When I think back to the family dinners we shared growing up, I feel a bit queasy. I know I should feel some sort of sentimental longing, but I don’t. I feel none. Our home was crowded. There were five children. I was the youngest and lived in fear of my more rambunctious siblings. It was chaos nearly all the time and the dinner table was no exception. There was the time someone threw a fork and it landed in an oil painting on the wall. There was another time when one of my siblings learned to launch peas off the end of his spoon and managed to catapult several of them into our drinking glasses. And, of course, there were the innumerable occasions when I sat alone at the table for hours refusing to eat anything and waiting until just the right moment to squish the inedibles into my secret hiding place under the table. Those were the days I most wished for a family dog.
At some point, my mother, fed up with the fighting and disrest, purchased a swivel stand for the television. The television stood between the living room and the dining room. In theory, the new stand was supposed to enable a smoother transition from one room and into the next. With no break in programming and a blaring laugh track, how could one not eat in peace, right?
It didn’t work. I suppose you can’t blame my mother for trying to maintain some level of peacefulness at whatever cultural cost. We fought over what to watch. I always wanted to watch Three’s Company or The Brady Bunch. My brother always wanted to watch Good Times or a ballgame. I always lost the battle. He was little, but scrappy and fierce.
It’s a wonder I am so full of excitement to create my own family dinners, traditions, and memories. However, I am. I’m quite excited. I don’t plan on having five children. I figure our lives can’t possibly be as crazy as that. So, really, I have no foundation or basis of comparison for an ordinary family dinner. I don’t feel that puts me at any disadvantage. On the contrary, I’m planning on forging this new path with gusto and with lots of love. Of course, there will be plenty of wonderful homemade food too.
With that said, we are starting the tradition this week with a big announcement. My little red fox is eating solid foods. I didn’t expect to start so soon. She’s only just over four months old. However, she is a curious little fox who is constantly eyeing my food. She’s particularly interested when I eat while we’re breastfeeding. She used to ignore the crumbs raining down upon her and becoming entangled in her red locks. This is no longer true. When she sees me eating, she immediately stops what she is doing and stares intently at the food. This behavior, coupled with her low weight percentage, convinced K and I the time was ripe for solid foods.
So I thought about it and decided that we were all going to eat together. That means Maeve, whenever possible, will eat what we eat and when we eat. That doesn’t mean, of course, I’m going to feed her a hot curry or a greasy steak. No, Maeve’s not ready for all of that. Instead, we’ll take a bit of this vegetable or a bit of this fruit and feed it to her during our meals.
This week, it worked out perfectly. I had a serious craving for sweet potato fries. There is just something about the sweet and starchy flavor of a sweet potato that really hits the spot sometimes. And, really, these sweet potato fries will satisfy your craving for ordinary fries as well. They’re better. I mean it. I love fries, but I love you more and have no intention of misleading you. These oven baked fries certainly aren’t as crispy as their more caloric counterparts, but you won’t miss the crunch. You’ll be too busy enjoying the salty, sweet, and lime flavors. Absolutely delicious. Did I mention they are highly addictive? You have fair warning.
I’m also including the recipe for Maeve’s meal of roasted sweet potato baby food. The verdict? Scrumptious. She ate with a zeal that suggests a genetic disposition for gluttony. She even learned a new grunting sound, which I interpret as a demand for MORE. I respond to the grunts with spoonful after spoonful. It’s pretty much the best milestone for my budding little foodie. I am still beaming.
Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries
2 large sweet potatoes, about 1 and 1/3 lb., peeled and cut into 1/4 inch wedges
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
While the oven is preheating, boil a medium sized pot of salted water. When the water is boiling, add the sweet potato wedges. Boil until they are just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Strain and remove from the water. Place into a large mixing bowl.
Mix the sweet potatoes along with the other ingredients until evenly coated.
Line a baking pan with foil. Pour the contents of the bowl onto the baking pan and spread into an even layer. Bake the sweet potatoes until golden brown on all sides.
Turn the potatoes often for even baking.
This should take 20-25 minutes.
Enjoy with the dip of your choice. I admit I love fries with mayonaise!
Roasted Sweet Potato Baby Food
2 small sweet potatoes, skins in tact, about 10 ounces
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking pan with foil.
Pierce the sweet potatoes repeatedly with a fork on all sides. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 40-60 minutes, turning once. Bake until the potatoes are very tender. The skins should come away easily.
Remove skins and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week.