(by ReW STaRR)
Friends often pointed out that my house was like the movie Mermaids: Cher was the mom to Wynona Ryder and Christina Ricci, and she only served “finger foods.” It’s true: Finger foods were my favorite option for feeding my two daughters, and I’ve secretly always wanted to open a restaurant called No Silverware.
Ever since I was a little girl, food had a hold on me. I grew up cleaning my plate, overeating, and not knowing when to stop. My mom would make chocolate pudding on the stove, and my favorite part was scraping what was stuck to the bottom of the pot. Food became a little too delicious for me, and I developed eating disorders. Although I have overcome the dangerous behaviors, they still have power over me.
I was drawn to being a vegetarian when I was 16 and for the most part have remained one. When I became a mother, I wanted so much to keep my two daughters safe from any eating-related anxieties or phobias. I was always honest about my relationship with food—perhaps too honest, but I really wanted my girls to understand hurting oneself with food. I always found “moderation” extremely difficult, so I encouraged them never to deprive themselves from what they liked, and to know that more would always be available later. I saw how their classmates were so limited—no sugar, no fat—and that was just kindergarten. I thought it was crazy. But I feel lucky that we were able to talk out loud about these issues. They love vegetables, but they ate meat if they wanted it, and I tried to make food a casual but delicious experience, even when I felt like a short order cook because everyone demanded something different.
I couldn’t take them marketing too often because the bill would be tripled. I call them vampires of my wallet—whatever is there, they manage to suck it all out. But they always knew: the fresher, the better. They always had healthy options, and truthfully cookies were not more or less valued or forbidden than broccoli. Living in New York City, it's hard to eliminate bagels and doughnuts, but we tried to have a good breakfast before leaving the house, and routine was key. I made their lunches every day through high school. It was a real art, one that I took seriously.
Now that they live on their own, it makes me proud that they buy food and cook for themselves, sometimes checking in with me to ask for direction, but really they know way more than I ever did. I love seeing the way they are able to stop eating when they’re full and take home doggie bags from restaurants rather than stuffing themselves just because it’s there.
Food is love, and there hasn't been a birthday that my daughters didn’t wake up to a candle in a cupcake or a brownie, ever. I always make my famous matzoh ball soup for the holidays. But non-food rewards are also very much encouraged—clothes, movies, adventures, manicures, and massages. The fine things in life are special treats, just like fine foods.
Food will always be the love of my life that gives me the most up-and-down roller coaster ride. Perhaps one day I will not be so fearful of this love affair. My girls have definitely figured out healthy food habits, and I am forever grateful.
(My secret is using the packaged soup mix but adding 4 or 5 extra chicken bouillon cubes while the water is boiling. Or make your own.)
4 large eggs, beaten
1/4 c. water or seltzer
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 t. salt
pinch of black pepper
1 c. matzoh meal
Combine eggs, water or seltzer, oil, salt and pepper.
Add matzoh meal and mix well.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
Moisten palms with cold water and form mixture into 1-inch balls.
Drop into boiling water, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Heat in chicken soup for 15 minutes before serving.