Parents Who Cook: Aria Beth Sloss

Aria Beth Sloss is a writer, and the author of the novel Autobiography of Us, which has just come out in paperback.

She also happens to married to Dan Barber, a hero of mine and the iconic chef of Blue Hill in NYC, where they both live. I’ve been in touch with Aria ever since I published this fridge Q&A with Dan: I had mentioned her novel was about to be published, and she thanked me and offered to send me an advance copy, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dan and Aria had a little girl last year, and of course, as part of my Parents Who Cook series, I had to ask how the household’s cooking life has changed since then. Aria shared her approach and tips with great generosity, and I hope you enjoy delving into it — and trying the two recipes she provided — as much as I did.

Clotilde Dusoulier

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Age, name, temperament?

Edith turned one last month. As divine retribution for all the times I scoffed at parents who ascribed real, complex temperaments to their infants, Edith has been the person she is now since the day she was born — cheerful, opinionated, determined, and hilarious. I never dreamed someone so small could make me laugh so hard.

Clotilde Dusoulier

Did having a child change the way you cook?

I’m embarrassed to answer this, because the change has less to do with the way I cook than the fact that I find myself cooking at all. I’ve always been a baker; my husband is a chef, so for many years, we had the perfect arrangement. Then we found ourselves with this new member of the household, who couldn’t, turns out, survive on cake and cookies.

When Edith started eating solids, around six months, we took what felt like a huge leap in faith by deciding to forgo purees (my heart was in my mouth for most of the first month’s meals) and give her modified versions (less salt, no windpipe-sized beans, etc) of what we ate instead. [Note from Clotilde: this is an approach often referred to as baby-led weaning.] Anxieties aside, it seems to have suited us all very well.

We found ourselves with this new member of the household, who couldn’t, turns out, survive on cake and cookies.

When my husband is home for dinner, he makes dishes very similar to those he made before our daughter was born — beautiful omelets, grain and roasted vegetable salads, tartines with a soft cheese, a lacing of vinegar, and a sprinkling of herbs — and we all eat them together.

On the nights he’s at the restaurant, I’ve developed a few fail-safe recipes: lentil soup (who knew babies like soup?), less aesthetically-pleasing but acceptable omelets, avocado mash on toast, baked sweet potato with miso butter [recipe below!], and a few simple pasta dishes like soba with toasted sesame oil and broccoli. Plus, I’ve started experimenting with sprouted wheat flour, which makes baked goods a lot more nutritious.

Aria and Edith in the kitchen at Blue Hill.

Aria and Edith in the kitchen at Blue Hill.

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Parents Who Cook: Lucy Baluteig-Gomes

Lucy Baluteig-Gomes is the French designer behind Rose la Biche, a poetic line of handmade clothing that’s both easy to wear and one-of-a-kind — think petals cascading from collars, ruffled hoodies, and tulle neckpieces.

Lucy and I have known each other for years — we first met at a C&Z get-together in San Francisco in 2006 — and I have followed her adventures excitedly as she moved from San Francisco back to Paris, before relocating to Barcelona where she lives now. Lucy is a mother of two, and I am delighted to have her as my new guest on the Parents who Cook series.

Clotilde Dusoulier

Can you tell us a few words about your children? Ages, names, temperaments?

I have two kids: my son Oscar is 6 years old, and my daughter Brune is 3. While they have two very different personalities, they get along very well and are very protective one of another.

Oscar is sweet and sensitive, calm and responsible. He’s sociable and like to make people laugh. He cannot stand injustice. We like to joke that he’ll win the Nobel Prize for Peace one day.

Brune is a lively little girl, playful and full of energy, with a strong personality. She has quickly understood that a smile can get her almost anything she wants, and she uses this trick as much as she needs!

Clotilde Dusoulier

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Not really. Once the baby phase was over, I quickly made a point of cooking the same meal for the whole family. First because it’s more practical, but also because I cherish mealtimes very much — that’s my conservative side.

We talk about the meal, the vegetables or spices we’re eating, we comment on whether we like them or not, and then we chat about everyone’s day. I like that time when we’re all gathered around the table, and my husband and I try our best to make it happen on weekdays, even if it means eating late.

Plus, I come from the Southwest of France, a region where food is taken very seriously, and in my family, cooking is almost a religion. In the end, I might have slightly modified some of my recipes to make them more kid-friendly (like preparing fish into fishballs) or quicker (like a great 9-minute risotto in the pressure cooker). But all in all, I didn’t really change the way I cook.

Lucy's children

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Parents Who Cook: Matthew Amster-Burton

Matthew and Iris
Matthew and Iris outside Kawajiro, an eel-skewer restaurant in Tokyo.

Note: I am delighted that this column was recently featured on Food52: On Green Pancakes and Cooking With Kids.

Please welcome Matthew Amster-Burton, the newest guest in my Parents Who Cook interview series!

Matthew is a talented writer whose humor I love, and who writes just as well about personal finance as he does about food (he was included five! times! in the annual Best Food Writing anthology).

He co-hosts the one-of-a-kind Spilled Milk podcast with Molly Wizenberg, and he is the author of the book Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, and of the recently kick-started and published Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo.

Pretty Good Number OneMatthew has a nine-year-old daughter, and as you’ll see, his approach to feeding her is playful, relaxed, and full of inventive tricks. I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I do.

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Age, name, temperament?

Iris is nine and a very easy kid. She likes to go to school and we get along well. I’m enjoying this while it lasts.

