Dan Pashman is the host of The Sporkful, a podcast about food and the people who eat it. Over the years, the dad of two has shared many musings about mealtime with kids, including the hierarchy of children’s leftovers (he describes parents as “natural scavengers”), how to disrupt the ice cream cone for the next generation (“Turn your toppings into bottomings!”) and his defence of picky eaters. He talks to us about how he parents—and shares his advice for a successful family restaurant outing.
Name: Dan Pashman
Location: Greenlawn, NY
Job: Host of The Sporkful podcast
Family: Wife Janie, daughters Becky (8) and Emily (6)
Tell us a little bit about your family and your career. Did life happen mostly as planned or were there surprises?
Career-wise it was always my dream to host my own radio show (which turned into hosting a podcast). Personally, it was my dream to meet and marry the perfect woman and have two perfect kids. So my life has unfolded exactly as planned, but the fact that the plan actually worked is a big surprise!
Take us through your morning routine. What are your best tricks for getting out the door?
First trick: Run! Just run away from the house as fast as possible and never look back. But really I think you have to communicate with your partner — who is doing what on which morning, etc.
My real trick is that I have a backpack that has everything I could ever need in it, from earbuds to deodorant, so I never really have to pack up anything. I throw my laptop in the bag and leave. I bring that bag with me everywhere and I’m always prepared!
How much outside help do you get as a parent? Who or what can’t you live without?
My wife Janie is amazing, she holds things together in our house despite having three part-time jobs and being the primary caregiver. Also my mother-in-law Alice lives nearby and helps us out all the time. They’re the best!
What are the gadgets, apps, charts or tools you rely on? Have you come across an unusual parenting product that’s been life-changing?
The biggest things I rely on are Gmail and Google Calendar. My to-do list is the unread messages in my Gmail. My stress level and heart rate correlate directly to the number of unread emails on my phone. If it hits 100, I pretty much need to be hospitalized.
Has becoming a parent changed the way you work?
I’m much more efficient now. You just have much less time to waste once you have kids. So you find a way to get the same amount of work done in less time.
What’s your kids’ most-requested meal at home? Do you name your dishes?
Their #1 is mac and cheese from a box. In terms of dishes that involve real cooking, Emily’s favourite is my brined chicken, which I’ve named Emily’s Chicken. Becky’s favourite is my egg and cheese burrito or egg and cheese sandwich, which I have named The Egg and Cheese Master. I take a lot of pride in my egg and cheese sandwiches.
Do you have any hacks for going to restaurants with young kids?
All parents know you have to order the kids’ food as soon as possible, but not everyone knows that you should order yourself a drink at the same time. Then you order your food and eat your dinner while the kids are having dessert. Then get your dessert to go and eat it at home after the kids are asleep.
What about for dealing with picky eaters?
Don’t stress so much about it! We just did an episode of The Sporkful podcast called “In Defence Of Picky Eaters.” Especially among kids ages three to six, picky eating is so common you can hardly even call it picky. Provided your child is growing and the pediatrician says they’re ok, it’s pretty normal.
And there’s an evolutionary explanation — the prehistoric kids who skipped through the forest eating every bright-coloured berry they found didn’t last long. It makes sense that kids would be cautious of eating new foods and prefer to stick with what’s familiar. So relax! There’s too much parental judgment around picky eating.
How do you decompress?
With a drink and/or exercise, not necessarily in that order.
What’s been your proudest moment as a parent?
Watching my kids get good at the same things I’m good at.
What moment are you least proud of?
Watching my kids struggle with the same things I’m bad at.
What do you want your kid to learn from your example?
To be kind.
What are your favourite funny/weird/special family rituals?
On anyone’s half birthday we cut Twinkies in half and give person a half Twinkie on half a paper plate, and we sing “Hap Ha Bir Da to you…”
Has anyone ever given you a piece of parenting advice that has really stuck with you?
Someone said, “Between a clean house, happy kids, and your own sanity, you can only pick two.” So our house is pretty messy.
What’s the hardest part about being a parent?
It never ends.
What’s your favourite part of the day?
Coming home from work and having the kids run to the door to greet me.
The one thing I would tell other parents who are juggling a career:
Do the best you can and just try to be there. Sometimes I’m with my kids and I’m distracted because I’m still thinking about the work I just finished and the work I have to do after they go to bed, but at least I’m there.
I remember when I was younger, my parents often came to my baseball games straight from work, so they were still in their work clothes. I always appreciated that they came. They were probably still thinking about work sometimes and I can tell you now as a parent that the games were incredibly boring, but they were there.