Traverse City Record-Eagle

Rebecca Lindamood: Foodie With Family

January 12, 2012

Foodie With Family: Birthday meals (x5)

If you are still doing juice cleanses and nibbling raw carrots, you may wish to tuck this column away for mid-February.

While everyone else in January is behaving like they're at a fitness spa, our household is finishing off our three-month, five-child birthday season with a serious exercise in indulgence and excess.

The way I see it, the last birthday of the bunch (Jan. 4) has to be celebrated with as much flair and enthusiasm as the first four (from early October on). Even if the kids' yardstick eyeballs weren't enough to keep me fair, my deep-seated determination never to show favoritism toward any of them would keep me on the straight and narrow.

Mind you, in the New Year's perpetual health frenzy, my idea of the straight and narrow stands in stark contrast to most folks because the birthday boy calls the feast.

If he wants fried chicken, French fries, milkshakes, and a Tardis cake, that's what he'll get with no questions asked. The rules are simple: one main dish, up to three side dishes (and on this day alone, milkshakes count as side dishes) and whichever dessert they desire.

Knowing this is the only meal of the year over which they have complete autonomy makes them take the process very seriously. They contemplate their choices for weeks in advance. Throughout the year it isn't unusual to hear, "I'm choosing this for my birthday meal!" after an especially well-liked dinner.

The choice usually ends up being something the kids love dearly but don't get to eat often due to the time or cost involved in preparing them. Fried chicken is an ever-popular pick but empanadas are moving up in the ranks. Everyone loves hand-held food, and empanadas are among the best in class in that category. Think jazzy mini pasties and you have a bead on what makes empanadas so thrilling while being so comforting; flaky, golden-brown dough wrapped around a fragrant meat filling.

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