A mother’s blog on inventive enticements for picky children is making waves globally.
Smita Srivastava’s blog, littlefoodjunction, celebrated its first anniversary this August. Hark, it’s not yet another bored mum’s blog on bringing up her kids.
She turns a boring sandwich into a farm platter, making bread, cheese and salad look like cows, pigs, owls and sharks. She has mushrooms made of eggs and tomato and mayonnaise salad, to Indian blackberry yoghurt dips to blue rice shaped aeroplanes. Seasonal ideas and occasions are marked with delightful snacks and theme meals. Her daughter’s favourite cartoon strips are turned into mini meals, healthy snacks, tiffin and lunch boxes for school. Srivastava’s inventions for her daughter’s meals seem endless, and mother and daughter make up stories as they craft and design their platters.
“I’m a sucker for cute food and pretty stuff, and I find it works its charm on the most stubborn of kids,” says Srivastava, a graphic designer who is a full-time mum living in Noida, a Delhi suburb. Cheerful and warm, the young mother had begun to enjoy the experience of being creative about food when she began to tease her daughter into having healthy meals that were “cute and attractive”. The resourceful mum says her four-year-old daughter, Nandika, has now been nudged into eating all kinds of food, including salads, fruits, vegetables and breads, rice and lentils and grains. At her play school, Nandika’s tiffin is showcased by teachers to other parents and family groups. Little Nandika is proud that, “My entire class and teachers clap each time my lunch box is opened.”
Sheema Mookherjee, senior commissioning editor at Harper Collins, India, in charge of food writing, says, “You have to give her full credit for creativity and brilliant artistry. Her preparations are quite simple too. I wouldn’t mind doing this for kids—it’s not purely spoiling them, it’s also enhancing their creativity and imagination. As a mom I would involve them in the process, and not just present them with the ready dish.”
The family is vegetarian and allow eggs and milk and dairy products into their diet, but the mother is strict about avoiding processed foods and artificial flavouring and colouring. Hence, natural ingredients like turmeric are used for making yellow stencils on idli, red cabbage juice for turning eggs and rice blue or purple.
Rachna Chhachhi, nutritional therapist, says, “Srivastava is amazing for she has invested creativity and love in making food and set a brilliant and beautiful example for all mums. Presentation matters most to children and it’s commendable that she uses fresh ingredients, not artificial flavouring.”
The family is happiest shopping in bazaars and local markets, not just for fresh produce, but also for attractive lunch boxes, trays and platters to add to the fun of food presentation. As a testimony to her ingenuity, Srivastava uses her daughter’s playthings like play dough stencils, sand art moulds, and simple cookie cutters. “I buy another set of her playthings to be used only for food craft,” she says. She uses the basest of knives for cutting and has now begun to enjoy collecting cookware for food styling. “I am focused on using the basics and keeping it simple and effortless, as children have no patience with waiting during their hunger calls.”
Srivastava had begun her blog to share her inventiveness. Today, littlefoodjunction has begun to attract hits from mothers battling worries of thinking up healthy meals for their children. Her blog has been noted by London and Italian based food writers and newspapers. “She is clever and creative. There is a book waiting to be born of the blog to help young moms,” says Monica Bhide, a Washington-based Indian food writer.