You Should Get Hungry Monkey

Hey, look, we got our friend Matthew Amster-Burton’s new book, “Hungry Monkey”!

Eli holding a copy of Hungry Monkey

Matthew’s a food writer whose daughter, Iris, is about three months older than Eli. His book combines helpful guidance, recipes, and awesomely funny writing while avoiding that strident, chiding tone so common to books that have anything to do with parenting. I’ve seen the book filed under “child care”, but calling “Hungry Monkey” a parenting book is like calling “Travels with Charley” a travel guide. “Hungry Monkey” is more a collection of entertaining essays about the travails of trying to feed a young kid. Here’s Matthew on why he didn’t feed Iris baby cereal when she started eating solid foods.

Some people deplore baby cereal, saying it gives kids an appetite for bland carbohydrates. These people presumably hang out with the mom who thinks she can keep her son away from pictures of breasts. We had a much better reason for rejecting baby cereal: everyone else starts with baby cereal, and we didn’t want to be like everyone else. I swear this sounded like a good reason at the time.

Unlike books such as “Super Baby Food”, “Hungry Monkey” is light on the kind of advice that should be accompanied by a wagging finger. Matthew’s thesis is simple: there is no such thing as baby food. It’s fine to let them try what you’re eating, and you don’t have to be crazy anxious about feeding your kid.

Matthew changed how we fed Eli and Liza. We started Eli on bland cereal, then began working our way through numbered Gerber baby food as if they were a counting book. In contrast, Liza’s eaten what we eat since she could grab it from our plates and shove it in her mouth. At nine months she was scarfing down spicy potatoes and tofu. Her face turned red and she coughed until we thought she’d pass out, but she kept eating it and demanding more. And she’s lived to be two so far!

I was especially pleased with how Matthew includes science with his advice. Where the science is lacking, Matthew falls back on the fact that your taste buds are smart; listen to them.

Eli eating a copy of Hungry Monkey

For me, the book’s real strength is that it recognizes how frustrating and hard feeding kids can be without giving in to parental despair, even if your kid eats frozen pizzas without waiting for you to cook them.

Feeding a young child is stressful and unpredictable, you do whatever it takes to make it work, and the job is never done. But you could say the same thing about snowboarding or touring with the Rolling Stones. “Stressful and unpredictable” doesn’t preclude fun.

And this book is fun. It’s got great recipes and funny stories. Don’t take my word for it, though. Matthew has the first three chapters up on his book’s website. Read those, then go buy the book. You’ll have a great time with it.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m in the acknowledgments.

8 thoughts on “You Should Get Hungry Monkey

  1. I’m hoping to pick up the book when Matthew visits the Bay Area later this month. I’m very interested in reading it, even though I know it won’t fall in with our kids’ current dietary needs. Thanks for the great and insightful review.

  2. pbmath: Thanks!

    Limax: Check out the first three chapters that are online. I do think it’s a book that you can enjoy even if you’re not trying to feed a two-year-old.

  3. Let’s put it this way, I don’t have any kids that I’m trying to feed and yet it still just got added to my list of books to read. 🙂

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