Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fried Apples and Carol Penn-Romine's "I Hated Caroline Kennedy"

I rarely post links to other people's food writing, but this essay by Carol Penn-Romine really got to me.  Carol is a long-time friend to this blog (check out her ESD questionnaire) and a wonderful food writer who has raised an issue that has been on my mind for some time now.  How can parents convince their kids to eat food they think they hate?  Carol's essay is a good reminder that there are good ways and bad ways to tackle this tricky issue and that some ways that seem productive can end up biting you-- sometimes years later.

I've tried lots of different ways to try to convince my children to try new foods.  Sometimes I struggle to get them to eat foods I made precisely because I'm sure they'll love them.  Fried apples are a great example of this.  I made my girls fried apples because I wanted to share one of my childhood favorites with them.  I was sure they'd be an instant hit because my children eat apples almost every day of their lives.  They'd also recently developed a love of cinnamon thanks to a special culinary craft project spearheaded by my mother.  My youngest daughter did love them, but she'll eat almost anything.  My older daughter is a tougher nut to crack, especially where new foods are concerned.  She looked at them suspiciously, poked them around on her place, and steadfastly refused to eat them.

That is, until I told her the story of how much I'd loved them "when I was her age".  My daughter is still young enough to think I'm cool, or at least interesting, and she likes doing things that I did when I was little.  I know I need to milk this for as long as possible because the sad day will soon come when she'll refuse to do things/eat things/try things simply because I suggest that something is a good idea.

I also told my daughters that my grandmother had made fried apples for my mother (their grandmother) and she loved them.  Years later, my mother had made them for me and I loved them.  I told my girls how excited I was to be able to make fried apples for them and that I hoped they would love them as much as I did.  At this point, my oldest daughter gave in and tried a tiny bite.  She never admitted that she liked them, but I've made them several times since then and she's eaten them without saying a word.  This feels like a triumph.    I know better than to say a single word about it or to tell the story again... at least not yet.  But I do hold out hope that one day my daughters will use the same technique to convince their children to try a new food.  And that they will smile when they recognize the struggle that all mothers share to get their children to eat and eat well.
Fried apples simmering in my Grandma Willie's cast iron skillet, Oct. 10, 2011.

Grandma Willie's Fried Apples
as made for me by my mother Linda Lutz

Ingredients:
  • 4 medium apples or 5 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of apples
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions:
  • Place a medium-sized skillet on the stovetop and heat over medium heat.
  • Place butter, water, sugar and cinnamon in the pan and stir until it makes a syrup and turn down the heat to low.
  • Add the apple slices and stir gently to coat the apples.
  • Cover pan with a lid and cook over low heat for approximately 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the variety of apple you use.  You can choose any kind of apple, but the firmness of the apple will change the cooking time.  Ripe Yellow Delicious apples will cook in 15 minutes.  Firmer cooking apples like Jonathans or Staymans will take up to 30 minutes.
  • Check apples for doneness and sweetness.  Add more sugar at this point if necessary.
  • When the apples are soft, but not mushy, take off the lid and turn up the heat to medium.  Continue to cook until water begins to evaporate and remaining liquid becomes syrupy.
  • Cool apples slightly before serving.