Princess Party: When she's happy, I'm happy

So, I’m not big on the whole princess thing. The sparkles, the shiny sequins, the tiaras and wands…it’s just not for me.

So, I’m not big on the whole princess thing. The sparkles, the shiny sequins, the tiaras and wands…it’s just not for me. My 5-year-old daughter though—like many of her friends—can’t get enough of it. To my horror, she can rhyme off the regime of Disney princesses in less than five seconds. When she’d ask why I didn’t like princesses, the feminist in me explained in kid-friendly terms that I thought there were many women she could look up to rather than ones who just look beautiful and wait around for their princes to show up. This of course doesn’t include Robert Munsch’s The Paperbag Princess, a book I’m a big fan of—read it if you haven’t and you’ll find out why.

But, like any close relationship, parenting is about compromise so over the years I’ve softened my stance considerably on both princesses and her close cousin, Barbie. The softening started three years ago after she made a plea to a friend of mine while I was out of the room one day. “Could you buy me a Barbie for my birthday because my mommy won’t get me one,” she asked. That gobsmacked me and left me wondering…why am I doing this? Sure I want her to know women can be more than princesses and that body image isn’t everything. But weren’t there other ways to teach her that?

And so this year for her sixth birthday party, I relented completely and approved a frothy Barbie Beach Party. Why? Well, it’s her birthday and also I know when she’s happy, I’m happy. Now I’m not saying I go out and compromise every stance I have as a parent. But I do think a party of this sort is an easy give-in and I’d take this over, say, decorating her room top to bottom with Barbie.

So go figure that while I’m planning this party, a lovely recipe book came across my desk, one that’s been well-thumbed by now by both my daughter and I. Annabel Karmel’s Princess Party Cookbook is packed with all sorts of delicious and pretty-looking recipes for me to steal from for the upcoming festivities.

I thought I’d chat with Karmel herself mom-to-mom and see what are some of her favourite recipes in the book (though I’m already eyeing the Crunchy Caramel popcorn, the fruit flowers and the Huli Huli Chicken for the party), and also, get some thoughts on why it’s so important  to make our food look so pretty.

Q: How important is the way food looks for kids?

A: It’s very important with children because they look at it, and if they don’t like the look of it, they won’t take the first bite. Say you make fish pie—as a whole it can be very unattractive and put them off. But if you put a small portion in a ramekin dish they’re more likely to try it.

Q: What are your favourite recipes, and the favourites of your daughters?

A: I love the Princess and the Pea Cake, or the fruit flowers. They’re so simple and they look amazing. And the popcorn—my girls love that.  

Q: Finally, any feeding advice you can share?

A: I always find tasty ways of making healthy food like salmon for children. So maybe salmon teriyaki or salmon fish cakes. Or if they’re really fussy, I’d disguise vegetables. And I do think it’s important to get kids into the kitchen and teach them to cook and that’ll also help the fussy child. But it’d be hard to find a fussy eater who wouldn’t touch these flowers.

Here’s Karmel’s super-simple recipe for Kiwi-Raspberry Flowers:

  • Peel the kiwifruits and cut four round slices approximately ½ inch thick from the center section of each kiwifruit (leftover kiwifruit can be cubed and used in a fruit salad).
  • Cut each slice into a flower shape using a flower-shaped cookie cutter.
  • Arrange the kiwi flowers on a plate and top each one with a raspberry.