You’re a food stylist – what is that exactly?
Essentially I am a make-up artist for food! There are many aspects and my job involves anything from creating art using food as the material to developing recipes or a menu. There is also a highly technical side to food styling to make sure a client’s food product looks its absolute best under camera. It’s a fascinating job, and it allows me to juggle motherhood and creativity – the best of both worlds! My next big project, once my children are a little older, is to create an interactive learning method for both parents and children alike to learn to love cooking and food. It’s a work in progress.
How does being a chef help when it comes to feeding your children?
I guess I’m willing and confident to try new things. I don’t serve boring old steamed broccoli. I’ll serve steamed broccoli that is then sautéed in garlic and ginger and my two demolish it. Or I’ll blanch some green beans then serve them with garlic and mustard seeds – they love the crunch! My children’s desire to taste and explore food never ceases to amaze me. I think it’s really important to trust your child’s tastebuds and try not to transmit any food prejudices or personal dislikes. Even if they don’t like the taste of something first time, their tastebuds may not be ready. Food is very emotional and mood-related so try again in a couple of weeks and you may well be surprised. If you invest care, love and joy in the preparation of food for your family, your children will feel that.
But some kids are so fussy!
Of course, everyone has their likes and dislikes, but kids should be exposed to all foods – with no differentiation between ‘kids’ food’ and adult food. Allow them to taste and feel (where appropriate of course!) their food so that they can try to understand it. Children are an open book – they absorb everything including food, so simply allow them to taste and try and be adventurous. My children’s first food defining moment – and mine too – was the time I prepared gratin dauphinoise (potato gratin with cream, milk, garlic and nutmeg), for an extended family meal. Sitting in a circle with two other babies, they happily sat there while I spoon-fed them at least a quarter of this enormous gratin I had prepared for eight adults! This was an affirmation that they would cheerfully devour anything that was cooked with love from the heart. To date it remains a firm favourite, shared many times over with little friends.
What is your view on snacking?
I don’t mean to sound pious, and I know it goes against what many of the baby books say, but I don’t really believe in snacking. In my experience, if my children snack, they’re less likely to eat properly at mealtimes. If they are really, really hungry, I may give them a piece of fruit, but I’d much rather they arrive at the table ravenous and ready to wolf down the lovely food I’ve prepared. I also serve them the protein and the vegetables – the really good stuff – first. Then, if they’re still hungry, I’ll give them some rice, potatoes or bread afterwards. That’s the way we eat as a family and it works well for us.
Fiona Archibold Food Styling and Design, www.foodstylist.ae (055 889 6423)