Caterpillar and Caravan is a story of raising a baby abroad (she’s the caterpillar; we, and everything we seem to carry with us everywhere we go, comprise the caravan).
Food for Us All is a blog that I hope to turn into a book full of recipes for foods that everyone in your family will actually eat (and enjoy!), and are truly managable – i.e. easy enough to make that you won’t spend an entire afternoon in a kitchen, requiring simple enough ingredients that you can make the dishes regardless of where you live and your proximity to a Whole Foods. I also hope you’ll find recipes that will allow you to reassess your understanding of the possibilities of palate and the pleasures of dining during the off months; many of the most flavorful recipes were invented during the long winters of Bishkek when produce in the grocery stores is limp and our bazaars seem overrun with pale vegetables with tepid tastes.
How this food blog came about:
Eating healthy food was extremely important to me when I was pregnant. It wasn’t just that I’d read too many admonitions against indulgences or platitudes about early formation of your baby’s palate – though I had certainly seen enough sugar-addicted children have emotional wipe-outs in the candy aisle to know I didn’t want that. It was that I arrived in Ankara five months pregnant, and after five months of barren bazaars and boring winter produce in Bishkek, just as all the spring produce began flooding onto the market. Every Saturday the bazaar down the hill from my in-law’s house was filled with rich, vibrant greens and that wet smell of spring I’d only dreamed about in Kyrgyzstan. Suddenly I had access to kale, to chard, to rutabaga, to cherry tomatoes and four types of peppers and five kinds of lettuce and all the seasonal fresh fruit I could desire. I cooked, I steamed, I made salads and stir-fries. I watched my in-laws and made them test my new creations. My taste buds sang as I delighted in each meal and the flavors I was discovering – a rich combination of my American health foods background and all the warm, earthly, piquant spices found in Turkish cuisine. Because I was out of the house from from morning to mid-afternoon most days, I also learned to plan and make meals that I could take with me and eat, with interesting variation, across several days.
I was never hungry (except before doctor’s appointments, when I had to arrive on an empty stomach and wait for hours on hard purple benches below the flickering corridor lights), and yet I managed to both gain less than 30 pounds *and* give birth to a healthy baby.
After our daughter was born I immediately realized I wouldn’t have as much time to cook (or do many other things, for that matter). It was still important to me to *eat well* however. I determined to enjoy at least one aesthetically pleasing, delicious, and wholesome meal a day – preferably with my husband, sitting down and having conversation. Even through we were sleep-deprived and ever busy, we still needed to carve out time to nourish ourselves (and our relationship). We just had to figure out food that didn’t take too long to prepare and could, preferably, be repurposed into other meals throughout the week. When our daughter was six weeks old I left my beautiful bazaar and headed back to Bishkek, where we would stay for another year. As the capital of an emerging economy with a pint-sized consumer class and only nascent import sector, Bishkek doesn’t have an abundant variety of fresh foods available year-round. Unless you head to the specialty markets and are willing to pay 10 times more for waxy imported cucumbers than you would pay for fresh produce in spring, winter means mostly cabbage and root vegetables. My cooking style had to shift. How could I make foods that actually felt nourishing and interested our palates in the middle of winter?
These recipes were born out of our first year as parents: they’re easy to prepare, don’t require exotic ingredients (or have simple substitutes), lend themselves to repurposing throughout the week, never bland, nutritious, and can actually be served to everyone in your family. In short, it’s a collection that real people with real, messy, busy lives, could actually use to cook real meals throughout a regular week – without getting bored with what they eat.