A Legacy of Food

Market Haul, April 23, 2011

This week, the folks at food52 have challenged members of the community to submit one “Recipe You Want To Be Remembered For.” This contest theme got me thinking, of course, being 20 weeks into this pregnancy, smack dab in the middle of building our little boy on the best food I can give him. I’ve thought a lot about what I’m eating now – not just what health and developmental benefits I hope to provide for our son through my diet, but what (if any) impact the foods I’m eating will have on his future likes and dislikes.

spring vegetable salad

I probably spend even more time musing about what and how he’ll eat as he gets older. What will food mean to him? What will he look forward to eating, love above anything else, wrinkle his little nose at? Will he have my allergy to oranges and grapefruit, or share his father’s aversion to melon? What will he remember when he’s all grown up and he thinks of me and his dad and the meals we shared as a family?

second season

I can’t tell you how many times over the last few months Mike and I have been sitting at the kitchen table and the conversation has turned to our son and food. We talk about how we can’t wait for Sproggy’s first taste of fresh spring peas, of raspberries picked from the vine, of a tiny tomato bursting with juice and still warm from the sun. About taking him to the farmers’ market and introducing him to the wonderful people who grow and produce so much of our food. About how best to express gratitude for what we eat and the work that went into making it. We talk of rituals, of holidays and gatherings, of our family traditions, of how they might change and evolve over time, and how this little one will be part of them.

2nd pie, resting

I get a little giddy when I think of our son helping Mike bake bread or make pizza, rolling out dough with chubby little hands, flour speckling his clothes. Every time I make tortillas from scratch – a skill I’m still learning – I think about doing so with him at my side, about the smell of toasty corn rising from a hot griddle, and how that scent transports me immediately to my grandmother’s kitchen. I wonder if that aroma, or others, will trigger such great memories for him someday.


We want him to know where and how things grow, to meet chickens and pigs and cows and sheep, to be accustomed to living in a home in which canning jars line the shelves, full of delicious things we’ve grown, picked, or put up ourselves.

But back to the original question – is there a particular dish or meal I that want our little boy to remember above all others? Meatballs, migas, macaroni and cheese, soft scrambled eggs, a lobster roll on a toasted bun, homemade pickles, the family rice and beans, or a crispy chicken cutlet? I can’t possibly choose one thing.

sardines, Triscuits, mustard

I want to share all sorts of food experiences with him, whether it involves meals we’ve cooked at home, or just sitting with him while we share one perfect cheese, a tin of great sardines with Triscuits and mustard, a juicy ripe peach, cold briny oysters, or a hot dog in the park. I look forward to sitting back and watching him figure out food and flavors, learn his likes and dislikes. I look forward to how he’ll inspire and influence me in the kitchen, and maybe someday, when he’s all grown up and I’m an old woman, he’ll ask me to make him his most favorite thing ever, and I will happily oblige.


But we’ve got a whole lot of eating to do before then, and I look forward to savoring every moment.

13 thoughts on “A Legacy of Food

  1. Something that really struck me recently was this article:


    And especially this paragraph:

    Indeed, studies conducted with a variety of mammalian species demonstrate that young animals prefer flavors they encountered during gestation and lactation. Young rabbits devour the aromatic juniper berries their mothers ate during pregnancy; wild mice feast on fennel like that consumed by their dams; baby lab rats love the chocolate, rum and walnut flavors fed to their mothers by experimenters. Such preferences are highly adaptive, Mennella tells me. “Mothers are giving information to their offspring through what they consume during pregnancy and breastfeeding, telling them: This is what’s good and safe for us to eat,” she says. Among humans, such messages may be even more profound, bearing meaning not only about safety, but about culture. The characteristic flavors and spices of particular cuisines are likely introduced before birth, a prenatal initiation into one of culture’s most powerful expressions: food. “When a baby is born, he is not a blank slate,” says Mennella. “He has already been shaped by a rich array of sensory experiences that we are only now beginning to understand.”

