Over the weekend, I made my own mayonnaise. You’ll be hearing more about this, but beyond the general feeling of triumph I experienced by my accomplishment, I had to take a step back and say, “I can’t believe I’m making my own mayonnaise. How much will DALS readers of babies and toddlers resent me for having time to do something so indulgent?” With this in mind, it’s my honor to present today’s guest-poster, writer and editor Rory Evans. In addition to being one of DALS most faithful commenters (your avatar is safe with me!) Rory was one of my first mentors in magazines — we first met at Real Simple in 2001 — and I know I speak for a lot of writers when I say her hand-scribbled line-edits and queries on manuscripts taught me more about writing than almost anyone else I can think of. She is also the mother of a 2-year-old, which means she is more in the guerilla mode of toddler-feeding phase than the homemade mayo-making one. I keep her around for this reason, but also because every year on my birthday, she sends me this, much to the delight of my daughters and my neighbors and whoever else I invite to share in the bounty. Here, Rory shares a few tried-and-true tactics that have worked at her family table including a marinade made from the three ingredients above that I’ve already used a half dozen times since she told me about it last month. Thanks Rory!
A few nights ago, my 2-year-old daughter Evan ate everything off her plate. And then—holy role reversal!—she started picking off mine. The last time I had seen her ingest anything so quickly was when she was six days old, and downed two ounces of formula in a desperate, half-minute suck. (It was, we realized, the first food she had eaten in her 144-hour life—all those endless “breastfeeding” sessions had been a ruse. Nothing had been coming out.)
It will likely be years before she replicates this feat. And it of course made me try to decode what we had put before her. Here’s what she ate: boneless pork chop and a salad made with baby spinach, red onion, and sliced strawberries (North Shore of Boston people: Do they still serve this at every wedding held at Salem Country Club in Peabody?). The common ingredient, I realized? Maple syrup (in the marinade, along with rice vinegar and soy sauce; and in the dressing, with red wine vinegar and olive oil). Oh, “candy pork” and “candy salad,” I thought—remembering my friend Molly’s suggestion years ago to refer to anything even slightly sweet as “candy” and your kids will eat it.
If there is a blessing to having been a dried-up old bag when my daughter was born (I was 18 days shy of turning 40), it’s this: Most of my friends had had their kids years and years before, and I’d heard their stories about willful toddlers and Olympic-level picky eaters (my desk was about 20 feet from Jenny’s during that era when Abby decided to go on her 5-week solid food strike) I remembered a few of their various tricks: like not only Molly’s “candy” modifier, but also her “chicken fish” trick—her son would eat any kind of chicken, so she just started referring to any kind of fish as chicken fish. (See also: Jenny’s “Princess fish,” which I’ve also put to good use.) Since Evan mysteriously loves broccoli, I’ve started calling kale “broccoli salad” and cauliflower “white broccoli” with minimal blowback.
She is also a fan of “salad surprise,” where something we know she loves is hidden under a mound of mulch/greens. As in, the strawberries with the spinach, or the raisins that go into a kale salad. Of course, she’s been known to just push the leaves aside and go for the treat, but she eventually gets to the rest. Naturally, I live in fear of her some day being on to my tricks, when she decides that she’ll only ever eat another vegetable if it’s entirely camouflaged in some kind of Jessica Seinfeld cupcake. So I ask you, dear Jenny’s reader: What worked for you? Is there more dinnertime doublespeak that I should know about?
Maple Candy Pork Chops
Rory said she makes the marinade mostly by feel. Place four boneless center cut pork chops in a zip top bag. Add 1/3 cup of syrup, 2 to 3 tablespoons of canola, a bunch of glugs of soy sauce (about 1/4 cup), and then the same amount of rice vinegar, and a shake or two of powdered garlic (or if you are feeling ambitious, one whole clove, halved). Marinate at least an hour and a half and up to overnight. When ready to cook, place chops on an unlined cookie sheet, which most certainly should be lined with foil, and roast at 450°F for about maybe 15 – 20 minutes, flipping once half way through.
Salad Surprise with Strawberries
Toss 1 bag baby spinach, a handful of sliced strawberries, and a tablespoon or two of super thinly sliced red onion. I tossed it with a dressing made from 1 tablespoon maple syrup, apple cider vinegar (insert kate saying, “page turner!”), and olive oil, a pinch of powdered garlic, and a hint of ground cinnamon.