Thursday, May 26, 2011

Truffle aioli

   I'm a foodie, and have the waistline to prove it. Highbrow, lowbrow, it doesn't matter--I have an adventurous palate and like to try new things. But Little Bug makes me look boring by comparison. The happiest time in my life as a cook and fan of good food has been the last three months, as Bug has discovered food. Watching him try something new for the first time is virtually cinematic--he gets a surprised look as he realizes he hasn't tasted it before, and then a frown as he concentrates on the flavor. When he was a little guy (say, two months ago) his whole body would jerk as he used his entire nervous system to register all the new parts of a taste. Now he just screws up his face, looking like you've just fed him something really foul. Then he relaxes and makes a decision about it. Sometimes it takes two or three tries before he comes to a conclusion about what he thinks. A really fine food can win drumming on the table, clapping, and a smile that lights up the room. Bad is when he pouts out his lips and rubs his face. I can watch his pure sensuous joy about food for an entire meal, sometimes realizing that I've forgotten to eat myself. He shouts and claps and gets wildly excited while we laugh.
  Tonight we went out with his godparents, and you can see from the picture what he thought about chocolate cream pie. He's got some whipped cream on his nose, and he's clowning around and grabbing the fork. I can't remember that I've ever experienced such pure joy in chocolate as he did tonight, which was I think was his first. But while pie was definitely the favorite, it certainly wasn't the only new food he expressed real appreciation for. Carmelized onions got a table bang of approval, and sweet potato fries with yogurt sauce won applause. The most exotic flavor of the evening was truffle aioli, which got serious approval. The one that surprised me the most, from earlier this week, was arugula, which is a startlingly bitter green that made him clap with delight.
  He's definitely what my mother would call a good eater, and there's a lot of comfort that comes from knowing he's breast feeding and it doesn't really matter what he eats, or doesn't, for nutrition. But still, I'm puzzled  in retrospect about most of what I read in the baby books about introducing your baby to solid foods. Brazelton tells you that they have total control of whether they will eat or not, and warns you not to get into power struggles with your baby. Really? People get into power struggles with babies? My mother's generation's Dr. Spock talks a lot about table manners. Say what? I read books about making your own that were full of carefully calibrated information about nutrition that made me anxious, and cookbooks that were very specific about when you could move from single food "meals" to mixed flavors. For the first couple of months we carefully followed the pediatrician's advice about introducing only one new food every three days so we could watch him for signs of allergies, but now he's got so many foods and no sign of allergies that we've stopped being vigilant about it. Besides, when we read Jerome Groopman's article in the New Yorker  about how allergists were no longer sure that delaying introducing certain foods to babies to prevent them from developing allergies wasn't causing the skyrocketing allergy rate, we decided we didn't know enough and stopped worrying. I'm sure there are babies that are picky about consistency, but when I read in What to Expect that you can start them on finger foods at 8 or 9 months, I was totally perplexed about the point of the baby food industry, if it's really just a matter of weeks that they need pureed foods. I ate ground food for longer when I had braces.
  I'm not sure where the sheer amount of anxiety we are being schooled to bring to feeding babies is coming from. But certain things Bug has taught me. Like that babies are astonishingly sensuous little beings, and food is fun. Especially when it's new, and you can put it in your hair.


  1. Yep, I'm living proof that parents *definitely* get into power struggles with their babies over food. Yesterday Benjamin ate one egg, one piece of bread with peanut butter, and one serving of applesauce. That's it (plus lots of milk of course). He was offered potato soup, cheese, crackers, naan, paneer roll, chicken curry, cookies with whipped cream, etc. and he wanted none of it. I learned long ago you can't force a baby to eat if he doesn't want to eat. So, as the mother of a little boy who's on the opposite end of the eating spectrum, I say: 1) big hurray for Jackson (and does he want to offer some advice to his little cousin?), and 2) babies are so different (just like adults!), and isn't that wonderful?

  2. I never power struggled over food when they were babies, but apparently I'd been saving for power struggles now, for pre-teens and 2nd graders. Legendary fights over Nutella, for example! But you read about that one on my blog, so I won't get into it here. Fun reading, hooray!

  3. yeah, I've got nothing to say about toddlers and older kids, who I know well can have a lot to say about food. And I did once know an anorexic baby, when I was teaching daycare--she was about 9 months old I think when I got to know her, maybe as young as six months--and she scared the hell out of me. Also I know parents who deal with scary allergies in their babies. I don't mean to minimize the ways feeding can be hard.
    But really, would it kill them to say in the baby books, feeding a baby can *also* be a ridiculous amount of fun, assume it will go well, and you won't believe how ridiculous a baby looks coated from head to toe in mashed strawberry? I felt like Bug had to teach me the joy of it.