Parents Who Cook

Parents Who Cook: Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Emily Mazo-Rizzi is an American who has been living in Paris since 1999, where she was initially working as an Internet project manager. She then went back to the United States for a year to train as a Pilates instructor, and has been teaching Pilates in Paris since 2010. She is married to a Frenchman, Bruno, and food and cooking have always been a central part of their life together.

I have known Emily for ten years, ever since she first got in touch as a reader of Chocolate & Zucchini, and over this decade she has become my very own Pilates teacher and a cherished friend. Her (adorable) daughter Olivia was born a few months after my own son Milan, so we have shared many a parenting conversation, and I have been so inspired by her way of involving Olivia in the kitchen that I knew I had to have her as a guest of my Parents Who Cook series. She was kind enough to accept my invitation, and I hope you enjoy reading about her approach. Thank you Emily!

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Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Her age, name, and temperament?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Olivia is two and a half as I write. She is easygoing, observant, calm, curious, sweet, loves to move and loves to laugh. She adores cooking with us. She’s hesitant about trying new foods and shy about meeting new people, but ends up trying and warming up.

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Did having a child change the way you cook?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Most definitely. In fact I think there is not a single aspect of my life that hasn’t changed since having a child! My husband Bruno and I used to spend well over an hour cooking dinner together each night. Our meals were not necessarily elaborate but we had two or three different things on our plates, or a starter and main course. Now we tend to have one-dish meals or one hot dish and one cold — usually some kind of a salad.

I am a Pilates instructor and work two evenings a week, so Bruno prepares meals on those evenings. The other nights I usually start preparing our meal while Olivia eats, then he takes over while I give her a bath. We haven’t gotten organized enough yet to eat early and together on weeknights, but that will be our goal for next fall.

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

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Part of my nesting in preparing for Olivia’s arrival was making tomato sauce. She was born in October so we had good tomatoes from our farmer at the greenmarket until then. Bruno would laugh at me because we’d buy one or two kilos of tomatoes a week, and I’d cook them up into sauce and freeze them. It reassured me to know that when our baby was born we’d at least have homemade tomato sauce to put on pasta or make some sautéed veggies more interesting. We also made and froze a lot of chicken broth for risottos, soups, sauces. I think preparing your own food in advance is a great way to be ready for the baby’s birth.

Then when the baby arrived there was more take-out than we’ve ever had before or since. Bruno proudly donned his role as hunter-gatherer and headed out into cold, usually rainy, and then snowy Paris to come back with simple things to prepare. We love our greens so there were always vegetables. We also tried to make extra so there would be leftovers for the next day.

In the US, friends and family bring food to new parents. I wish that were the case in Paris! I think if I have another child I will be more forward and tell our friends coming to meet the baby: “Please don’t bring us any more baby presents; please bring us dinner!” A few American friends did and we were so grateful.

Olivia making cinnamon cookies

Olivia making cinnamon cookies

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Over time, have you developed staple dishes or strategies that make it possible to prepare a meal and keep the kid happy at the same time?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

We try to prepare Olivia’s food in advance; it started when she was a baby. On Sunday, we’d go to the greenmarket and use our fresh produce to concoct industrial quantities of apple sauce or other fruit compotes, puréed carrots, potatoes, zucchini, etc. Just like another parent featured in this column, Tamami Haga, we also freeze everything flat in zip-lock bags. We have a small freezer so it helps to save space. (Be sure to label and date everything!)

As Olivia has moved beyond purées, we’ve continued to prepare food for her in advance and freeze it. It’s amazing how many things freeze really well. She loves Clotilde’s roasted cauliflower minus the fish sauce; I just made a batch for her last night. Now that she’s older, we also try to make extra of what we have for dinner and she’ll eat it the next night. For her starch we have a wide variety of pasta, rice, and grains on hand. I also cook, purée and freeze potatoes and sweet potatoes. I add vegetables to everything, for example: mashed potatoes AND zucchini, mashed sweet potato AND Hokkaido squash, omelet with spinach or Swiss chard, etc.

