Eating Edgewater: A Chicago toddler rejects the notion of “portion control

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who cares very little for sharing.

“I want the whole big one.”

This is the phrase we dread in our house. It means Viva has spied something she wants to eat, and she wants it to herself. ALL of it to herself. It can be a doughnut, a pan of brownies, a Maxwell Street polish, a Chicago deep dish – it can be a 26-pound Butterball turkey – but if Viva wants “the whole big one,” she’s either going to get the “whole big one” or there’s going to be big trouble.

Viva’s obsession with “the whole big one” lands smack dab at the intersection of gluttony and possessiveness, a toddler’s favorite place to hang out. She doesn’t just want to stuff her face, she wants to make sure she is the sole keeper of that food item. No carving, no cutting, no sharing. All of something, all hers.

We’re fortunate to live in Edgewater, because it’s filled with great places to eat, and I’ve dragged Viva kicking and screaming out of every one of them. Pete’s Pizza and Bakehouse is one of our favorite establishments to terrorize, because there’s no meal like a big slice of stuffed sausage pizza to get my daughter into “whole big one” mode. Doesn’t matter that each slice could feed an adult male, that makes it an even more delicious prize to be coveted. Don’t you dare try to cut up that zillion calorie wedge of deliciousness – she wants to pick up the “whole big one” and try to take a bite – even when it’s straight out of the oven.

Dak Korean wings? I don’t know what kind of enormous man-eating chicken they get their huge wings from, but when Viva sees them she needs a “whole big” order of 10. And at Ethiopian Diamond, the “whole big one” is a piece of injera the size of table top covered in dollops of food. This is why we fare a little better visiting Indie Cafe Sushi & Thai or Summer Noodles & Rice, where maki is pre-sliced into bites, and she can really only stuff one piece into her mouth at a time. Just don’t let her see the tuna the sushi is made from, as I’d assume she’s need to eat the “whole big one” bones and all.

That gigantic cupcake in the photo? It’s from Royal Cupcakes and Bakes, which has cupcakes at only $2.99 that seem to get bigger every week – the frosting alone is a meal, but when we go in to pick up “a cupcake for Mommy” it seems that we inevitably have to stay so Viva can “eat one there, Daddy. No, not a bite… A WHOLE BIG ONE!”

Living near brunch mainstay M. Henrietta, wine-forward bistro Broadway Cellars, an Ann Sather (cinnamon rolls definitely get Viva into “whole big one” mode), and the delightful, bustling neighborhood hang out Lickety Split (ice cream sundaes? Non-whole big ones need not apply) means you never really have to go to Jimmy John’s, but sometimes (all the time?) a toddler’s whims can’t be disagreed with, and you find yourself in a Jimmy John’s. This week I was there with Viva, her little boyfriend, Ethan, and his family. I made the mistake of buying one large chocolate chip cookie for Viva and Ethan to share. Given that the cookie was the size of a hubcap, I figured she wouldn’t mind if I broke it in half and gave each 2-year-old a piece. Somehow, Daddies never learn.

It was “Whole Big One” Def-Con 4 inside of one second.

“Waaaah!!! Why did you break it?! I want the whole big one!”

“Sweetie, calm down. Don’t you want to share with Ethan?”

“No, I don’t want to share with Ethan! I want the whole big one!”

“But isn’t Ethan your friend? And don’t we like to share with our friends?”


Oh, I see.

Little Ethan was a gentleman, of course, and didn’t require “the whole big one.” As a matter of fact, after Viva’s half of the cookie went bouncing off of my forehead, Ethan offered half of his remaining half to her, and she happily obliged to eat it. Sharing is not a two-way street with her, evidently.

And I don’t think we’re allowed back in the sandwich shop for a little while.

Somehow we’re going to have to break her from her obsession with eating TWBO (The Whole Big One) instead of a little-girl sized ration. I can’t have her throwing herself into birthday cakes at pre-school and demanding TWBO for herself, nor can I have her throwing her arms across the omelet station in the college dining hall so no one else can have any. I imagine her at her own wedding someday, telling the photographer she won’t stuff a slice of cake in the groom’s face, because it’s her wedding and her cake and she wants the whole big one, thank you very much.

In the meantime, I’m putting her down for a nap and heading over to the wine and whiskey store Independent Spirits for some bourbon to drink over some comics from local treasure Third Coast Comics. But don’t worry, a reasonable serving of whiskey will do. Toddlers may rattle the nerves, but I don’t yet require “the whole big one.”

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