The Falafel Debacle

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I made falafel? No? Well, that’s probably because it was AWFUL. I had this idea that because both my kids like chickpeas I should kick it up a notch and make something fancier than our usual dinner fare (e.g. spaghetti and peas). Plus, I have golden memories of this amazing falafel I had in Montreal one summer when I was studying French there in college. It was legendary, people.

My falafel? Was nothing like that. I knew I’d gotten off to a bad start when the recipe said to use a food processor and, since we don’t own one, I decided to use a blender. Only the bottom third of the chickpea mixture was mixing, so I tried to shove it down with a rubber spatula. When that got chewed up, I picked out the pieces of plastic and tried a wooden spoon. When a chunk of that splintered off, I thought about giving up, but instead I transferred the whole mess in two batches to the Magic Bullet.

Then, it turned out we didn’t have enough vegetable oil to deep-fry the falafel patties so I added some olive oil to the pan, thinking I’d sauté them instead. Healthier, right? So here’s what happened: the falafel dissolved in the oil and I ended up with a pan full of chickpea sludge. Did I mention that I had invited our neighbors over for dinner and there were 5 hungry kids running around my house at that point?

I managed to salvage a few paltry falafel patties, which were gritty and too salty and contained shards of wooden spoon. My neighbor, ever the good sport, pronounced them “not that bad.” The girl is a terrible liar. But polite. Needless to say, the kids wouldn’t touch the stuff and ate chicken nuggets instead. And THAT is why I don’t cook much, people.

Someone who does is Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater. A food writer and dad in Seattle, he writes about his culinary adventures with his very funny and precocious daughter, Iris. The child was eating sushi at 10 mos. She once did a podcast about lobster. And her favorite food is some Szechuan dish with pork that her dad grinds himself. For real.

I loved this book, even though I am SO not the intended audience. For one thing, I’m a vegetarian. For another, my favorite cookbook is one he openly disparages (Desperation Dinners). And for another, I hate grocery shopping and only do it because I have to, whereas Amster-Burton goes food shopping at farmers’ markets and specialty grocery stores up to 8 times a week (!!).

But I’m a sucker for a good read, especially one about a devoted stay-at-home dad and his hilarious 3 y.o. I know ALL about hilarious 3 y.o.’s. Mine is a pretty good eater, but there’s no WAY he’d ever eat a fish eyeball like Iris does.

The book is very funny and includes recipes, 99% of which I will never make. With the possible exception of the Pad Thai. I laughed out loud at the chapter about his stint as preschool “Snack Dad.” He makes empanadas and Chinese dumplings for the class -- from scratch. I would HATE this guy if I were another parent at his school. As a point of comparison, I brought in prepackaged popcorn when it was my turn to do snack.

My poor children will never know what it’s like to grind their own spices, buy shrimp straight off the boat, or make sticky rice at home. Oh, well. Maybe when they’re in college they can study abroad one semester and get a taste of what good food is like.

READ O’ THE WEEK: Amster-Burton’s book includes a “recommended reading” section at the end, complete with food-related kids’ books. One of our favorites is Jamberry by Bruce Degen, a rollicking, rhyming fruit adventure. Mmmm, jam...


Shannon @ AnchorMommy said...

Oh no! Awful falafel! Nothing more disappointing than awful falafel. It's for sure MUCH easier when you have a food processor.

I read Hungry Monkey as well, and was very entertained. I also have to admit I was a bit shocked. I think my boy is a pretty adventurous eater, but that guy's daughter? Wow. Oh, and I think that book is where I found a recipe for Cumin Carrot Coins -- or something like that. They're really good.

Also, yay for Jamberry! That was one we borrowed from the library and loved so much, we bought our own copy! We LOVE reading that book during huckleberry season around here.

Lora said...

I had to giggle at this, just a bit. I'm sorry your falafel experience didn't go as planned. I'm pretty sure I'd be lost if I tried to make it!

I love Jamberry :)

I'm visiting from SITS and thanking you for having the courage to not go along with popular opinion and status quo :) There weren't very many of us there, but I'm trying to visit each and every one :)

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