One of the (many) benefits of living in Seattle is getting to hang with some amazing food writers. Seattle seems to have them in abundance. One of my favorites, without a doubt, is Matthew Amster-Burton. I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled across his blog, Roots & Grubs, all those years ago, but I know why I have kept reading it. Between Matthew’s dry wit and Iris’s charm, it’s one of the blogs that I always get a little tingle of excitement whenever Google Reader shows me that there is a new post. I heart Matthew and Iris stories, about rice or pirates or bacon or whatever game they are playing. They are completely addictive. They remind me of myself as a child learning to carefully press out corn tortillas or shoo the dreaded lima beans away to keep from contaminating my food. They remind me of raising my own adventurous eater, who at 2 was happy to eat olives (always off the tips of each finger) or sushi and at 10 would decide that, yes, she would like the duck (or the lobster) with the truffled gnocchi please. They make me almost want to do it all over again (almost mind you… sort of like adorable little toddler shoes make you wish you had someone to put them on… not enough to make you actually do anything about it).
So, a whole book of Matthew and Iris stories? Sign me up! And, of course, like a hungry monkey myself, I gobbled it up, delighting in the discovery that both Matthew and Iris shared around food and family.
I’m equally excited to kick off the book’s Virtual Book Tour. Even if I didn’t know Matthew and Iris personally, I’m pretty sure I would have bought Hungry Monkey from the title and the monkey from the barrel on the cover alone (yes, I judge books by their cover and this one wins!). Whether you have young kids, are thinking about having kids, have kids that used to be young, or perhaps were just a kid yourself, these stories will make you laugh until your belly hurts, and maybe feel pretty ok about your experiences with kids and food. With so many “do this, don’t do that” books out there, it’s insanely refreshing to have a book that is simply about the joys of sharing food with your kids.
Now that I’ve finished reading the book, and I’m going to have to start pestering Matthew to get on it and write another one so I can continue to get my Iris fix. But, in the meantime, at least I get to enjoy the recipes in this one, which are more than satisfying for both kids and adults.
One of the first recipes in Hungry Monkey is for Pad Thai. Now, my daughter loves Pad Thai (although her recent obsession is Pad See Ew), and she ate plenty of it growing up… but it never occurred to me that I could make it at home. Well, that’s not quite true. I did attempt Pad Thai back in my college days from some god-awful recipe that included as the primary sauce ingredient, ketchup. I decided at that point that it was clearly impossible to make at home and the thought never crossed my mind again. Until reading Matthew’s recipe, that is, and realizing that I had a whole block of tamarind in my pantry (left over from a shoot), and that with it I could make the delicious noodles.
Now, I’m feeling quite silly about avoiding home cooked Pad Thai for so long… Matthew’s recipe is delicious, fast and easy. It may even be easier than going out to one of Seattle’s thousands of Thai restaurants even if it is right behind your house. It’s a slurry of palm sugar, tamarind paste, rice vinegar, fish sauce and noodles garnished with lime and peanut. I threw in some age tofu and a bit of cilantro for good measure. And, then I proceeded to eat the whole panful bemoaning the fact that I have all those years of lost Pad Thai time. Don’t make my mistake! Head down to your local bookshop and pick up your very own copy.
PS: When I envisioned this post, it was going to be filled with many of the photos that I took of Matthew and Iris during the writing of this book. There are photos of them at the farmer’s market, at Pike Place Market, making Ants on a Tree and Pizza. They are lovely photos because Matthew and Iris are lovely. Unfortunately, they are also being held captives by evil hard-drive crashing pirates. Hopefully, a daring young swashbuckling chef will free them from their gigabyte prison (or perhaps, I’ll just be able to get the CD back from Matthew) and will be able to post some of them soon.