What to Feed Bébé

Bringing Up Bébé

I was at a book-signing in Chicago, when a charming young woman told me that she was reading “Bringing Up Bébé” by Pamela Druckerman. She wondered which recipes from The Bonne Femme Cookbook I might recommend for enjoying with the entire family—children included. Because, you see, one of the premises of Druckerman’s book is that French children eat what their parents eat.*

My short answer would be: Anything in this book would be kid-worthy if you were French, because once French children eat solid foods, they eat what their parents eat.

Well, you might say, too late for that—that is, if your kids have already gotten to solid foods, but they’re fussier than you are, perhaps you’re going to have to coax them into eating your way. If that is the case, I have quite a few recipes that I honestly believe are kid-friendly—or at least can help you move your kids toward eating like the civilized, world-class citizen you want them to be.**

The recipe below, in fact, was developed by the people who promote Comté Cheese. It’s basically chicken fingers, but a sophisticated (that is, French) version. That’s right—introduce your child to the wonderfully complex, deeply flavored side of cheese. But give them the crunch they love. (And yes—the French do have les corn-flakes, and they call them just that).

Chicken Breasts Comté: A great way to nudge your child beyond chicken nuggets. Photo credit: CIGC/Studiovision.

Here’s the recipe, translated from the French (by the way–in my cookbook, I change the recipe a bit, using Panko bread crumbs instead of corn flakes):

Makes 4 servings.

2 ounces grated Comté cheese
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup unsweetend cornflakes, crushed
12 walnut halves, finely chopped
1 whole egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 chicken breasts
Olive oil and butter for sauteing (start with 2 tablespoons each; add more if necessary)
Salt and pepper

Combine the Comté, bread crumbs, corn flakes, and walnut halves and place in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat the egg. Place the flour in a third shallow bowl.

Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour. Coat with the egg, then coat both sides with the bread crumb mixture.

Heat the olive oil and the butter in a skillet. Brown the chicken on both sides over high heat, then cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Chicken Calvados. I bet your kids will like this! (Use apple cider instead of brandy.)

If you own my book, here are the recipes that I think are particularly kid-friendly. If they have wine or other spirits, substitute apple juice or chicken broth.

Chicken Calvados (use apple cider or apple juice instead of apple brandy)
Salami Allumettes (salami in puff pastry—think pigs in a blanket, only subtle and French)
Gougéres (kids love these airy cheese puffs)
Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry
Little Shell and Prosciutto Salad
Summer Corn Salad
Turkey Salad Veronique (with grapes)
Roasted Vegetable Soup Maison (roasting the veggies makes the sweetly kid-friendly)
Orzo-Chicken Soup Bon Papa (a simple chicken stock and orzo soup–great when someone’s not feeling well)
Chicken-Rice Soup
Nouvelle Chicken Veronique (with grapes and balsamic vinegar)
Poulet La Poire (use pear nectar instead of pear vodka)
Chicken Saute with Sweet Potatoes
Normandy Beef Strognoff (with a creamy sauce studded with apples)
Osso-Bucco Chicken Thighs (with a bright tomato sauce)
Classic Roast Chicken
Poulet Bijoutiere (with a pleasantly fruity pomegranate sauce)
Lemon-Mustardy Roast Chicken (my nephews love mustard)
Panko-Breaded Oven-Baked Chicken (my version of the above recipe)
Choucroute Garnie (no, they may not like sauerkraut, but they may like the potatoes and sausages…and the mustard you serve with it)
Normandy Pork Chops (with apples)
Roast Pork with Honey-Cider Vinegar Sauce (introduce them to the sweet-tart side of things)
Roasted Fish with Sauce au Choix (bring them up on a real tartar sauce!)
Poulet Pot Pie (a great French style Chicken Pot Pie)
Chicken and Rice Casserole (French style)
Chicken Noodle Grand Cassolette (the way a French woman would flavor it!)
Parmentier (French Shepherd’s Pie)
French Lasagna (made creamy with a white sauce and complex with Comté)
Pasta with French Bolognese Sauce
Pasta with Bacon and Gruyère
Croque Monsieur
French Pizzas
Hamburgers with Figs and Sautéed Leeks (a grown-up hamburger….but a little bit sweet)
And dessert, of course: Crêpes, custards, ice creams, cakes and more.



