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Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,933 Ratings  ·  351 Reviews
A memoir about the joys of food and parenting and the wild mélange of the two


Matthew Amster-Burton was a restaurant critic and food writer long before he and his wife, Laurie, had Iris. Now he’s a full-time, stay-at-home Dad and his experience with food has changed . . . a little. He's come to realize that kids don’t need puree in a jar or special menus at restaurants, an
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food, memoir, northwest, blog
I've nailed down the reason I never like memoirs based on food blogs, although I think it might have more to do with what I read into them: a kind of dishonesty, an attitude of "hey, look at my beautiful life!", an unwillingness to delve deeply into how this lifestyle is maintained - we can't all be freelancers waxing rhapsodic about strawberries. Anyway, this is a memoir by a hip stay-at-home dad in Seattle, about what he cooks for his family, what his daughter likes, and how her tastes change ...more
Jun 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: yippies, foodies
I wanted to give this 2.5... darn this whole-star rating system.

Anyway, this book can't decide if it's a cookbook or a memoir... it's a stay-at-home dad's account of how he tried to encourage his daughter to be willing to try new foods (and sometimes succeeded!). I like food and I like kids, so I thought I'd like this book. It's a little Seattle Yippie for my taste (FYI a Yippie is a Yuppie masquerading as a Hippie - don't be fooled) with lots of accounts of going to the Asian Grocery and the Fa
Aug 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: contemporary
This guy was too hip for me. But like so many hipsters, he thinks he's not one and goes out of his way to prove it...before diving right back into the sea of hip where no one else could possibly follow and splashing the water ostentatiously. Sometimes I had to put the book down and breathe deeply until the waves stopped crashing to their indie beat. I think I was supposed to think this was funny. But PS: What's with all the foodie dads who publish recipes that I wouldn't even use for fancy Sunda ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, food, humorous

Really quite charming: the tale of a food writer's daughter's culinary journeys. I got this book because I find the author's podcast (Spilled Milk, made with another food writer) to be entertaining and informative and friendly for a hopeless cook such as myself. His voice shines through just as clearly in print.

If you're a beginning cook, Everyday Food will ask you to stretch, but not very far. There's a monthly feature called "Have you tried...?" introducing a special ingredient, such has canne
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
I had mixed feelings about this book.

Parts of it were quite funny.

There were some recipes that I'd like to try sometime (I probably won't)


It was also just a series of vignettes about how lucjy he is that his daughter was adventurous in food.

A lot of people probably pick up this book hoping to find out hw he did it so they can try it too - but what you find out is that his daughter - while she goes through food phases just like all children seems to have the same kinds of idiosyncrasies as mo
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
As the first book I read post-baby, this had a marvelous way of calming my fears about starting our dragon on solids and keeping me laughing in the scattered few moments I could cobble together to read it. In particular, the first few chapters made me laugh at my own hyperactive worries about raising a healthy water and it had great overarching ideas about good foods to try, but unfortunately I'm a bit of a culinary "all-thumbs" so most of the later recipes, while delectably described, just inti ...more
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking, childrens
The style of this book is perfect. It's not a cookbook, it's not a memoir, it's just a dad and his kid (Iris) traversing the rocky road of childhood eating habits. The author just happens to tell you how he makes the easy-peasy recipes for Iris at the end of each chapter. I am definitely stealing the 6-ingredient phad thai recipe!