Olivia was in her baby seat in the kitchen with us at a pretty young age, so she’s used to it. As she got older she would play with toys or draw while we cooked. I kept special toys in the kitchen just for the high chair. Now, she eats while we cook our meal and she helps cook her own.

Olivia rolling out the dough for cinnamon cookies

Olivia rolling out the dough for cinnamon cookies

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Have you found ways to involve your daughter in the cooking process?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Olivia began cooking with us just before she turned two. I started by having her make cookies with me on a Saturday morning when we didn’t have any time constraints. She helped me measure: scooping ingredients, pressing the buttons on the scale. Then she pressed the buttons on the food processor. She loves watching it go! Then cutting the cookies into shapes, placing them on the tray. At some point I “sacrificed” some dough and let her play with it. When our product was complete she gave an enthusiastic “Woooow!” and was delighted to taste!

Now we try to give her any task she can manage. Putting salt in the pot before we pour in the boiling water for pasta or a grain. Deveining spinach is a great sorting game; washing it is a lot of fun! She takes the frozen food out of bags and discovers the cold and wet feeling. She helps cut butter to put on her quinoa, bulgur, or other grain. We’re teaching her to pour carefully, stir, beat, and even cut. She enjoys brushing olive oil and vegetables to grill. Bruno has her put her hand on his when he cuts soft things like avocado or beet, and she knows to “puuuush”, she truly guides the movement. When I cut she says, “Watch your fingers, Mommy!” She takes things out of the fridge and puts them away upon request.

I think it works for us because she has come to understand that the kitchen is an important place for our family. We’ve taught her that cooking is a privilege and she knows that if she doesn’t follow instructions she loses the privilege. She has been very upset when that has happened, so it happens rarely.

Olivia manning the gas stove (!)

Olivia manning the gas stove (!)

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As someone who’s passionate about food, can you talk about the joys and challenges of feeding your child, and how you go about teaching her to be a happy, adventurous eater?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

We were so incredibly excited for Olivia to try solid food, we thought she would open her mouth, taste, swallow and ask for more. We were sorely disappointed. Puréed carrots were at first some bizarre form of torture. This initial experience was indicative of the ups and downs of the whole process of teaching a child about food. As young children try foods for the first time, it’s important to stay calm and not feel offended when your child rejects the dish you just spent hours preparing. Freeze the leftovers and then try and try again! I can’t remember where I heard or read a pediatrician say a child has to try a food thirty times before determining that he or she really and truly does not like it!

Olivia is resistant to trying new things. We ask her to taste one bite, sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t, and then we don’t make her finish it if she doesn’t want to. We do know, however, that even though she resists trying, she usually ends up eating the thing and liking it.

We tend to be more strict at home about having her eat all or most of her meal before moving on to yogurt or fruit. When we’re out at restaurants or with friends, we offer her a bit of everything and don’t make a big deal if she doesn’t eat a well-rounded meal. Learning to choose your battles is another key to parenting in general, and to happy meals.

Like so many things children learn by example. We see mealtime as a fun, relaxing and pleasant time to eat delicious foods, try new foods and be together as a family. We feed her things we eat ourselves and always encourage her to taste. She wants to do what we do, she wants to eat what we eat. We even feed her things we don’t like — beets and sheep’s milk yogurt for example — and she loves them. Maybe we have to try them thirty times too!

Olivia

Parents Who Cook: Laurie Colwin

Laurie Colwin celebrating her daughter Rosa's 4th birthday in 1988.

Laurie Colwin celebrating her daughter Rosa's 4th birthday in 1988.

Have you read anything by Laurie Colwin?

