sneaky foods for toddlers from New York’s Union Square Cafe

swordfish takes the cake
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Mercury scares me. Not the planet, just the idea of it being linked to Autism. I’m like one of those psychos they feature on Law & Order, except I let my children get their vaccines. When I was pregnant, I wouldn’t even stand near a tuna sandwich, never mind eat one. The bean sprouts happen to love fish… as long as we call it chicken. Mostly we feed them blackened catfish, grilled tilapia, the Nemos of the bunch.

I was ready to mix things up with a new recipe: the one my mother always seems to mention when recounting her dinner parties. “You know, I made that swordfish dish everyone loves—the one with the wine-soaked raisins.” As a rule, alcohol-soaked fruit should be limited to sangrias and dysfunctional family outings. There’s a reason, for example, rum-drenched fruitcake is always served cold.

I asked Mom to email me her recipe while I was still at the market. I foraged for pine nuts—oddly, they’re never in the nut aisle or the baking needs aisle, but on some random stand in the produce section beside tropical trail mix. But when I read raisins, I was certain I had them at home. I mean, come on. Toddlers and raisins go together like Bill Maher and contrarianism. Without one, the other is Les Miserables.

When I rummaged through cabinets trying to find the raisins, I remembered adiosing them in the trash, for fear that maggots were living in the box. There. I said it. I’m afraid of raisins. At age five, I was having a playdate with Melissa Chesler, when Mom gave us a box of raisins to snack on… then noticed we were snacking on white rolling bugs. Maggots. Holy fuck. Ever since, I’ve had a dreaded fear of maggots hiding in my boxes of raisins. Rather than open the box to see if there are any visitors—because what if there are?!—I toss them into the trash without looking. I even keep the box in the fridge. But if I don’t recall buying them, they’re out. Long story long, I resorted to sweetened craisins for the recipe, and it was lovely. I’d absolutely make this again.

“More chicken!” Abigail insisted.
“Oh, you want more swordfish, huh?”
“Yes, that. Chicken, yes.”
“No chicken, Abby,” Lucas corrected her. “Cake! More cake!” Then the two of them began to sing Happy Birthday. To no one. Because they were sure the fish they were eating was indeed cake. That’s how awesome a chef I am.

A YEAR AGO: Revelations of Club Life
2 YEARS AGO: The Beatles Lied
3 YEARS AGO: Big Pimpin’
4 YEARS AGO: Stephen or Stephanie?
5 YEARS AGO: Customization



  1. i say fresh organic fruit or a freshly made smoothie with organic fruit and soy milk,or healthy granola

  2. I really enjoyed this. I wish that I can see my favorite drummer & percussion player of all time jam with the “E” Family Live. Come play at our Ribs ‘N Soul or our Montreal Jazz Festival in Detroit, MI. Let’s Jam 2-gether with my timbales as well as ALL of U guys.

  3. You got no business being behind a camera if you can’t compose yourself when something incredible happens. SO WHAT HAPPENED?

  4. Everything in my “pantry” (more like a freestanding cupboard) that doesn’t seal up tight — raisins for example — is ensconced in a large ziplock bag with the name of the item written in black sharpie on the bag, which probably isn’t necessary because you can right through the damn ziplocks, but it makes me feel kitchen smart. (I’m not much of a cook.)

  5. Stephanie, that recipe sounded delicious, any hope you’ll post it online?

  6. I understand your fear of raisins – I have a similar one except that it involves toilet paper rolls and cockroaches

    completely normal and rational

  7. I always read….rarely comment because you usually do a fine job without my input. But geesh….this here post would have been fantastic had you shared the recipe. ;-)

  8. Author

    I apologize for site issues. I’m in the deep with site changes, and I genuinely appreciate your patience. I actually have the photo I took of the meal, along with the recipe… if I can only figure out how to include it. Promise it will be here soon. xo

  9. If you’re concerned about autism & mercury – you should REALLY be concerned with preservatives and High Fructose Corn Syrup. I rant about this nonstop, but people just aren’t aware of the dangers:

    HFCS is linked (it’s PROVEN to be linked) to autism, childhood diabetes, non alcoholic fatty liver, learning disabilities – and now a high mercury content. Oh, that’s right – there’s mercury in that there “harmless” HFCS.

    I’m a natural, whole foods person and I’ve obsessively kept HFCS out of our house for years now – now that I’m pregnant, I feel far safer in indulging in the occasional piece of sushi than I do letting HFCS get anywhere near me or my unborn baby.

  10. I can’t wait for the recipe!!!

    Your ending with the kiddos’ comments made me laugh so hard.. Thanks for making me smile today :)

  11. Heh – I’m the psycho that will eat fish pregnant, but won’t vaccinate. Between the two of us, we’re totally covered :)

    I will honestly never be able to eat raisins again. Reminds me of my palmetto bugs and camping fears … {shudder}

  12. One sentence in, and I was making a tuna sandwich… thanks for the lunch idea! As for the raisins, gross. Great, something else to worry about in the cupboard…

  13. hey….what have i missed? i see that this has been saved in the pregnancy category AND a few comments relating to pregnancy. I’ve been away…need to catch up: are you pregnant? if so, congrats!!!!!

  14. Besides sword fish being high in mercury content, there is also the issue that swordfish is mostly caught through long-line fishing and bycatch of other types of fish is a huge problem. The swrodfish is not an endangered species but still a concern for conservation. I hope you consider using other types of fish :)

  15. I’m really liking the changes to the website. Very crisp and clean… good job! And thanks for sharing the recipe.

  16. Off topic for this post, but not for today’s news, or the subject of health and body image. I was happy to hear Sanjay Gupta say tonight that just because someone is thin does not mean they are healthy, just as someone who is not thin shouldn’t automatically be assumed unhealthy.

  17. A teacher who had her primary-school class vote out a child with autism, Survivor-style, was reinstated. Self-diagnosed autism suffers all over the internet express outrage.

  18. Stephanie,S.O.S.

    I have a questions about your recipe;

    In step 4 , when you write, Combine with othe ingredietns, is that supposed to be done in the saute pan or in the mixing bowl. And step 5, same question. I ask because well I don’t usually put raw garlic into any recipe, so I assumed it should be all done in the saute pan… that’s what I did.

    I actually prepared this a couple of days ago, as I had almost all of the ingredients in my kitchen when I read your entry. My bf loved it, he says it’s his favorite fish recipe of what I have prepared for him so far, and we have lived together for 3years so! For me it was both fun to cook, and really nice to the taste. I loved it.

  19. I have that same fear of raisins. My experience with the maggots involved a kindergarten snack brought in by a classmate.

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