Quick Bites with Charity Mathews of Foodlets.com
One of the many pleasures I have helping out here at SPC is interviewing and getting to know some other amazing bloggers/influencers/foodies/etc. for Ceri and Laura’s Quick Bites series. This week, I met Charity Mathews, writer and founder of Foodlets.com, a site she says, “is about teaching kids to love good food, with simple recipes plus tried-and-true tips for pulling it off. Most of the time.”
The minute I heard she is a mom of four kids like me, I couldn’t wait to contact her. Even though her little ones are actually younger than mine, I selfishly hoped to get a few tips from her about feeding a large family. And, let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Why didn’t I think of giving the kids a rating system to use when they try new foods? As she points out, not only does this allow them to voice their opinions in a polite and controlled way, it also incentivises them to try the new food in the first place. #brilliant
I don’t want to steal any more of her thunder, so read on to learn more about the importance of small portions and extra knives….
But first, we interrupt this post to bring you a personal note from Charity: “I am currently recruiting recipe testers! Would you and your family like to help me test MY family’s favourites to determine the most shareable, pin worthy, tweety recipes for families everywhere? There are only four criteria for to be foodlet.com-worthy recipes: simplicity, fresh ingredients, encouraging variety and … Devoured by most kids. Click here to learn more.”
And now, back to our regularly scheduled Quick Bite.
SPC: How did you learn to cook?
CM: Oh boy, I’ll thank Martha Stewart for that. Her magazine, Living, changed my life—and made me feel like an adult. I was living in my first New York City apartment when I subscribed, a fourth-floor walk-up with pink walls but it was all mine. The way some of my friends pored over Vogue? That’s how I read each page as a twenty-something just learning to make apple butter hand pies, to roast my first chicken (which I can still practically smell right now) and host my first dinner for friends.
If I wasn’t already a goner by then, it was Ina Garten dancing through every episode of “The Barefoot Contessa” on the Food Network a few years later. Late twenties, new apartment, new Saturday routine: I’d find myself perched on a loveseat, spellbound as Ina dispatched advice and effortlessly whipped up foods I’d never even heard of but couldn’t wait to taste myself. That house, those friends, and let’s not even talk about the way her raspberries sparkled in the opening credits. If I could laugh like that while cooking (you know, instead of reading and re-reading the instructions 40 times as I went along), then this was the life for me.
SPC: Do you cook at home? If so, what’s your specialty?
CM: I have four small kids, ages 1-6, so yes, I cook almost all the time. My specialty these days is quick foods everybody likes. In fact, I have a whole section on Foodlets called Barefoot for Babies, where I make over recipes from Ina Garten (and other amazing cooks I admire) to be simpler, faster and sometimes more nutritious. We often do stir-fry, pesto-naan bread pizza, and mini meatloaves (they cook faster than one large loaf).
SPC: What do you like best about cooking?
CM: The creativity of it—and sharing something delicious with people I love. I’m someone who connects through experiences so I love the idea of thinking up a dish then presenting it to others who’ll enjoy it with me. Right now that usually means sharing with a crowd full of preschoolers.
SPC: Do you like to cook solo or with others?
CM: Solo, I guess. I don’t have many chances to cook with other adults so I’m pretty used to bopping around the kitchen on my own, unless the little guys want to help. (And they always do, but that becomes a totally different project so unless I have the time to lead them without getting grumpy about it, I try to offer lots of chances to cook together when time isn’t an issue.)
SPC: Do you have a sweet or salty tooth? What’s your guilty pleasure?
CM: Sweet! My husband is the opposite but I can say with certainty, I don’t really care if I ever have another pretzel in my life. But chocolate? That’s non-negotiable. On that note, I’d say desserts are my thing but with a few exceptions called apple pie and crème brulee — not really even worth indulging in if it doesn’t involve chocolate.
SPC: How has parenthood changed the way you cook?
CM: It’s not about making complicated dishes for big dinner parties now. These kids want dinner every single day! Plus I’ve really learned a lot about getting our whole crew into a habit of eating healthy-ish food, as Michael Pollan says. Tons of fresh fruit, loads of veggies (mostly roasted) and less processed food than I grew up on. (Sorry, Mom.)
SPC: Do your children join you in the kitchen?
CM: Sometimes! I try to plan out projects when we cook together. That way I can think through tasks they can actually do and feel good about, plus have the time to do it. The point of cooking together is enjoying the process, making memories and teaching them practical skills that might prevent them from a lifetime of takeout… None of that works if you’re constantly stressed out about having flour all over your counter, your shoe and whoever happened to be walking by when a little one was measuring.
SPC: What do your kids not eat that you wish they would?
CM: Let’s see, I’ve been at this for almost 7 years now so my kids are pretty open to eating most things. BUT they each have foods they don’t love, and sometimes it changes. My 6-year-old doesn’t like pears, the 3-year-old is off eggs right now and my 5-year-old told me she only likes bananas at school because bananas at home taste like baby food.
SPC: Are there rules at your table? (Clean your plate? Eat your vegetables or no dessert?)
CM: The biggest rule at our table is about being polite. There’s nothing to say but “Thank you” even if you don’t like the look of dinner. When dinner is served, everyone gets a very small portion. Once each kid eats everything on his or her plate, they can ask for more of anything they enjoyed. There’s no power struggle, no urging anyone to eat more than they want. The other game changer has been a rating system. For new foods, the kids give me a Thumbs Up, Thumbs Middle or Thumbs Down. It’s an outlet to express their opinion without being rude, that actually gives them incentive to try something new.
SPC: What’s your go-to-late-home-from-work-on-a-weekday dish?
CM: When it’s a BIG rush, I turn to “Make Your Own Sandwiches.” I pile all the fixings on a tray–whatever we have on hand, from turkey to salami, mayo, mustard and pickles—and let the rascals do the work. Even my 3-year-old can assemble a sandwich he likes, with just a little help. Tip: Bring at least 2 knives. The whole process always get stalled with the mayonnaise step.
You might also like
I know a lot of you have noticed your grocery bills not just inching but spiking over the last couple of years. Ours certainly has. On the one hand I’d
Not so good: weird names it goes by like celeriac, turnip rooted celery and knob celery. Try tucking those words at the end of “Hey kids, who wants some…” Also,
This is it, people! It’s the countdown…. There are 12 days left until the first day of school. Are you ready? Is your kitchen organized, lunch containers clean and ready