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How To Make A Brisket And Get Your Kids To Eat

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I once ate an entire brisket. Of course it didn’t happen in one sitting. But slowly, over the course of four days, I polished off about 5 pounds of meat.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The boys (ages 1 and 3) and my husband were supposed to pitch in. In fact, the meal was designed to get the boys to eat some real protein. They were going through their white period– bread, bananas, yogurt, noodles, oatmeal and some raisins for variety. Maybe an apple. Definitely nothing green.
I figured that perhaps I needed to get more creative. It was time to focus on giving them a good old fashioned meal. So here’s what I did. I called my grandmother and followed her directions:
1. Buy a big hunk of brisket (first cut) from Fairway.
2. Saute some onions and peppers (add salt and pepper) and line the bottom of a glass pan with the mixture.
3. Add in a big can of crushed tomatoes and a package of dried Lipton onion soup.
4. Put the brisket on top. Add in more peppers and onions (not cooked– but I don’t know why). Some garlic cloves go in too.
5. Add in small, pre-peeled potatoes.
6. Cook at 350 for about two hours.
7. Add in mini carrots.
8. Cook for another hour or more. (It’s not possible to over-cook a brisket). Periodically use a spoon to spread the sauce over the brisket.
9. Take the brisket out of the mix and cut it on a cutting board. Slice thinly, against the grain.
10. Add the slices back into the mix.
11. The result is an incredibly tender meat that tastes even better when you re-heat it and serve it on the second and third day.
Laboring all afternoon, I eagerly anticipated the oohs and ahhs as I put the meal on their plastic, disherwasher-safe plates. I envisioned them grabbing fistfuls of meat and smearing sauce on their cheeks. I thought I’d have to tell them to chew slowly as they smashed carrots and potatoes into their mouths.
Here’s what happened instead. The carrots ended up on the floor, the meat was untouched. “Please, stay in your seat,” I pleaded. “Here, just give this a little try. It’s delicious. No, you can’t have a cookie.” As I cleaned up the dinner debris, I ate what they left behind. This scenario replayed itself out at lunch and dinner for the next few days, and my husband was only home for one dinner. Hence, my brisket gluttony.
There were many times, when the boys were babies, that I worried about whether or not they were eating enough. Even in the early days of breastfeeding, I looked forward to doctor visits to see if they had gained weight. That sense of bewilderment is probably what motivated me to write my book in the first place. And despite my concerns, I do know that the kiddies are on track. At nearly 40 and 30 pounds respectively, pushing them in the double stroller is a serious work-out. Who needs the gym? Just try bench-pressing these guys all day.
My mom says not to worry, that they’ll eat when they’re hungry. The pediatrician assures me they’re fine and don’t need vitamins. I even have a 6 foot plus cousin who spent most of his preschool years, as I recall, eating raisin bread and cheerios. So I know it’s not that big a deal.
But I’m not giving up yet. Every night I try to give them a protein, a fruit and a vegetable. I’ve decided that if they won’t eat it, tough. I’m not going to do fancy cooking gymnastics a la The Sneaky Chef or Deceptively Delicious. I don’t have the time or energy to puree beans and hide them inside other dishes. I do give in to their inner Cookie Monster demands, but not as often as they’d like.
Last week, we spent time with my mom. The first night we were all together we sat down for dinner, and she pulled a brisket out of the oven. I watched her put a heaping portion on the kids’ plates. I looked down at the carpet, quietly thinking about removing a red stain from the fibers. I excused myself from the table for a moment, with a shrug of resignation. When I returned, our 1 year old was actually picking at something on his plate, and best of all, his older brother– well, he had a mouthful of food and was already asking for more.
I can’t explain it. Same recipe. Same presentation. Maybe they were finally hungry. Or maybe it was the grandma touch. Come to think of it, hey mom, want to come to visit us this weekend? The kitchen is all yours.