Every morning I scramble around our kitchen, looking for appropriate snacks for a 15-month-old. Cucumber? I think she is eating that lately. German roll, or rice cake? Blueberries are always a yes. Is Würstchen trying too hard?
Blearily, I stash these goods in her little green lunch box and send her off to Krippe. And even if she doesn’t eat my lovingly packed breakfast and Vesper (snack) I know she is getting a warm lunch at school everyday.
Lunch, traditionally the biggest warm meal of the day in Germany, is provided at my daughter’s Krippe. While some schools specialize in bio (organic) or even vegetarian fare, I am just pleased that mine cooks on-site versus catering in. And since my daughter started school I have been pleasantly surprised to see what’s on the menu.
Not that I should be. The American reputation for kids’ food is abysmal. Chicken nuggets. Pizza. Soda. Sugary cereal. Almost anything is an improvement.
I know I am not alone in this opinion. One book that has become a kind of backbone to my parenting philosophy, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, is the product of a fellow parent and American expat in Europe. Pamela Druckerman found herself in France and discovered that moms are not the frazzled, erratic mess so often portrayed in America. They are chic, self-assured and their kids are more likely to eat braised leeks than chicken nuggets. The book was a hit in the USA and beyond. Clearly, she was on to something.
While Germans’ reputation (both in life and in parenting) is not as glamorous as the French, I have found a similar chilled-out, stylish vibe and no-nonsense approach to eating. Things I would never dream of seeing on an American daycare’s menu – broccoli! fish! remoulade!? – regularly make an appearance. Ingredients are prepared fresh, seasonal and (when I have gotten the chance to sample) delicious.
This week’s menu at the Krippe:
- Möhren–Orangen–Suppe (Carrot and orange soup)
- Fischschnitzel mit Kartoffeln und Remoulade (Fried fish with potatoes and remoulade sauce)
- Kartoffeltaschen, Brokkoli und Curry Soße (Stuffed potato pockets, broccoli and curry sauce)
- Penne mit Bolognese (penne pasta with meat-based tomato sauce)
- Spätzlepfanne (Schwabian noodles, cheese and vegetables)
Sounds a lot better than the leftovers and cups of ramen I’m usually eating.
I’ve thought a lot about eating since my daughter started eating human-food. Of course I want her to be happy and healthy and navigating things like teething make the whole process even more complicated. Hearing what she eats at school has me examining how I still make a very American meal plan at home (burritos and hamburgers are regularly featured).
I’ve come to the curious realization that my little girl will be the one bringing the strange food to school, like that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Food is just one of the fist examples of her emerging identity as a Third Culture Kid. She is going to be different. And though this is a life we’ve chosen, she is getting thrust into it, different from the start.
As my only experience with babies and kids’ food is in Germany, let me know if my view of the American kids’ palate is out-of-date. Maybe I had too many hot pockets as a child and my memory is skewed. Or if you have any great snack ideas or meal plans – my girl and I love to eat.