* What that sounds like to me is that the French simply do what most American parents did until the past two decades. That is, everyone I knew that grew up pre-1990 pretty much ate what their parents ate. Didn’t you? What happened?

** No, I do not have children myself, but I have cooked often and enjoyably and successfully for many nieces and nephews, so yes, I do have an idea of what children will eat….and more importantly, how to help them move beyond mac-and-cheese.

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10 comments to What to Feed Bébé

  • Amanda M

    My parents, thank goodness, never bought into the ‘children’s menu’ bull. Now, how much of this was because my Mom is really pretty lazy and refused to even consider cooking and washing up after more than one entree is anyone’s guess, but I think my sister and I came out ahead in the end. We were always expected to try at least one bite of everything on our plate, but were not required to finish it if it was just too gross. I see people either forcing temper tantrums at the dinner table or letting their kids eat nothing but plain chicken nuggets and plain buttered pasta and it is just so sad. Eventually your kid _will_ like spinach, or green beans, or cooked carrots. Why does it have to be _right_now_?

    • Wini

      I agree so much, Amanda M. There’s a middle ground somewhere between chicken nuggets and force-feeding kids things. Moderation in everything, and frankly, that’s what the French are so good at. Thanks for posting.

  • Rachel F

    Thank you Wini, for pointing out the recipes in your wonderful book that are especially kid-friendly. My husband and I are very much of the mind that our daughter eat what we eat, and she (so far!) seems to enjoy that approach! I was brought up that way too, and I’m not sure if that’s also because my parents are European. I recently finished reading Bringing up Bebe – many interesting ideas to import to the U.S., especially where food is concerned!

    • Wini

      My parents weren’t European, but we ate what they ate. I remember thinking it was kind of “cool” to like what Mom and Dad liked. A rite of passage that I wanted to accomplish. A badge of honor….Plus, I really wasn’t given a choice!

  • I agree. Our kids eat what we eat. I usually serve a meat or fish, starch, cooked veggie, and a salad or fresh veggies. If they don’t like one item, there are enough other healthy things on the table that they can fill up on. The only requirements are that they taste everything, and they have to eat a serving of at least one of the vegetables, either the cooked or the raw. I posted my “trick” on getting them to eat vegetables a few weeks ago. It boils down to the fact that the vegetables are what I put on the table first when the kids get to the table. Then while I’m getting the rest of the meal ready to bring to the table, I tell them to go ahead and eat the vegetables before they get cold. And usually, they do. It’s amazing how they will sit and eat dinner if they haven’t been snacking all afternoon. Enjoyed your post. Thanks!

  • Alex

    I didn’t even realize that not eating what the parents ate was at option! Sure, I had picky siblings who would pick at most of foods and then eat a mound of plain rice, but we always ate what my parents ate. (I also come from a family with five children, satisfying everyone would have been impossible).

    Mom raised us on a lot of different cuisines (Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Indian) and we ate a lot of strong flavours (I LOVE spicy food). I am so happy that she made us eat a lot of different foods. Though I’m pretty sure she was just eating what she and my dad liked. Fair enough.

    My fiance and I are planning on having a child soon after our wedding in June. I read Bringing up Bebe and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Though most of it just seemed to be what I’d do naturally anyway, due to my personality). I will definitely be making these recipes from your book for my children, and many more! 🙂

  • Wini

    Thanks, Alex–sounds like an exciting time for you. Best wishes for a great wedding season!

  • […] Every Day. There are plenty of other recipes in the book that are kid-friendly—I’ve listed them here.Photos by Richard Swearinger.Nouvelle Chicken […]

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