Shut Up and Read! • A review of ‘Shut Up and Eat! Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay’. Author: Kathy Buckworth • By Chantal Saville

Like most first time new mothers, I started planning for my daughter’s upbringing long before she emerged from the womb. What she would eat, wear, how we would get her to sleep, when we would start disciplining her and how. I got fairly near wrapped up in reading all the books and visiting all the sites to get as much information as I could.

Some of what I planned worked like a charm. Other things? Not so much. It turned out pumping didn’t work out for me. So we switched to formula. I had planned a boat load of healthy eating for my wee one: nothing out of a jar, can or freezer bag for her. That lasted until her eating of solids went beyond the puréed squash stage at which point mommy started losing what was left of her ‘lack of sleep’ mind. I prepared veggie patties. Nope. Slaved over baked tofu sticks. Not a chance. Spaghetti made with fresh spaghetti squash? Flung on the floor. Cheerios, Gerber Puffs and milk were our mainstays with a smattering of yogurt, fruit, the odd plain noodle and, oddly, avocado and edamame from our favourite Japanese restaurant.

I started imagining the rest of our lives, searching out restaurants that would serve her noodles and edamame. I started imagining a life where we would only ever eat Japanese food. I was started to think we should move to Japan. Then, I started to feel tremendously guilty about the odd box of Kraft Dinner, the occasional Happy Meal – which of course, she would eat with great gusto! I was beginning to think that kids must be pre-programmed to eat junk food happily, and that made me feel more guilty. Did the Big Macs I ate while she was in utero contribute to this finicky style? I was afraid to share my concerns with other mothers that I saw at playgroups. Women who routinely packed tiffin towers of healthy foods: hummus and crackers, fruit, cheese, veggies… Not a Goldfish in sight. Was I really alone in struggling with the thrice daily fun festival that is feeding a toddler / pre-schooler?

Apparently not. I recently discovered Kathy Buckworth and her latest book ‘Shut Up and Eat! Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay’. I read it in two nights and instantly felt a weight lift from my shoulders. That weight was mom guilt. A book can do that, you ask? Yes! This book is genuine, informative and laugh out loud hilarious, all in one package. To quote: “Is there anything more special and heart-warming than a good, old-fashioned family dinner? Well, let’s see. Dropping a skateboard on your ankles or stapling your fingers together could come a close second, if your house is anything like my house.’ Oh, snap! That’s just about right. Or this gem: “Do not – I repeat, do not – be afraid to use dessert as a bribe. It’s a bribe. We know it’s a bribe, and the kids know it’s a bribe. Don’t listen to all the nutritionists and parenting experts who tell you that promising children pudding only if they eat their carrots is setting them up to believe that sweet foods are a reward, and nutritious food is a chore. They’re right, but any doofus kid could figure this out, so I say go for it. “

I asked Kathy how true this book was; she said it was “99% true to my reality”. Thanks to her, I realized that I’m not alone in this universe, standing poised with a can of noodles and a can opener, ready to prepare yet another meal, which may or may not be ingested. Kathy provides us with a compendium of great tricks and tidbits, lists of ‘rules’ that are simply dumb, and easy recipes that will satisfy many a fussy eater. Winding us through breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks – a concept for which she has a few choice words that I wholeheartedly agree with – and entertaining, it is clear that there is no way to escape some level of controversy. “For the record, all four of mine were bottle fed (I should really provide self-addressed stamped envelopes with this book so you can start writing now. I’ve heard it all, save your energy.) Does that make me a bad mother? You know what? I don’t care. My children area all healthy today, and to the best of my sleep-deprived recollection I didn’t abandon them in a cornfield when they were infants so I have to conclude that the whole situation worked for me. And that’s my main message. In a world full of ‘right’ or ‘expert’ ways, we seem to have lost ‘our’ way.” That, indeed, is a thread that I found throughout Kathy’s book and it is an important one. It is also a message that is often lost in the haze of sleeplessness or frustration or fear of ‘doing it wrong’. This book reminds you that even the best intentions can go awry and that there is nothing wrong with that at all.

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