Hungry Monkey, a Food-loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton

hungrymonkey_coverFood is fun, and you get to enjoy it three times a day, plus snacks.
-Matthew Amster-Burton in Hungry Monkey

‘Hungry Monkey, a Food-loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater’, makes eating fun.

Author, Matthew Amster-Burton, a restaurant critic and food writer, did not put aside his self-identity as a bona-fide foodie once he became a dad. Rather, he embarked on an amazing adventure which he called a “second honeymoon with food.”

An excellent writer with an exacting sense of humour, and extensive knowledge in exotic food, Amster-Burton entertains while he educates about how to prepare food for babies and toddlers.

Hungry Monkey is the voice of many a new dad. In it you also find stories on how the author and his wife, Laurie, made it through the sleep deprivation and preoccupation with keeping their daughter Iris fed. Incidentally, it is Iris whose nickname provides the book’s title.

According to Laurie, on our first night home from the hospital I made one of our favourite dinners, salmon and cucumber salad. I have no memory of this, or much of anything from those first three months before Laurie went back to work. I remember Iris nursing almost constantly day and night, and taking naps on our laps. She refused to be put down, ever, for twelve weeks.

I am not exaggerating for effect: we held her for 24/7 for twelve weeks. I called her the Ice Princess, because she never smiled. Sometimes when it had been twenty minutes since her last feeding and she was ready for the next one. I called her Hungry Monkey. (P11)

According to Amster-Burton, he had read a lot of books about feeding babies and young children when Iris was born, but: “…most of them were vegetable-puree cookbooks, party food books (of the “English muffin pizzas that look like cat faces” variety), and dull, clinical books that read like a free pamphlet from the pediatrician’s office.”

He added, “What I wanted were stories about real parents and kids learning about food together –making discoveries, making mistakes, making cookies.”

Therefore, Amster-Burton decided to write his own story.

Hungry Monkey is the book I wish someone had handed me before Iris was born so I would have known that breastfeeding is challenging (even for dads), that there are two simple rules to take a lot of the stress out of feeding kids…(P3)

As such, the recipes are all kid-friendly; those meant for feeding them, as well as those for cooking with them. Amster-Burton includes over 50 of his family’s favourite recipes, which range from the extremely simple (hot dogs) to more complicated weekend fare (Bibimbap).

Every recipe includes prep time, and that means how long it takes a normal person to make it, not a chef. Many recipes are marked QUICK (under thirty minutes) or EASY (limited slicing and dicing). I’ve also offered ideas (LITTLE FINGERS) for letting kids help out with some of the recipes. (P6)

One can tell from the way he writes, that Amster-Burton, is a strong advocate for bonding with children over food. Yet, he is far from being preachy about it.

I’m lucky to have the time to cook dinner six nights a week, but man, if I have to read one more sanctimonious essay about the power of family dinner. I am cancelling ours and replacing it with beers and a Melrose Place DVD Marathon. (P5)

Rather, Amster-Burton suggests that cooking and eating together with one’s kids is done simply because it can be fun and something on which to build common ground.

In retrospect, I think I was gung-ho about sharing our food with Iris for the same reason people share food with each other everywhere: it’s fun. It was the first opportunity for Iris and me to share an experience and enjoy it for the same reasons.

I mean I like playing peek-a-boo (I called it “peekytoe”) because it made Iris laugh, but it’s not like it’s something Laurie and I played before Iris was born –or at least, I wouldn’t admit to it. But I like enchiladas. Iris likes enchiladas. We can agree on enchiladas. (P24)

You can also tell how amused the new dad was at his daughter’s budding command of the English language.

“Yogurt” was also one of Iris’s first words, sort of. Laurie noticed at some point that whenever we served Iris yogurt, she made a noise like “eeyoy-eeyoy”. Eventually she settled on “yoingyoing.” So every morning I served up the yogurt and Iris bounced in her high chair, chanting, “Dadda? Yoingyoing, Dada? Yoingyoing.”

But at day’s end, one can tell what Amster-Burton is really enthusiastic about –his daughter Iris. He writes: “I was proud when Iris took her first steps, but not as proud as I was when she successfully maneuvered a Cheerio and angled it toward her face.(P20)


1. Amster-Burton, Matthew (2009) , Hungry Monkey, a food-loving father’s quest to raise an adventurous eater, Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, New York, USA.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published in 23-11-2011.


Categories: Recommended Reads

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