Monday Meal Review: Norway

I walk out of the kitchen and the steam immediately slides off my face like a mask. The worst is behind me; one pound of large pink shrimp plucked from the bubbling boil now recline in a cool bowl of ice water. I’m on my way to the dining room with an armful of unlikely friends.

First, the mayonnaise. This thick, white creamy spread is never on our table unless guests are present. I grimace, thinking of Ava and Mr. Picky. Oh, how they’ll balk when they see it.

Then the capers, a personal favorite. I get lost in their grassy brine, each bite like a prize, bursting in my mouth like a carnival. Despite Keith’s aversion, Ava and I will be happy, this much I know.

I also carry a lemon, heavy with juice and canary yellow despite the season.

A few fresh sprigs of dill are the finishing touch, their delicate stems like a feather in a hat or a weeping willow, grazing the table with grace. Something I rarely think to use in everyday cooking.

When I’m done the table looks pretty – like a shabby chic “oh this old thing” dress, thrown together with careless abandon and none the worse for it.

Ava scrambles into her chair and surveys the scene. Her face stiffens when she sees the shrimp. She turns the other way and, in one smooth movement, she reaches for a soft round of bread and points at the mayonnaise.

“What’s that mama?” she asks and leans her face so close to the bowl, she nearly dips her chin into the thick, white spread.

I don’t want to sour her mood and risk clipping her enthusiasm, so I elect not to correct her poor manners.

“It’s like salad dressing,” I say smoothly with my “you’re-going-to-love-it” smile tight on my lips.

She coats the end of her index finger and takes a tiny lick. She smiles.

“I like this salad dressing” she says and slathers her bread with a generous, slippery layer.

“How about a shrimp?” I say, but she ignores me, slowly spooning a dozen capers over the mayonnaise. She eats heartily. Mr Picky looks on in horror, sinking slowly into his chair. He’d rather be eating ants and he tells me as much.

With calm determination I make myself a shrimp sandwich. Ava watches me eat it. I offer her another piece of shrimp hopefully.  She shakes her head.

In desperation (this is all I’d planned for dinner), I pop a small piece of shrimp on her bread no bigger than a pencil eraser. Like a piece of paper, Ava’s face crumbles and her little mouth makes a noise so sharp, I can’t tell if she’s yelling at me or crying. My hand snaps back to my lap.

I take a slow, cleansing breath and stare out the window. The trees are shaking in the wind but I’m not fooled; it’s 115F outside. Hotter than hot. “Kids in Norway eat this all the time!” I tell myself. And then I tell her. But now she arches her back away from me; she doesn’t want any dinner at all. It’s too late.

Fear creeps over me like Nosferatu. This is bedtime. She needs to have a good dinner but she wants nothing to do with our summertime shrimp party. The entire thing just… implodes. Admitting defeat, I slowly peel her a banana (her only option if she doesn’t want dinner). It’s only the third time in her entire life she’s chosen the banana over dinner.

I hug her and I tell her I love her. But even in my arms I can feel her eyes straying over to the kransekake, as she admires the whimsical icing zig zagging its way along the tower of rings. But the dessert must wait until tomorrow. I tell her, in a voice so soft I can barely hear myself, “we can’t eat dessert on an empty stomach. It’ll make our tummies hurt.”

Tomorrow is a new day.

What would you have done? How do you deal with obstinate and picky eaters (young or old)? This was  really challenging scene for me and I could use any tips you might have.

Dill & Lemon Pepper Gravlax [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

I’m simply in awe that I made cured fish. Gravlax tastes like smoked salmon but lighter and fresher – the lemon peel absolutely brought the soft fish to life in my mouth where it leaped from salty sea to bright lemon-dill. Each nibble was like a summertime smile. For some, making gravlax might be no big deal, but to me this was a fascinating challenge.

The best part is that this is a  dump-and-go recipe. Three days later I ate magic. Even Mr Picky tossed it down bravely. When I congratulated him on this, he quickly asked “did I have a choice?”

True.

What I loved least about this dish:

I was nervous that I had done something wrong and that the gravlax wasn’t going to be good and fresh. The flavor, however, was fantastic and eating it with a Scandinavian friend really helped quell all my worries.  I didn’t give Ava any of this, just to be sure, but she did try some from the supermarket (which is cold smoked) and she liked it.

Norwegian Shrimp Party [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

Making shrimp “sandwiches” on the fly was so fun and tasty. I loved all the pretty ingredients and the “help yourself, and make what you like” attitude of the whole thing. The fresh shrimp, capers and bright lemon juice made for a perfect complement to the rich mayonnaise.