One of the things I really enjoyed were the references to other food-for-kids books. Amster-Burton balances his food expertise and experiences raising a foodie kid agai
May 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Overall this was a fun read and I liked its (mostly) relatable stories about kids and food. What's fun is that you get kid/food stories, but in the "amped up" version (i.e. his kid asking for lobster for dinner and picking out sushi from the conveyor belt). In the end, though, you realize kids are really all the same, meaning they all have their idiosyncracies. What I didn't like was the author, at least the guy talking in the book (whether that's really the author or not). For as hard as he (se ...more
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Great fun! I enjoyed hearing about Matthew, Iris and Laurie's adventures from his perspective, and of course I particularly enjoyed the literary allusions and references to those I know (although somehow I did not find any BT mentions - in other ways, Matthew comes close to the perfect spouse). Every time I picked the book up I got hungry again although I am less sophisticated than Iris and would probably not survive for long in this household. I am trying to remember what I ate when I visited L ...more
Nov 08, 2008 added it
It's funny! It quotes from obscure children's books! It makes me hungry! I like the part about me.
Oct 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Daniel Pool
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it
More of a put-your-mind-at-ease type book than a researched-technical-feeding-advice type book. Definitely more of a memoir. But still, good, and it DID put my mind at ease regarding some of the tasks ahead (I've been terrified of raising a picky-eater, but Matthew makes it clear that that is likely to happen no matter how hard you try, and it's also totally fine). Recipes look good but I haven't tried my hand at any yet. Back of the book has some recommendations for more technical, researched p ...more
May 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-of-baby
I finished this book today and gave it to my husband so he could read it while on a business trip. I am already regretting that decision because I won't have Hungry Monkey in my hands again for 6 whole days. As soon as I read the last page I wanted to start over again with some little sticky flags in my hand to mark recipes I wanted to try and passages where Amster-Burton says specifically that kaiten sushi is ideal baby food. But no, I was all, "This book is hilarious. It's about cooking and ki ...more
Kristi Brown
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I recently picked up a copy of a new food memoir titled "Hungry Monkey" by Matthew Amster-Burton...because you got me...I loved the kitchy title, its cover and because it was about food. Oh, and the author is from my home - Seattle. What is there not to like about this book? Well, nothing! After a busy Saturday morning with my a$$ firmly planted on my upper deck I devoured this food memoir, enjoying every bite of it!

Yes, I did take some reading breaks! The first break was to try almond milk - st
Dec 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
A fun read. Enjoyed the solidarity of foodie-ness + parenthood in the author's life and also mine. Amster-Burton is a no health food freak and is one of the most guilt-free child feeders that I've ever run across, I aspire to his level of mental freedom about what constitutes "right" eating and what is acceptable fare and practice for youthful meals. I have occasional fantasies about living in Seattle and this book didn't help that little delusion any...the author's world sounds like a paridisic ...more
Jan 03, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a Christmas gift, and the last book I read in 2009.

First, it's important to note that the subtitle is misleading. Amster-Burton clearly wants his daughter to be an adventurous eater, but he gives up on that when she learns that she can say "yuck", around 24 months of age. The book is really about how to cook for a family that includes a picky toddler without making multiple meals and sacrificing taste for the adults.

Caveat number two: Amster-Burton is a stay-at-home dad with two hours
Aug 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like food and kids, even if they're iffy on the combination
Recommended to Heather by: it was on Merri Su's end table
Disclaimer: I don't have kids. And I read this at someone's house, so I mostly skimmed the second half, and I didn't read any of the recipes.

It's more of a fun read than a step-by-step how-to, but it's great for perspective, even for those who do not frequent their local Asian market. The basic message is to give your baby/child the opportunity to be as non-picky an eater as they can be, but as picky as they need to be (and still give them the opportunity to come out of whatever phase they're in
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who eat
I love books that reinforce my own prejudices, and this book does so in spades. I love books that star people I know and like. I especially love books that make me laugh and follow my family around to read aloud to them. Amster-Burton strikes all the right notes in this memoir-cookbook hybrid. He's wryly hilarious and sweet without being treacly. His recipes are clear and readable and mostly appetizing, though I remain unconvinced regarding polenta. His loving, warm descriptions of his 4-year-ol ...more
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
According to the author (a restaurant critic & food writer, who reads the American Pediatric Journal- for the articles), picky eaters are not made, it just happens- as he and many others in his food circle (including chefs) can attest to. One day his daughter is eating spicy foods, sushi, fish, etc., the next week she's not, and still is not. This book had many funny, laugh out loud parts. The author is very entertaining, as well as encouraging. I thoroughly enjoyed this book having a child ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
A food-writing Seattle dad tries (with varying degrees of success) to create an adventurous eater out of his daughter, Iris. Some good recipes are sprinkled in with his anecdotes, and they're heavy on the meat. I especially enjoyed the brief appearances of other Seattle foodies and food writers. One might call this name dropping but Amster-Burton seems too down to earth to call it that. Dads will especially appreciate this book, even more so if they are in charge of the bulk of their household's ...more
Heidi The Hippie Reader
I have a picky eater and this book doesn't really help with that. I found myself becoming incredibly jealous that his kid eats sushi, duck, and everything under the sun even though Matthew claims that she hardly eats anything. Also, he has time to go grocery shopping every day? Yeah... not practical for me. Some of the recipes that Matthew suggests I might be able to do, if I could find the weird ingredients to go in them. Overall, this book is not what I had hoped it would be.
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hungry Monkey was fun to read. I'd probably love any book about cooking and eating. This book made me feel better about having a picky eater, because he says, among other comforting arguments, that the solution to picky eating is "recognizing that it isn't a problem" (p. 107). This book also made me feel a lot of other emotions, but it mostly made me hungry. I'll be saving some of the recipes and trying them out with my two hungry monkeys.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents
A very quick and enjoyable read. The author is pretty funny and I found myself laughing at many of his adventures with 4-yr old Iris. I'm not sure how many of the recipes I'll make, but his approach is refreshing.
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book with a healthy mix of humor and information. I'm looking forward to teaching my own daughter the joy of cooking and eating a wide variety of food
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food-literature
Having found Pretty Good Number One a reasonably entertaining read, I decided to pick up Amster-Burton's Hungry Monkey as a follow up piece of light reading. In the Epilogue, Amster-Burton writes:

"If you've read this far, you're probably thinking that this book was supposed to be about the challenges of feeding a young child and it didn't sound at all challenging. Guilty as charged."

I supposed if he'd led with this admission, fewer people would pick up his book. Hungry Monkey, as the cover proc
Oct 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
I picked up this book because Neil Patrick Harris recommended it. I was so disgusted I couldn't finish it. Some highlights:

"I highly recommend the emergency C-section. I joked with the anesthesiologist for a while, and then a nurse handed me a baby."

"Stirring together the formula powder and water for the first time, I felt like a jerk. Not because I was worried about nutrition....No, I was worried about flavor."

He also says he drank his wife's breastmilk without her permission. If you're a man t
Erica Skinner
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This book...oh man...seriously made me LOL. I was constantly chuckling with the author's snarky wit. As a mom-in-training (for someday) and living in the same neighborhood as the author and his daughter, it was a particularly enjoyable read. (It appears we live only blocks away from each other, which makes sense why I found the book in Ada's Technical cafe). I've started thinking about the someday woes of parenting and have begun my strategy to never have to make kid's food. I'm a foodie and I r ...more
Peter Chengelis
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amster-Burton is laugh out loud funny, and his advice is really quite simple, boiling down to just two rules. First is that babies and children can and should eat whatever you are eating -- no need for a special diet (other than what you are eating should be cut finer). Second rule is that at a certain age - your job is to provide the food, and let the child eat it (or not). All children seem to go through a picky eating phase, but with patience they can grow out if.

After 10 years, this book doe
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Caveat-when the author mentioned his fourth grade class trip, I was there. I see you Matt Amster, and I raise my chopsticks to you!!!
Besides knowing the author at a young age, I fully enjoyed the grownup persona as a parent trying to feed their young child. Yes many of the recipes/antidotes seem a tad outlandish for a small child(except the sushi stories, my kids LOVE sushi too). However any parent trying to introduce new flavors and cultures into their children’s lives is fine by me!! I’m not a
Jesse Warner
Feb 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Read, but couldn’t finish. I feel so bad not finishing books, even with the adage “there’s too many good books to read those you don’t like.” I had such high hopes, but I just couldn’t get into this book, needed more of a plot or structure, and I was not quite sure if the author really knew any facts, or if he was just quoting his opinion and books, papers and studies that supported those opinions. There was some good humor, but I didn’t think I’d know anything worthwhile at the end, so I cut ba ...more
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Matthew Amster-Burton is the author of the YA novel OUR SECRET BETTER LIVES and four nonfiction books, including HUNGRY MONKEY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) and PRETTY GOOD NUMBER ONE: AN AMERICAN FAMILY EATS TOKYO (2013), which was a bestseller in Japan and has been optioned for film. He has written for Gourmet, the Wall Street Journal, and the Seattle Times, and has appeared in the BEST FOOD ...more
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“I joked with the anesthesiologist for a while, and then a nurse handed me a baby.” 0 likes
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