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Yes, for better and for worse. I got a lot more reliable about cooking dinner at home and serving it at a reasonable hour. I’m much less likely to cook a complicated all-day dish than before Iris was born: I was too exhausted to do it for years, and then once I had the energy back, I found I didn’t miss it, so I’ve gone on cooking mostly simple food. A lot of parents seem to make this transition.

On the downside, I’m probably a little too accommodating of Iris’s tastes. There are certain dishes I would enjoy serving as a main course that I know Iris would hate, though these are fewer and fewer as she gets older. Recently, for example, she decided she likes spicy foods again after abandoning them at age two. Thai curry is back on the dinner roster. Finally!

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

Nearly everything about having a newborn was awful. My advice: if people offer to bring you food, take them up on it. Nobody should ever feel guilty for any shortcuts they take to survive the first three months of parenthood.

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Parents Who Cook: Camille Labro

Camille, Cléo, Noé
Camille Labro with Cléo, 6, and Noé, 8.

Camille Labro is a French cook and food journalist who writes for M, the weekly magazine published by Le Monde. On her blog, Le Ventre libre (“the free belly”), she shares her gastronomic adventures and joys, and explores ways to eat better in an urban environment.

She is the mother of two children, and I am delighted to have her as a guest in my Parents Who Cook interview series. Read on for her many inspired tips! (Interview conducted in French and translated by myself.)

Can you tell us a few words about your children? Ages, names, temperaments?

Noé, 8, loves to read, eat, bike, and roller-skate. Cléo, 6, loves to read, eat, dance, and draw. They are both very sociable, adventurous with flavors as with experiences, full of existential questions, and very jealous of the gastronomic meals I eat without them: they devour the pictures while calling me every name in the book.

Did having children change the way you cook?

Not really, but it has given me structure, and has forced me to cook more regularly and to think of the nutritional qualities of the meals. I’ve set a rule for myself ever since they started eating more or less everything: I prepare balanced meals with a small first course (usually a raw vegetable), a dish (protein + carb + vegetable), and a simple dessert (yogurt or fruit).

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

When my children were very young and I was still breastfeeding them (I did for nine months each), I wasn’t working very much, so I had time to cook. I would place the baby in the bouncy chair next to me and talk about what I was preparing. In general, he/she was very attentive and liked the movements, the noises, the smells (better than a mobile!). And if he/she was getting impatient, I would give him/her a stick of carrot to suck on or a crust of bread to gnaw on.

Otherwise, for parents who work, I think the main tip is to prepare lots of things in advance. Pick one day a week, Sunday for instance, to go to the greenmarket and cook lots of dishes that you’ll freeze: stews, soups, gratins…

And there are other simple things you can do, like wrapping small steaks or fish fillets individually for freezing (you can transfer however many you need to the fridge in the morning and have them thawed by dinnertime), freezing pesto in ice cube trays (one ice cube per person for a dish of pasta), washing and drying all your fruits, vegetables, and greens in advance so they’ll be ready to use. It takes some logistics to alleviate the workload for the rest of the week.

As for dinner parties, it’s hard to pull them off when you’re a young parent… But you can always invite your friend over to cook dinner! I’ve done that often when I was feeling overwhelmed: you like to cook ? Come eat at my place. I’ll take care of the shopping and set the table; you’ll cook while I take care of the baby. It can be done as a group, too, with other young parents, and you take turns playing the different roles. It’s fun, convivial, and a good way to show solidarity!

Camille Labro
Camille Labro photographed by her son in her kitchen.

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Parents Who Cook: Tamami Haga

Tamami of Coco & Me
Tamami Haga, photographed by Andy Andrews.

Tamami Haga is a Japanese Londoner and passionate baker who sells her handmade chocolates and pastries from a stall at Broadway Market in Hackney, East London. She also writes the lovely blog Coco & Me, which I’ve been following for years and years, and mixes her experiences as a stall-keepers with inspiring — and precisely written — recipes. I love her Luxury Brownies in particular. She is currently working on her own cookbook.

Tamami is the mother of two children, and I am very happy to have her as a guest for the Parents Who Cook interview series. Please welcome Tamami!

Can you tell us a few words about your children? Ages, names, temperaments?

My son Issei is nine and my daughter Sakura is four. Issei is a kind, sensitive kid who might tut if there’s rubbish on the pavement and would pick it up, then put it in the bin nearby. He is also very clever.

Sakura is a very funny girl and loves to come up with her own lyrics to famous tunes. She is very skillful with her drawing. And being Japanese, she says “Aww, cu~te!” and “Kawaii~!” rather a lot.

Did having children change the way you cook?

Yes, it’s totally changed! When I was single I couldn’t care less about the “five veggies/fruits a day” stuff. I never bothered with eating breakfast for example. Imagine a twenty-something, going for a pint or three in a pub after work… that was me!

But now, it can’t be “eat anything at anytime,” obviously. I try all the time to notch up square meals for the family. But you know, I don’t find it tiresome or a bore to cook anyway — I keep it interesting for me by trying new ingredients, new skills and new recipes. Just last weekend, I cooked ox cheeks for the first time! I slow-cooked them for two hours and the result was meltingly soft.

The food might turn out wrong at times though, and the children may turn up their noses. But they critique it with me and will always tell me, “Well done mummy for trying.” And with that, I think, “Well, at least I tried” and at least they see that I like a challenge. Hopefully that approach to challenging things and also to keep on trying will rub off on them.

Tamami’s 4-year-old daughter, Sakura (with homemade bear cub doughtnut)

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