Hungry Monkey Book Review (Giveaway)


Full disclosure: I asked for this book. I was given a free copy to review but I actively sought it out when it was published because I was already a fan of Matthew Amster-Burton’s blog, Roots and Grubs, and I was very much looking forward to reading his book. I wasn’t disappointed. While it is a cookbook, it is also part memoir of his experiences teaching his daughter Iris to eat and learning to look at food in new ways while doing so.

Amster-Burton and his wife were already foodies (and very big fans of cheese) when Iris joined their family. Upon learning of her impending arrival he describes his first thought as “Are we going to have to eat fifties rejects like sloppy joes for the next eighteen years? Or feed our kid food we’d never eat ourselves?” He read books on feeding babies and toddlers and wasn’t terribly impressed with much of the information he found, so he eventually decided to write his own and Hungry Monkey was born. He states at the end of the introduction that this effort is “the book I wish someone had handed me before Iris was born so that I would have known that breastfeeding is challenging (even for dads), that there are two simple rules to take a lot of the stress out of feeding kids, and that it’s okay to feed a baby sushi and spicy enchiladas. Most important, I would have been reassured that having kids doesn’t require dumbing down your own menu: if you love to eat, a new baby presents an opportunity to have more fun with food than ever before in your life. And yes, more frustration.”

The conversational tone of the book makes it a very quick read. The chapters are set up with a recipe or several at the end, and the experiences that led to their creation or use preceding them, as well as arguments for or theoretically against feeding them to kids. Many of the recipes also include tips for parts your kids can help you with under the heading of “Little Fingers.”

The recipes themselves cover a pretty vast selection of things, everything from simple foods like “Baby Chicken and Mushrooms” (feeds several babies or one adult and one baby) to Pad Thai and Enchiladas. In the course of describing these dishes Amster-Burton often makes an argument in favor of whole foods and against the fear of things like cheese, sugar and spicy foods. One of my favorite recipes from this book is from the chapter on snacks, which extoles the virtues of cheese and the yumminess of the crunchy cheese that results from cooking enchiladas. The recipe is for Frico, which are wafers of cheese baked until crunchy. They are ridiculously easy and taste great, which is a common feature of many of these recipes. There are some that are more involved but all are well written and easy to follow. While I’m not sure that my own spicy heat tolerances would allow for Iris’s favorite dish of Ants on a Tree (cellophane noodles with ground pork and red chile), I am sure that even if I skipped all the dishes in the spicy chapter I’d still have a pretty good assortment to choose from.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone, not just parents of small kids. The recipes are all ones that can be adapted to just about anyone’s lifestyle. Because of the varieties of recipes involved it’s quite a well-rounded cookbook in it’s own right and worth picking up just for that reason. The included section at the end of favorite convenience foods is also a great resource for any busy kitchen.

Enter to Win

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton.  This giveaway is open to the U.S. and will end on March 28, 2010.

Enter the giveaway by commenting on this post.

Please see our site’s Terms and Conditions for a complete list of our contest and giveaway rules.

In compliance with the new FTC Guildlines, please note that this is a sponsored post.  I was given a copy of Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Bu to review free of charge.  However, I was not paid for the review and the opinions are my own.

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