Hi, again. Sorry for the outburst; things seem to have returned to normal, which means I’m back to being fairly sane as long as I don’t hear about any mythical “sleeping through the night” -type babies. It’s like when Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff or Peter walks on water: I’m okay as long as I don’t look down.
ANYWAY. I thought it might be good (and service-y!) to write a post with some more detailed information about how we do food around here, since Bunny and others seem to have come away with the false notion that I have some idea what I’m doing. The Bean knows we need to go buy Sugar an anniversary present, so naturally he’s napping like a doped cat — this is not typical, let me just point out — so rather than wait around for a good narrative and structure to come to mind, i’m going to make bullet points while the sun shines. (…so it goes without saying that I’m continuing this hours later, right? Right. With no present purchased.)
Item: The Bean eats at the table three times a day; it was two until recently. He eats a fair amount, and he definitely does not go down for naps without those meals. He eats some combination of whatever we’re eating right then (he loves scrambled eggs with cheese and broccoli), whatever leftovers we have in the fridge, and usually something we’ve made just for him. I try to make sure there’s some protein and some vegetable on offer.
The Bean and I demonstrate the ice tea spoon technique.
I keep a supply of extra spoons on the table because he likes to take them, and the day I found myself snapping at a seven-month-old for dropping a spoon on the floor is not high on my list of Best Parenting Moments.
Some things the Bean likes to eat:
- WAFFLES! OMG, the waffle-love. We (read: Sugar) make these yeast-risen ones once a week or so and freeze most of them. A quarter waffle, toasted and cut into three narrow wedges, is a good distraction while we get other food ready. (If you haven’t tried yeast-risen waffles, YOU HAVE NOT LIVED, waffle-wise. Bittman drives me crazy for a whole host of reasons (COUGHpretentiousprivilege-blindgrill-obsessedsnobCOUGH), but I’ve got to hand it to him on the overnight waffle recipe. Except use butter on the waffle iron.)
- Banana pancakes, which also do pretty well frozen and toasted. The way the kid puts those away makes me think he’s part locust; he’s one-tenth my weight, and he can eat more of them than I can. I fear adolescence, I really do.
- Mashed sweet potatoes. Boiled, mashed, frozen in ice cube tray, microwaved and served with butter. Yum.
- Sweet potato fries.
- BANANA. At least one a day. And here’s where Sugar is a genius: she figured out that instead of peeling the banana and putting it in a bowl, you can cut the banana in half crossways and USE THE PEEL AS A BOWL. It fits right in your hand, and keeps the banana from drying out in between meals in the unlikely event the Bean doesn’t eat the whole half (?) in one sitting. This is the kind of thing ninjas would do, if they spent less time jumping out of trees and more time thinking about ways to make housework efficient.
- Cheerios. Cheerios and cheddar bunnies (read: hippie goldfish) are a fabulous stroller/subway bribe. We also usually throw some on the table at mealtime to distract him from hollering in between bites of other food. Spoons require transit time, kid.
- Cheerios and banana combined into a thrilling little amuse-bouche, like so:
- Eggplant, particularly in pasta alla norma, but raw and fallen to the floor is also devoured. Weird kid.
- Apples. He likes to scrape his teeth on a raw one, but mostly he eats ones I’ve cooked in water on the stove (or sometimes the oven). Lately I’ve served them with ricotta cheese in an attempt to get more protein in him.
- Bolognese sauce. Big pieces of pasta are fun to pick up and try to eat; the fancy organic pastina with the baby farm laborers on the box is, like all grainy foods, abhorrent.
- New Orleans-style red beans and rice (only not the rice so much, see above). This fills my heart with gladness. Also, anything else with beans.
- Sardine pasta. Yeah, I don’t know.
- Pumpkin muffins.
Which brings us to:
Item: I have no problem giving him sugar. None. This could be a secret confession except that I really have no problem with it, so it doesn’t feel confess-y. In lieu of a real post, some sub-items on the topic:
- He loves to drink water with and after food, so I’m not so worried about his teeth. Neither Sugar nor I have problems with caries (one risk factor for his potentially having problems with cavities), and Sugar, who works on a pediatric dentistry project some of the time, is constantly looking at his teeth. She brushes them, too.
- I reject the societal freaking out about the “obesity epidemic.” I just do. Obesity exists, yes, but — and I could write a whole, whole lot about this — I don’t think being hyper-controlling is any help. So help me God, if the Bean ever comes home with a report card that includes BMI, THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
- I am vehemently, even rabidly, opposed to rules about food. Habits, okay, but not rules. In my world, rules about food have been tools for learning to stop listening to my body, which has been the path to lots of sadness and terribly unhealthy behavior.