She was an American author based in New York City, who wrote novels and also penned a column in Gourmet magazine for a few years, writing about her kitchen life in such a warm, witty, and approachable way that it was impossible then, and remains impossible now, for the reader not to develop a strong connection to her. These essays were published as two collections, Home Cooking: A Writer In The Kitchen and later More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns To The Kitchen, which have become cult reads for admirers of quality food writing, sharing shelf space with the work of M.F.K. Fisher, Edna Lewis or Alice B. Toklas.

Ms. Colwin died unexpectedly in 1992, at the unfair age of 48, and left a daughter, Rosa, who was only eight at the time. Rosa Jurjevics is now thirty and works as a writer, animator, and multimedia producer — she founded Big Creature Media a couple of years ago — and I had the opportunity to get in touch with her last fall, when Open Road released Colwin’s books as ebooks for the very first time, and offered the contact to promote this release.

I immediately jumped at the chance to feature Laurie Colwin, whose writing — both fiction and nonfiction — I greatly admire, as part of my Parents Who Cook series, in which I explore how children shape and inform a cook’s kitchen life. This is the first installment in which it is the child who speaks, and I am grateful to Rosa for sharing such touching and uplifting memories from her childhood. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Please consider downloading one of Laurie Colwin’s wonderful books from Open Media, and do share any of your own memories or tips about cooking with and for children!

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Can you tell us a few words about the kind of child you were, and the kind of mother your mother was — both in general and with regards to food?

Rosa Jurjevics

I was a headstrong kid and spoke my mind – asked or not. A teacher once wrote on a school report that I was the tallest in my class and that my mother had referred to me as her “Viking child.” I’m not sure if this was a nod to my Baltic heritage (though Latvians were not Vikings, to my knowledge) or simply to suggest that I was a bit brutish in manner and stature. I admit to being both of these things as a child!

My mother was a similarly opinionated person, and she seemed to like having an opinionated kid – even when we clashed over, say, what was and was not appropriate for my school lunch. Open dialogue was encouraged, but I was a handful (to say the least), and there were definitely many times that I wore my poor mother out with pestering, arguing, or throwing fits.

I adored my mother’s cooking. It would have been hard not to. She put so much care into it, so much thought, and really loved to do it. People flocked to her table, and were so happy to hang out in the kitchen as she cooked. She would constantly ask her dinner guests to taste things and give their honest opinions of them. She wasn’t a showy cook, or one who kept her methods to herself, but instead really delighted in sharing food, recipes, and conversation.

Still, there were times when it was hard to be the kid who ate the “weird food.” My mother had very strong opinions about things that were good and bad for kids and for people in general. Keeping perishables in plastic was bad. Making jam from scratch was good. She didn’t like to budge much on the subject of good and bad. Though a lot of my classmates and neighborhood chums learned that they loved gingerbread and salmon and asparagus at my house, I envied them their Oreos and American cheese slices and radioactively colored “juices” nonetheless.

There were times I wished that I could just be “normal” and get chocolate-laden granola bars in my lunchbox (a pink, formerly Barbie-themed plastic trunk with the doll decal scraped off and cat stickers in its place) instead of a kiwi fruit, or have Wonderbread on my sandwich instead of slices from a Bread Alone boule. Some battles I won (fruit roll-ups, the kind that involved peeling Little Mermaid characters from their centers) and others I lost (no store-bought cookies!), and so I continued to be the first-grader with the goat’s milk yogurt and smoked Gouda. Years later, an old friend told me how jealous she’d been of my lunch. “All I got was tuna fish,” she told me. “And maybe a yogurt. Your food was exciting!” And she was right.

Laurie Colwin and her then 2-year-old daughter Rosa in 1986.

Laurie Colwin and her then 2-year-old daughter Rosa in 1986.

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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.

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

Aria Beth Sloss

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.

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Did having a child change the way you cook?

Aria Beth Sloss

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.

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

Lucy Baluteig-Gomes

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!

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Did having a child change the way you cook?

Lucy Baluteig-Gomes

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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