JOPLIN, Mo. —
There’s something irresistibly sweet about chubby cheeks being stained orange from pureed carrots.
It signals a passage of sorts. An achievement. A messy, glorious milestone. And in our house, we’ve recently crossed that threshold with our baby boy.
While it’s been heavily lobbied for by his big sisters for months now, we refrained from beginning solid foods until after his six-month birthday. Partly because that’s the recommended age (it’s the age at which an infant’s stomach can tolerate and easily process anything other than breast milk or formula) and partly because I like to push extra work as far into the future as possible.
I realize that the baby food stage of childhood is supposed to be relatively simple, but for me, it’s always been a little tense.
Years ago, I knew I was in trouble with baby food when I couldn’t bring myself to even taste the store-bought varieties. It too closely resembled either decomposed sludge or canned cat food, neither of which seemed especially enticing.
They were smooth and slurpy, which was all I expected of baby food; the less textured, the easier it must be for a baby to swallow. But still, it unnerved me that I was feeding something to my baby that I refused to try myself.
As she grew older, out of the first phase of thin purees and into the more chunky options, I found the simplicity of mashing up our own fruits and veggies to be both quick and appetizing. It occurred to me that I could have been doing this all along: using home-cooked vegetables instead of grimacing through countless store-bought jars.
By the time our second daughter was born, I’d decided to distance myself from the unsavory baby food aisle when the time came, and stick to fresh, home-cooked purees instead.
I had marvelous intentions and was armed with delicious recipes, but I also had a stifling inability to get started. The idea of spending a day making and freezing my own baby food, while easy enough in theory, weighed me down so that I became overwhelmed before I even began. Every once in a while, I would manage to puree an entire batch of sweet potatoes or green beans, but more often than not, I turned to the convenience of jarred baby food.
Finally, on this third attempt, I think I’ve landed on a sustainable solution; one that won’t exhaust me with its complexity. Instead of overwhelming my skittish work ethic with large plans, I’m narrowing my scope.
I simply steal a few servings of steamed vegetables from whatever our family is having for dinner, and throw it into my food processor, adding a splash of hot water to achieve the right consistency.
There is no real planning ahead here Ñ the baby eats the vegetables we eat, minus butter or salt Ñ so I’m not making any extra work. And it helps him become used to our family meals, being introduced to our food groups as he grows.
There will be days that see me baking fruit just for his purees, and there will be days that see me falling back on a jar from the pantry. But I feel better about feeding him food that is as bright and fresh and varied as my own.
And this way, when a drop of pureed carrots falls on my hand, I won’t be tempted to frown with revulsion. That’s no way to encourage a new eater to try his vegetables, after all.
Sarah Coyne lives in Joplin. She writes about life and motherhood at her personal blog, http://thisheavenlylife. blogspot.com.