTIAL UTENSILS WERE KEPT IN A “SACRED BAG.”

According to a 1974 New Yorker profile, Child carried a large black canvas satchel known as the “sacred bag.” Rather than holy artifacts, it contained the cooking utensils she couldn’t live without. That included her pastry-cutting wheel, her favorite flour scoop, and her knives, among other things. She started using it when The French Chef premiered, and only entrusted certain people with its care.

11. SHE SURVIVED BREAST CANCER.

Child’s doctors ordered a mastectomy in the late 1960s after a routine biopsy came back with cancerous results. She was in a depressed mood following her 10-day hospital stay, and Paul was a wreck. But she later became vocal about her operation in hopes that it would remove the stigma for other women. She told TIME, “I would certainly not pussyfoot around having a radical [mastectomy] because it’s not worth it.”

12. HER MARRIAGE WAS WELL AHEAD OF ITS TIME.

As their meet-cute in the OSS offices would suggest, Paul and Julia Child had far from a conventional marriage (at least by 1950s standards). Once Julia’s career took off, Paul happily assisted in whatever way he could—as a taste tester, dishwasher, agent, or manager. He had retired from the Foreign Service in 1960, and immediately thrust himself into an active role in Julia’s business. The New Yorker took note of Paul’s progressive attitudes in its 1974 profile of Julia, noting that he suffered “from no apparent insecurities of male ego.” He continued to serve as Julia’s partner in every sense of the word until his death in 1994.

13. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN INDUCTED INTO THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA'S HALL OF FAME.

Child spent her early years working for what would become the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1993, she joined another CIA: the Culinary Institute of America. The group inducted Child into its Hall of Fame that year, making her the first woman to ever receive the honor.

14. SHE EARNED THE HIGHEST CIVILIAN HONORS FROM THE U.S. AND FRANCE.

Along with that CIA distinction, Child received top civilian awards from both her home country and the country she considered her second home. In 2000, she accepted the Legion D’Honneur from Jacques Pépin at Boston’s Le Méridien hotel. Just three years later, George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

15. HER KITCHEN IS IN THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 2001, Julia donated the kitchen that Paul designed in their Cambridge, Massachusetts home to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Although it’s not possible to walk directly through it, there are three viewports from which visitors can see the high counters, wall of copper pots, and gleaming stove. Framed recipes, articles, and other mementos from her career adorn the surrounding walls—and, of course, there’s a television which plays her cooking shows on loop.

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