Jordan: "King of the World"
The Talamon and Bates Family of Los Angeles, California
Karen Grigsby Bates and husband Bruce Talamon laugh at their nickname for their son, Jordan: they call him the "King of the World" because when he came into their lives, everything changed. Sound familiar?
At 7 years old, the charming Jordan Talamon not only eats well (both his parents love to cook, especially with Jordan at their side), but he gets a healthy dose of good manners at the same time. His mother co-authored the first etiquette book for African Americans, Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times (Doubleday), an excellent resource on the modern rules of social behavior, and what is and isn't appropriate for any situation.
Bruce, Jordan's dad, works in Hollywood as a still photographer, often on movie sets, which makes their nightly routines a bit out of the ordinary. The average worker now spends over 47 hours a week on the job, but in the movie industry, the average day lasts way beyond 12 hours. Crew members must often travel to distant locations, leaving their families for days, weeks or months at a time. But there are times when free-lancers like Bruce can enjoy many days of uninterrupted quality time at home, and it's at these times when he and Jordan cut up in the kitchen.
An Etiquette Author's Own Rules of the Table
Elsewhere in Cooking with Kids, Karen Grigsby Bates, an expert on modern etiquette, shares the rules on table manners she's set up for her own kid. These range from coming to the table with clean hands to thanking the cook.
"I do tend to harp on these things," she says, "but I've found it's the cumulative effect of nagging that is most helpful—the old water-wearing-away-the-rock technique that mothers the world over have employed successfully for centuries.
"All in all it works pretty well, and it's reinforced at Jordan's Montessori school. There the children have napkin rings, are expected to pass things when asked, and they tidy up their tables after lunch is over. Cool!
"There is a downside, though: having mastered the rudiments of table etiquette, the half-pint Manners Militia do not hesitate to point out others' transgressions—to a mother's intense embarrassment—as in this likely scenario:
Son: "Hey, how come "he" gets to eat with his elbows on
the table and I don't?"
Mom: "Cause he's 35, he's a Hell's Angel and he isn't eating with his mommy. Let's just worry about our own table manners, before our own table is upended!"
"Well, we can't work on everything at once," she adds.
Beating the Brown-bag Blues
Jordan enjoys a wider variety of foods than most kids his age. He's not at all picky about things like exotic fish or spicy gourmet sausages—his problem is in eating traditional lunch box foods, as his mom recounts here:
"My biggest challenge? Finding enough variety for the daily lunchbox. For the most part, Jordan doesn't eat sandwiches (recently he's relented and will take tuna). Although he's a bread person, he doesn't want it coupled with meat. Grilled cheese is the exception—the cheese is so fused to the bread he couldn't take it apart, even if he wanted to. (Mom 1, Kid 0 !)
"PB & J, the old lunchbox staple, inspires gagging noises. And forget about egg salad: "mayonnaise: dis-GUST-ing!" So I sometimes give him fruit and a chunk of cheese and a hunk of French or Italian bread.
"Or I pack a chicky-bone (his toddler name for drumsticks—the name stuck and has been entered into our culinary lexicon), cold veggies with salad dressing and maybe rice. His school allows no junk food or desserts containing sugar, so I usually send him off with fruit (apple or orange slices in the winter, berries or peaches or melon in the summer) or, occasionally, sugar-free Jello cups."
The Joy of Cooking, from Mom to Son
"Making a good meal is a way to nurture my creative spirit," says Karen, who passes her love of cooking on to young Jordan everyday. "I love the tactile element: the chopping, kneading, rinsing. I enjoy the aroma of good things being cooked, like a perfectly roasted chicken or a batch of homemade bread. And I love the myriad of textures we experience when we eat: the suede-like seduction of a perfect peach; the crunch of asparagus when it's cooked so it's still crisp, the buttery crumble of a good pie crust.
"Most of all, I personally like cooking because food is a tangible metaphor for the warmth and good feeling that comes from providing sustenance to those we love, whether it's my own immediate family, a larger family gathering, or the assembly of the friends who make up our burgeoning extended family. No matter where you really live or who you're really related to, if your cross our threshold and it's mealtime, you automatically become part of the family. We can always put an extra plate on the table, and find an upended box, if necessary, to press into service as a chair.
"But outside of weekends, I now find I'm not as enthusiastic about daily cooking as I once was—probably because I have less time and no options about whether or not I do it. When I was single, if I wanted to skip dinner, I did. Or I ate what I wanted (cheese and fruit, soup, a pint of chocolate Haagen Das...) Now that I have a child to feed each day, I have to make sure he gets as many of the food groups as possible, at a reasonable hour. So I feel a lot like a short-order cook Monday through Thursday (Friday is Mom's Night Off) and a 'Real Cook' on the weekend."
Karen's Tips for Shopping with Kids
Despite what many parents believe, Karen says it really is possible to shop with kids and not go nuts:
"To paraphrase Honest Abe: you can do it with all kids some of the time, some kids all of the time—but not all kids all of the time. Here's what I do to combat the I-wants:
- "Shop when we're both not starving. Our grocery store helps, because at the deli counter they give samples of the sliced meats to you if you want to try before you buy. So when I'm ordering the sliced turkey, Jordan is having a nosh. This same store kindly gives little ones a cookie of his/her choice, too. (Some moms view this as a mixed blessing, because after the kid has had a warm 'designer' chocolate-chip cookie, those generic things in the plain-wrap bag look pretty tame...)
- "Agree upon one treat thing per trip: 'You want String Things? Granola Bars? Fine—but one, not both.' "No new cereal until the old one is pretty far gone. And we check the labels: too much sugar disqualifies a cereal. Jordan may not always agree to 'Naked Cheerios' (unfrosted, un-honey-nutted, etc.), but we don't buy something with 23 grams of sugar per serving either. (Hey, why don't we just pour our milk straight into the sugar bowl?) Same for other categories: I say okay to Jello, but not Jello gelatin and Jello pudding cups. We buy one or the other.
- "My kid frequently gets to choose the vegetables and the fruit. That means we eat a lot of broccoli, bananas, melon and grapes—but that's okay. We try to go to the Farmer's Market a lot—it's got good selection, fresh fruit and vegetables, and far fewer junk food distractions. I'd rather buy him an artichoke ("I might not eat it, I just like the way it looks!") than a chocolate-covered graham cracker.
- "Nothing from the candy bins at check-out. Period. If he knows it's off-limits, most of the time he doesn't even bother to ask."
© 1999, Karen Grigby Bates
Want more tips on sane shopping with kids? Dozens of other families share their advice in "Chapter 6: Supermarket Survival" of Cooking with Kids. You'll find out how to turn your kids into Junior Shopping Technicians and help them discover a few things about math, weights and measures, and healthy eating , along with parents' tips for Better Brown Bags.
Back to the main Families page.
Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
Sarah: Soon to Be Six
The Doonan Family of Fort Worth, Texas
Jordan: "King of the World"
The Talamon and Bates Family of Los Angeles, California
Sam, Kelli, and Adam: Lean, Mean Eating Machines
The Evers Family of Portland, Oregon
Michael, Sarah, Thomas, and Rachel: More Than a Mouthful
The Stouffer Family of Rochester, Michigan
Catherine and Victoria: Pizza Rules!
The Rodriguez and Rudd Family of Miami, Florida
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