Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater Paperback – Bargain Price, Mar 31 2010
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—Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential
"Matthew Amster-Burton is equal parts Mario Batali, Ray Romano, Dr. Spock of toddler cuisine, and Mr. Spock of toddler logic. He's a national and intergalactic culinary and literary treasure."
— Steven Shaw, author of Turning the Tables and co-founder of eGullet
"This charming, funny book is full of great ideas for family meals. In a world of culinary pandering to kids, where vegetables in disguise pass for cuisine, Amster-Burton gets the recipe right." --Neal Pollack, author of Alternadad
"With its incisive wit and hilarious stories about Iris, Hungry Monkey made me want to have a child-- just so I could start feeding her." --Shauna James Ahern, author of Gluten-Free Girl
"Matthew Amster-Burton cast some sort of enchantment over me as I read about his all-too-real-life culinary adventures with his daughter. The proof? I actually found myself thinking: if Matthew were my dad, I don't think I'd mind being a little girl... or even a sock monkey... if I got my share of every meal." -- John Thorne, author of Outlaw Cook and Mouth Wide Open
"Matthew Amster-Burton has written a wonderful book. It reads so well you won't be able to put it down...except when overcome by a need to rush to your kitchen and execute one or another of his winning recipes." -- Paula Wolfert, author of The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
“Matthew Amster-Burton is smart, funny, a terrific writer, a great cook and on track to be voted father-of-the-year every year for the next decade, at least. How lucky for Iris, a.k.a. Hungry Monkey, that she landed in the Amster-Burton family and how really lucky for us that we can tag along on their adventures – and learn how to make pretzels and pad Thai, too.” --Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking: From My Home to Yours
About the Author
Matthew Amster-Burton is a restaurant critic, food writer, and former rock journalist with credits in The Best Food Writing, The Seattle Times, Gourmet, Seattle Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Parent Map, culinate.com, and egullet.com—as well as his food blog, Roots and Grubs. He lives in Seattle with his wife Laurie, a school librarian, and his daughter Iris.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It does have it's humorous moments and is an easy, enjoyable read. But, for those of us trying to raise kids with similarly adventurous palates, he makes it sound too easy.
Not every anecdote results in his daughter licking her plate clean and asking for more, but his stated goal of raising an adventurous eater is accomplished very early in the book. The rest of it reads like a proud father showing off his daughter's trophy case... "and here's the time she stuffed herself with sushi... and here's the time she ate pad thai for three days straight..."
Yes, I read the entire book, but apart from debunking advice re: baby food. I did not come away with much usable advice for raising my own adventurous eaters. He acknowledges this fact, but it seems like a cop out.
The recipes at the end of each chapter were nicely annotated and looked like they'd be welcomed by my children once they get out of the "no mixed-up food" phase.
Amster-Burton should write a companion "Cooking with Iris" cookbook of his daughter-friendly recipes bolstered with excerpts of his anecdotes. I liked his idea of using an electric skillet for cooking with children.
-Amster-Burton writes about Seattle and makes me feel like an insider, even though I live in Bellevue;
-he references Bread and Jam For Frances multiple times, which is possibly the best book ever written;
-he got a 5 on my humor rating scale, meaning I was laughing out loud to myself AND making my husband listen as I read funny parts aloud;
-the way he talks about food and feeding his family is equal parts Anthony Bourdain and M.F.K. Fisher, which is no easy feat.
What I was drawn to most in this book is the author's respect for both his daughter and the food they make together. Their relationship as depicted in the book is really quite lovely and illustrates that one does not have to dumb down conversations, expectations, ideas or flavors just because one lives with someone who happens to be a toddler.
And, on a personal note, as I sat in a nearly empty restaurant today and waited for our order that I could SEE on the warming tray for over 15 minutes (including one child's order of mini hamburgers and grapes...yawn) while my own toddler got increasingly flappy and bouncy in her high chair, I thought about our last visit to our favorite sushi place where she happily ate her fill of tamago sushi and edamame as soon as we sat down. Then I thought about Hungry Monkey and realized that I'm glad to have its message, its spirit and its recipes to guide me through these next several years of eating, cooking and throwing food on the floor.
So--in short, as a parenting book/memoir I give it 3 stars, but as a book for foodies, I'd give it 4. Let's call it 3.5 stars.
Amster-Burton is a foodie. He's not just a foodie, he's a professional food writer/restaurant reviewer. He's the fulltime caregiver for his preschooler Iris, the "hungry monkey" at issue, balancing this freelance work with his parental responsibilities.
If you're a foodie, and can stomach (no pun intended) a little parental bragging (probably no worse than you come across in your typical mom blog or phone call with your first-time parent friend or relation), then I think that you'll enjoy Hungry Monkey. However, if you're expecting to find suggestions on how to convince your young child that he should eat mushrooms, then you're going to be disappointed.
The conclusion that he makes is that kids will eat what they want to eat. Yes, offering variety -- persistently -- is good. Yes, get them involved in helping you make the food. But no, don't expect that just because you and your spouse love hot chilies that your progeny will let you indulge your spicy palate at the family table.
But, if you enjoy food and cooking, you will enjoy reading about his culinary explorations and how the addition of a child changed it somewhat, but not completely. So, in that, it's aptly titled. It is a foodie's quest, and I would say that Iris <em>is</em> more adventurous than most children and many adults.
Each chapter has some sort of a theme, and there are a few recipes at the end of each chapter. They are gourmet, but not daunting, and there are several that I want to try, including his simple pad thai, bibimbap, shrimp and grits, and I have to say that he even made me curious about trying brussels sprouts.
The recipies seem to be pretty dang good. I have made the Phad Thai recipe so far and am going to try out the braised short ribs soon even though my kid can't eat real food yet.
Instead, I absolutely loved this book. There are only two Rules and they're pretty dang easy to follow. A week after buying the book, reading it, rereading it, and making my husband read it, my son took his first bite of some of the best gyoza in town. And he loved it. There are some things he doesn't love yet, like ice cream, which makes me suspect that he's a changeling. But all-in-all our whole approach towards feeding our son has morphed into something a lot like the approach we have towards feeding ourselves. Eat good food, and enjoy it!
All in all, a well written book that needs to be read by anyone who is absolutely dreading a future of the white-foods-only phase.