Feed on

We’re now four weeks into solid food, and the culinary adventure is beginning to be fun even as it gets to be more challenging and even a little political.

Like 99% of parents in America, we started with boring rice cereal from a box, step one in a strict progression ordered by the pediatrician. It promised to be nearly allergy-proof; unfortunately, it also proved to be nearly flavor-proof unless you consider library paste an actual flavor. Simon ate small amounts of it with little enthusiasm for about two weeks, then pretty much stopped eating it, even when I added mashed banana and a dash of cinnamon to liven things up.

Meanwhile, at the two week mark we started Simon on vegetables. I was pretty excited about the jar of sweet potatoes I bought. Simon? Not so much. He ate them pretty well once, and then made awful faces the second and third time. At first I suspected that he inherited his Bubbie’s freakish dislike of the world’s most perfect vegetable (They are good for you, and they taste like candy. What could be more perfect than that?) Then I tasted the suckers and wondered how something purporting to contain only sweet potatoes and water could taste so little like the real thing.

Turns out lots of what comes out of those jars has little flavor. The carrots are good, the squash is so-so, and the peas are grayish and scary looking (I have no idea what they actually taste like, as I’m finding their color a barrier to entry). As we introduced these new vegetables, Simon seemed to concur. As a result, he wasn’t eating so well and wasn’t enjoying himself. Most meals began with a grimace, ended with a grimace, and featured quite a few grimaces in between.

At this point, I decided to do a little reading and got Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense, which offered the ground-breaking theory that if it doesn’t taste good to you, it may well not taste good to your baby. That and there’s nothing sacrosanct about those jars. This information liberated me to get out the food mill, hit the produce aisle, and start cooking. I’ve got carrots, butternut squash, sweet peas, and peaches ready to go, and Simon has enjoyed the carrots and squash with nary a grimace in sight. Meanwhile, the yucky rice cereal has been banished from the pantry, replaced with oatmeal. It tasted much better to me, and judging by the amount Simon gobbled this morning, I’m going to say he liked it better, too. Now we’re cooking!

In just over two months, it will be time to introduce protein. And that presents its own challenges. I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years, so my heart wants to make a go of feeding Simon a vegetarian diet, too. My head, on the other hand, is pretty sure that it’s hard to get small babies to eat enough beans or tofu to ensure that they get enough good fat and protein. A quick call to my cousin Connie, a dietician by trade and vegan herself, more or less confirmed my hunch. In fact, she suggests skipping poultry and going straight to beef.

Beef! The meatiest of all meats! The least vegetarian food in the world! Well, it could have been worse: She could have suggested pork.

So here I sit in my kitchen researching local sources for grass-fed, free-range beef. Turns out I need not worry; my home state has many farms that produce just what I’m looking for, much of which is carried at a grocery store about a mile from my house. So the shopping at least will be easy.

The cooking on the other hand…that’s a whole ‘nother story. I’ve never cooked meat. Ever. I’m sure I can read about cooking beef in my copy of The Joy of Cooking, but can I cook it safely without tasting it? I’ll let you know in about two months. (Mom, can you come over and help?)

And the biggest trick of all will come in setting a good example for Simon, as the irony in all this food angst is how badly I eat myself. If you truly are what you eat, then I am Chinese take-out, Amy’s Organic meals in boxes, Alpen Muesli, McCann’s Oatmeal, Snyder’s Pretzels, and Starburst. Ay yay yay, there’s a lot of junk in that list.

But I have a plan for getting off the junk. My theory is that Simon’s grass-fed, free-range beef will be so expensive that I’ll be forced into eating black beans and brown rice to economize. Then again, Starburst is pretty cheap…

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