Buttered Swordfish for Finicky Kids — With Plenty of Sauce for the Adults

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Swordfish piccata.

Credit
Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times. Food stylist: Hadas Smirnoff. Prop stylist: Rebecca Bartoshesky.

I cannot possibly count how many times I have been sought out by some mom with an urgent, hard, particular shine in her eye who wants to know, needs to know, how and what I feed my children. As I am in fact a woman, a restaurant chef and a parent of two, it’s an understandable mistake. Let me disappoint straight away: My priority has never been having kids who eat; it is about having kids who sleep. Nobody wants to get home from a restaurant job at 1:30 in the morning, stir themselves a medicinal, soporific negroni, shower off the greasy stink of a commercial kitchen and finally hit the pillow around 3 a.m., only to hear the cracking thunder of her alert and chipper darlings at 6:30 a.m. I decided I could tolerate all the Cheddar Goldfish and the years of plain buttered pasta as long as they slept till 11 a.m.

I was also a little jumpy about making the dinner table some weird proxy outlet for ego trips or power trips. Once, on a summer vacation to Corsica, my mother forced one of my brothers to stay at the dinner table until he finished his plate of oily, slick ratatouille — a texture that made him gag — and in the end, he not only never ate it, but the struggle went on for a full 48 hours, escalating to such heights that the boy went missing the next day, was not found by dark, was not found by midnight and was only returned by the local gendarmes the following evening. I was anxious for him, and also for her. She was not equipped to make five different dinners for five different kids at their varying stages of a developing palate, nor to tolerate it. And I knew a guy who would bring his 3-year-old daughter to my restaurant all the time — dressed exclusively in black punk-rock-band T-shirts and black…

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