What I loved least about this dish:

Try as I might, Ava would not touch this. She did, however, eat bread and mayo with capers which, in afterthought, was pretty amazing. I think Mr Picky ate this only out of sympathy after witnessing my epic struggle to get Ava to try even a nibble of shrimp.

Kransekake [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

The soft almond chew of this cake is like a firm macaroon. The cake is sweet, elegant, and tastes of angel whispers. Fun to assemble and even more fun to take apart and eat. Everyone, everyone, everyone loved this cake. Friends requested the recipe one bite in. This cake would be particularly good for an outdoor party because you won’t have to worry about melting frosting (royal icing doesn’t deteriorate, as with buttercream frosted cakes).

What I loved least about this dish:

Nothing. I need to make it again. Soon. Yesterday, even.

Ava’s Corner

WEEKLY GIVEAWAY WINNER:

*Winner from this week’s Norwegian Menu Giveaway was selected at random by random.org. There were so, so many wonderful entries – do go through and read them if you have time. Congratulations to Jenna who told us about her own Global Table Adventures:

“I’ve been “eating the world” in my own way for years…I love to travel, and whenever I visit a new country, I try to master at least one traditional dish that I can make at home. This enables me to share my experience with loved ones (in a culinary way) and reminisce my time there through my taste buds.I’m excited about Norway this week – though I’ve never been there, I’m 1/4 Norwegian and these recipes remind me of my grandmother. She used to have a ring cake form like this and I’m not sure what happened to it when she passed – would be a fun addition to my own kitchen as a tribute to her!”

Yay, Jenna! Please email me (sasha@ globaltableadventure.com) to claim your kransekake mold. Thank you all for your wonderful entries.

 

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Comments

  1. What a lovely video!!!! So cute, loved the “delicioso” – exactly like in Portuguese…. although the accent is slightly different

    I haven’t been able to indulge in blog surfing lately, but I’m glad I caught this post and watched the video… so cool!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thanks Sally! We had so much fun with that cake – I’m trying to figure out when I can make it again :)

  2. made with love…

  3. That is a tough one. I also don’t give dessert if they don’t eat supper. However, I do allow any other healthy choice,such as a sandwich, as long as I don’t have to spend much time on it. I make sure it is not an interesting choice either.
    My feeling is I do not want to make food a battle, so I try to make sure there are few non healthy choices around, and let them make their own choices about what they eat. If they eat cereal and yogurt for two days, I don’t worry. It will all even out. I have raised five kids. Some are pickier than others. They are just wired this way. But all ate healthy.
    As the mother of a severely allergic child, I have also realized something else, both from my own experience and from the experience of other parents with allergic children. Sometimes, when a child strongly resists a food they turn out to be allergic to it. I have seen this quite often with high allergen foods (shrimp is one) and with allergic kids.
    I love your blog and food experiences. Thank you for sharing!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      “Sometimes, when a child strongly resists a food they turn out to be allergic to it. I have seen this quite often with high allergen foods (shrimp is one) and with allergic kids.”

      This is fascinating. This could very well be the case… my husband’s side has lots of allergies but, so far, she seems to be lucky like me. The only thing that is even *close* to an allergy is .. whenever I eat hard boiled eggs I sneeze twice. 98% of the time. It’s really odd an has happened my entire life. Clearly nothing like a real allergy haha.

  4. It is so hard to deal with kids not eating. I think you did a great job. You encouraged Ava and also held firm to a rule you have set. She will survive to eat cake another day but learned that when you make a deal you stand by it. She can trust your word.

    I raised 7 children as a single mom. (got a bit crazy adopting). Needless to say it was very rare that we had 100% enthusiasm with any meal. What eventually worked for me Was to plan the week’s meals and make sure everyone knew what was coming. I genuinely tried to find acceptable meals for most of the kids most of the time as I was outnumbered. Once per week a child could “opt out” of what I planned and they could fix themselves cereal or a sanswhich. I served all the dishes and the kids could self serve the amounts they wanted. They didn’t have to eat every dish but if I cooked something new they had to try it. I learned that it was futile to cajole or coax my reluctant eaters. It was best to say nothing and let them watch others eat and enjoy. If someone chose not to eat at all then they were reminded that there was no food again until breakfast. That said, once my kids were older I didn’t watch that closely and I am sure there was some late evening snacking. This was what worked for us. I did feel that eating shouldn’t become a battle of wills. Also, as some of my kids came from a history of food deprivation in their native countries, keeping food abundant and letting them control their intake to a grat extent was a calculated strategy to prevent hoarding behaiviors. We never had any develop but who knows if that was luck or strategy.