  2. I am so unspeakably happy for you both! :)

    And selfishly, I am thrilled that you and Mike are having a baby. We love being “auntie” and “uncle” to our cool friends’ kids, and I just know I am going to love this little boy.

  3. I think Mike is right. The more you expose Sprog to now, the more likely he is to enjoy the foods you love.
    On a personal note, one of the highlights for me has been introducing my kids to new foods. Watching them take their first bite of fried green tomato last weekend and ask for more – when they insist that they HATE tomatoes – was just heaven. Hearing my daughter come in the house and say, “Yum! Mommy is cooking again!” makes my heart expand so much I think it will burst.
    Sproggy is one lucky kid.

  4. jennifer-i love the thought behind all you’ve said. sproggy will be one happy and aware child. I watched my sister’s kids grow up to appreciate all kinds of foods; especially all the grand parents’ multi-cultural ‘meals to be remembered for’. i’ve tried to make this same conscious effort with my 7 yr old. and sure enough, he does enjoy all the foods I do. i think he’s even working his way up to spicy. one mystery that remains is his interest in baking…

  5. Margaret says:

    Jen, I just got back on line after a few weeks of traveling and was so very happy to see that you had begun to post on a regular basis once more. I understand your struggle with just how much to share, but you’ve been so instinctive in all of your posts that you’ll just know. I hope you’ll also just know that those of us who so enjoy what you have been sharing will continue to do so and send such positive energy to you and your family

  6. laura grace says:

    You did it, Jen, just like you always do. I was sitting here tonight wondering what the HELL I was going to make for dinner when NOTHING sounds good and I’m so tired and all the normal things (eggs! or maybe eggs on toast!) have gone through the rotation with much more frequency than normal… and I thought to myself, “I know, I’ll go over to LND and click through some archives and get inspiration from Jen’s lovely photos” (well, I don’t actually think in sentences but you get the drift) and sure enough, in this VERY FIRST POST there is a link to those amazing frijoles borrachos and I went, “THAT! THAT RIGHT THERE OMG.” So I ran to the bodega for some pintos and… well… they’re dry beans so I’ll have them for dinner tomorrow night (I had a bowl of potato salad for dinner. Don’t hate), but thank you, thank you, thank you for getting me out of my rut. It’s only like the 750th time you’ve done that.

    Happy baby, you fabulous thing.

  7. e says:

    I haven’t read this blog in so long I’m not sure when I stopped. I was definitely too busy after I had my first kid in early 2009, but maybe pictures of poached eggs made me too queazy during that pregnancy. How strange I thought to look it back up tonight and I find you are pregnant like I am again.

    I just put a 2 year old to bed who amazes me with her willingness to eat all sorts of things her father and I cannot quite stomach. I’m determined that she shall have a much broader palate and will avoid passing on some food aversions I’ve developed over time.

    Aside from shellfish I’ve always been a wimp about seafood and don’t get much beyond simple tilapia. She tried what was probably lousy caviar off a buffet on vacation and then ate as many spoonfuls as we offered. Down here in Brooklyn they are charging $16 for lobster rolls off a food truck and I have to quickly eat half before she sees or I won’t get a bite. Pickled anything is a major favorite, but she would never take a fresh cucumber. She likes her coffee and tea black. When she was still only about 14 months she reached for my coffee and fussed when I refused her. I put a little on my finger and popped it in her mouth saying ‘you won’t like it. It’s bitter’. She said ‘bitter, good’ and has begged for sips ever since.

    We shape them in so many ways, but they definitely show up with their own inclinations. Watching what food they gravitate to is among the most thrilling ways to discover who they honestly are all by themselves. Enjoy.

  8. This was so sweet to read, it made me smile. It is fun to watch them grow, try new things, discover things they love to gobble and things that they put in their mouth and then push back out (because that is what they do.) You sound like you’re going to be great parents – I wish you the best of luck!

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