“The Giant Carrot” fills a belly, gladdens a heart

To say that Charlotte is a picky eater is an understatement. When I say “picky eater,” I mean that she must not be my child, because she doesn’t seem to have a hunger cue. I am hungry all day. I eat, I wait five minutes, and then I’m all, “man, I’m starving.”

(fun fact: “starvin’ like Marvin” was one of Merrie’s first idioms. She is my child).

I serve one meal to Charlotte, and instead of eating it, she dances in her dining chair. I serve another, and she rolls her head around like the Exorcist child saying “pitittie! pittootie! Ma mae me moe moo!” I give her a snack, and she might go so far as to touch it to her tongue carefully before handing it to the dog. Her method of eating an apple often goes like this:

1. Take bite.

2. Chew for a while.

3. When mom turns her head spit it into your hand and drop on the floor.

Needless to say, she is a waif, and I repeat, I don’t think she is really my child. Mind you, she was the only child born at the hospital the night I gave birth, and in fact was the only birth during my entire hospital stay in July 2006. Still: not hungry? A waif? Seriously, somehow, she must have been switched at birth.

Our pediatrician says she’s just “on her own growth curve,” one that happens to fall below the standard curve for kids that are Charlotte’s age/height. She says it with a shrug, without too much concern, and encourages me to just keep trying. So I sigh whenever I clear yet another untouched plate from the table.

Then, recently, we borrowed this book from the library:

The Giant Carrot

It’s a charming, award-winning, story based on a Russian folktale about a turnip that grows big enough to meet the needs of a family. In this version, Tall Papa Joe, Wide Mama Bess, Strong Brother Abel, and “sweet Little Isabelle” plant a single carrot on their hardscrabble farm, each with different plans for the one vegetable that will grow. Papa wants juice, Mama wants carrot stew, Abel wants carrot relish.  Sprite-like Isabelle — a dreaming, dancing Elfin-like creature who reminds me so much of my own Charlotte — hopes for carrot pudding. Isabelle sings and dances for the carrot plant, coaxing its growth with her special brand of magic until it is large enough to meet everyone’s needs.

Charlotte loves the story, and its folksy, colloquial language flat-out charmed me. At the end of the book is a recipe for Sweet Little Isabelle’s Carrot Pudding. And when we saw this, Charlotte said, “maybe we can get some carrots and make this!” So we did, or a variation of it, anyway. And Charlotte, my skeptical-of-all-foods toddler has been noshing happily on it all week. I changed the recipe slightly, and here is my variation – a doubled recipe, with a little less sugar.

Mix together in a food processor:
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
4 Tbsp melted butter
1.5 cups honey (could use less)
Then stir in gently:
4 slices whole wheat bread, cubed
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Pour into greased 9″ baking dish. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees F.
This recipe differs from the version in the book a few ways (1) Peck recommends blending the grated carrots until smooth, I didn’t do this. (2) I used less honey, more nuts. (3) I swapped ginger for nutmeg, because I appreciate neither the smell nor the taste of nutmeg, although I sure do like the word nutmeg. (say it: “nutmeg.” Nutmeg. It’s a good word, with the sound of a kooky-yet-wholesome gal-next-door.  Too bad the smell always makes me gag).
The end result is sweet without being cloying, a dessert one can give an almost-4-year-old without too much guilt.

Peck herself is an organic gardener and a former cook at a vegetarian restaurant, so she knows her food. She apparently knows something about kids, too. Like, for example, the fact that a book in which a little girl magically sings and dances a giant carrot into being is sometimes all that’s needed to coax even the pickiest eater into trying, and loving, something new.

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5 Responses to “The Giant Carrot” fills a belly, gladdens a heart

  1. Kate says:

    I love that book! I am also totally stealing your idea to make my boy fall in love with literary foods so that he might try them in real life. It hasn’t worked with Smelly Sprout (http://amzn.to/awDyZm) or Little Pea (http://amzn.to/a44Lj5) yet but I remain hopeful.

  2. Vikki says:

    I too am starving all the time. ALL THE TIME! I don’t even know how it’s possible. As you know, we have Jack Sprat and his wife in my house. Yay for Charlotte finding something yummy to eat!

  3. joycee says:

    Love this story and I will have to find the book for GRANDson Ewan who is also a waif in a family of “hearty eaters!”

  4. I’m so glad you’re back :) This looks like a great book & I’ll reserve a copy from our library today. Carrot pudding sounds delish!

    I’ve awarded you the Hard Working Mommy Blogger award :) You were one of the first blogs I ever read and inspired me to start blogging. Thank you!

  5. Dana says:

    This is one of those stories, like the Gingerbread Man or the Little Red Hen, that keeps getting re-told and re-illustrated. I never get tired of any of them!

    And I can’t wait to try some carrot pudding. I’ll be leaving out the nutmeg, too.

    And speaking of carrots, here’s a recent blog entry of mine titled “Purple Carrots” !!


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