    Consistency and being true to your word is most important as is leading by example. That is my opinion. My opinion is also that from everything I read here you are a most fantastic mom and are doing everything just right for you and your family.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      What an inspiration you are to help your beautiful children. I agree on the consistency – Ava does know what to expect and it keeps things relatively stress free. I also like the idea of planning out the week when she gets a little older. It would make things easier on me, too.

  5. With something that new and unique, I would have had something she liked for her meal, with the shrimp sandwich as “a tasty” (as we call it for the kids in our family). That way there is no pressure for the wee ones to eat (which in our house means they might actually try it!) and they have a good meal while the adults enjoy theirs.

    Allow too, that there are just things a person doesn’t like… sometimes even for a season. (Don’t even talk to my Mom about my egg hatred as a child…)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      That’s a nice idea. I usually do have a wider spread, but I didn’t anticipate the shrimp being an issue since she loves fish so much. Of course, it did look rather… challenging haha. It’s true the less pressure there is, the more interested she is.

  6. Glad I am not alone on a little dinner battle! Abigail has yet to eat a regular sandwich, only peanut butter or nutella. I like the banana idea! I never thought to have ONE backup plan. That may make my life way easier!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, and if you make it not super exciting, it works better because it is not something they would normally choose (Ava would never normally just eat a banana – she much prefers other fruit).

  7. elisa waller says:

    I say move on..the positive drama when one eats food should also remain positive when one doesn’t eat it…I like what Teri said, ‘that there are just things a person doesn’t like’. Ava knows what your doing, she knows the routine…she sees a food a wonders “whats that?….Its good to be curious…and unsure…..besides our senses have more than one purpose…give her options when she or (mr picky) are being; as u say; obstinate..if they don’t want to taste it, make them see it, smell it, touch it , hear it….describe each sense..might be a good reinforcement and acceptance…<3

  8. Want to know what my tecnique was? …Sasha may remember that I used to “starve” the kids ie postpone as long as possible while preparing the meal – and I’d get: Whhenn are we going to eat? or I’m hungry – can’t I have a taste? [NO] So I’d send them on an errand to further delay. Then by the time we sat down to eat…the spinach, for example, was more than welcome.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, I remember that technique well, especially that one time you fried up some liver. It worked great, although I still don’t like liver…. I do eat a variety of things because of it :) If we think about places where people might not have a choice in their dinner, we really are so fortunate to be able to have such variety. No sense in wasting it.

  9. Collette Lemons says:

    She is not going to like everything and that is ok. No one likes everything. A bowl of cereal and a banana would have been good enough. Even if she refuses to eat anything she won’t starve over night so it isn’t a big deal either way.

    Carrie and John had to at least try whatever I made. Most of the time they ended up liking it but the times they didn’t they got a peanut butter sandwich or something – but they didn’t get to snack out because then they would pretend to hate everything even if they liked it.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      ” they didn’t get to snack out because then they would pretend to hate everything even if they liked it.”

      Exactly! Interestingly she only ate half the banana (I suppose because she’d had enough mayo and bread before we finally asked her to “eat something else”).

  10. Bridget Horne says:

    I have two picky eater sons. I used to fight so many battles at dinner, and it was so emotionally draining. I have back ups too – avocado with chips and salsa for my four yo and any sandwich for my 8yo. Sometimes I get really frustrated with the pickiness. But I remember someone told me once you should introduce a new food ten times before you really rule it out. So I think there is still hope for shrimp and Ava!

    I like the comment about food allergies too. My grandma and I used to eat buckets of shrimp with ritz crackers on her back porch in the summer (my grandparents owned a restaurant so grandpa would bring the shrimp home for us) and I was fine. But when I turned about 27 I had shrimp in a restaurant, got really sick. Its happened more than once now, so I’m really careful to not eat more than a couple shrimp when its offered. Weird, but I think allergies can change as you grow.

  11. I don’t have children and happened upon your blog because I love global cuisine. But I am impressed by how much Ava does eat. As a casual outside observer, she seems like an unusually adventurous eater and that’s thanks to you. From my uneducated perspective, what you did seemed just right. Although missing out that cake must have stunk for everyone :)

    Awesome blog!

    Erin – ekcantcook.blogspot.com

  12. If you would like variations of this cake, it is very good if you dip the bottom of each ring in dark chocolate (i prefer 70%). The cake is also very good with orange zest in or with a orange liquor in the royal icing (i use contreu or grand marnier)

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