- I don’t really hold with the idea that exposure to sugar means you’ll helplessly crave it forever and eat nothing but bon-bons until you expand to fill all available space. I’m hopelessly grounded in my own experience (as usual), but I grew up in a house with easy access to lots of sugar and yet I have less of a sweet tooth than most people I know.
- I don’t think lack of exposure means you won’t crave sugar. Human beings like sweet things. That’s in our nature, and I don’t think exposure changes that much. It’s kind of like original sin that way.
Whew! For a really good time, ask me what I think of reduced fat products.
Item: Turia asked about adding water or breastmilk/formula to food. Early on, we did that. We would mill whatever we’d been eating and add enough water that it was easier for the Bean to swallow. He’d let us know if there wasn’t enough. These days, we don’t, nor have I used the mill in a few weeks. We either break foods up a little with the spoon, as with red beans, or cut them up small, as with yesterday’s shrimp curry or this weekend’s pasta norma.
Not the world’s greatest picture, but you get the idea.
Item: I’m not sure what I think of vitamins. His doctor — whom we really do love — told us at four months to start giving him trivisol, so we duly brought some and let it sit on his shelf for months. (THIS I do feel a little confess-y about.) More recently (read: MUCH more recently), Sugar has been giving him some at bedtime. I hate that, because he smells like blood when I nurse him and…gross. Then I did a bunch of research into the history of vitamins, which left me feeling pretty cynical about the whole business of supplements for people who aren’t at real risk of beriberi or pellagra. On the other hand, I also just read quite a bit of history about lead poisoning, and NO, THANK YOU. (This matters because low iron can make it easier for your body to absorb lead. Also because it scuttles my plans to make the Bean earn his keep in a paint factory.) I think the Bean will get his lead levels checked soon-ish, and I’m glad that’s standard around here. So expect either smugness or panic on the vitamin front some time after that, I guess.
Item: I just asked Sugar what else I should tell you, and besides reminding me about the Bean’s love/hate relationship with seltzer (drinking it = love; listening to the angry farting of the soda stream machine = hate) and how he has been eating the lemon wedges out of my water glass, she said, “I don’t know. I don’t feel like we’re really DOING anything.” And that’s just it: we aren’t. Three times a day, we put the Bean in his chair and offer him three or four different foods, some of which he eats. If he finishes them, we offer him more. Between those meals, he nurses, eats cheerios, and scavenges among whatever waffles and sweet potato fries he’s dropped on the floor. If I’m eating something and he’s interested, I share it; if I’m trying to put away groceries, I offer him bits of whatever leftovers are in the way. It’s all pretty low-key.
Early on, I had a brief panic that we are now responsible for offering him a balanced diet, whatever that is. Ack! I’m going to break the baby, I just know it! I’ll forget about taurine* or something and he will WITHER AND DIE. …but then Sugar pointed out that in fact, we do eat a balanced diet. Right. So maybe, just maybe, he will survive. Humans have been surviving, even without food pyramids and RDA percentages, for quite some time now. Yes, I know none of that matters because foods are all frankenfoods now and we can’t eat well like our ancestors and all that, but frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine that any of my ancestors who lived prior to the 20th century ate as well as we do, in terms of sufficient calories, variety of fresh food, and access to nutrients. They didn’t leave the old country because things were perfect over there, you know? Nor were things so great over here, most of the time. I keep thinking of this old cajun man in a Calvin Trillin piece about a crawfish-eating contest in Breaux Bridge. I’m too lazy to find it, but the gist of the story is that this man, who had been the reigning champion for years, had been forced to retire because he’d been put on a limited diet by his doctor. Trillin asks him if he is sad to sit out the contest, and he says no, that he’s had many years of eating well and that, “there been kings who didn’t eat as well as me.”
Sugar and I do a couple of basic things to ensure that we eat well: we cook almost all of our own food, we mostly buy organic or minimally processed ingredients (when available at a reasonable price, which is where the hippie coop comes in), and we vary what we eat. It’s taken both of us many years to become confident in our bodies’ ability to balance themselves, but in general, I think we do pretty well. I’m sure we’ll have periods of panic about what the future Bean is or isn’t eating at a particular moment**, but right up there on my list of top parenting wishes is that we can save him the years of struggle it took us to get here.
*That’s a little cat-lady joke, for the lesbians in the house. Where my cat ladies at? Starhillgirl?
**Really, I’m just terrified that his teenage rebellion will take the form of tedious veganism. (I did a (very) little of that in my day, but only to support an eating disorder, so it wasn’t the evangelical strain.)