Thursday, 6 January 2011

The wonderful world of food

If you know of me at all you will no doubt be aware that I like a good meal. I do not under any circumstances understand people for whom food is mere fuel. To me food is the world's greatest pleasure. I firmly believe that I was put on this earth to eat. So it was not without excitement that I approached the whole weaning thing.

There are two schools of thought these days when it comes to introducing your baby to food. The traditional way with all the purees, Annabel Karmel books and a bit of mess; and the new fangled. hippyish, baby led weaning way - which involves no pureeing, letting your baby feed itself from a very wide range of "normal" food and a whole lot of mess.

Now, keen as I was to start Rufus on his life long journey of eating and hopefully enjoying food, I decided that despite the fact I could have started it all off at 17 weeks, the whole puree thing really wasn't up my alley. Who wants to eat pureed swede for a week with only a bit of pureed apple to spice things up? Certainly not me. Nope it was going to be baby led weaning all the way for me. So we waited until he was six months old and then went for it. (I will add that after much pressure from members of the older generation we did try purees at about 22 weeks but luckily Master Jones, clearly a gourmand from birth, was having none of it).

Anyway I had visions of myself in a pinny (indulge me in a bit of 50s housewife imagery if you will - see the perfectly coiffed hair, the impossibly slim waist, the big old American style fridge and the shiny faced children sat around a formica kitchen table) whipping up culinary master pieces for my son to scoff down with gusto. I saw the satisfied smile on my face as he's lean back at the end of each meal, let out a small, but satisfied burp and smile adoringly up at me as if to thank me for the tasty feast I'd set out before him.

I read the book - it all sounded good to me. Rufus would be eating our leftovers, nibbling morsels from my plate and would gradually introduce himself to a wide variety of foods ensure that he will never become a picky eater. So far, so marvellous.

We began tentatively with toast. It seemed a natural progression since he'd been trying to eat my breakfast for weeks. He squished it a bit, and then a bit harder until it crumbled into bits and made for the floor. A few bits got as far as being sucked - which was an improvement on the previous week when we'd given him a bit of apple to play with. He understood that it needed to go into his mouth - but hadn't quite worked out how to get it there. Instead he took him mouth to the apple and ended up bent over double gumming the apple that he held firmly in his lap - bless.

Sticks of roasted veg went down well, as did bits of poached pear and the odd slice of mango. But I couldn't help thinking that the floor was getting a better diet than he was.

The Health Visitor, she who was not concerned about his weight in the slightest, told me to go for it. To get as many calories into him as possible. She recommended that the only thing I spoon feed him should be porridge made with full fat cows milk. She sent me out for normal porridge oats, warning me off all forms of "baby food". I served this up for breakfast - the first spoonful was met with a wince, the second with a full on gag and the third with a flat refusal. Hmmmm not so good.

After a few days I worked out that he could handle chunks and chewing if they didn't come on a spoon. But anything that came his way travelling on a piece of cutlery had to be super smooth and bordering on liquid. So I sieved a banana and made up some baby porridge and it went down. I could hear the cries of the baby led weaning purists growing louder with every mouthful.

These days I can hear them tutting at every meal - because while he is utterly marvellous at feeding himself and has come on in leaps and bounds, he does tend to get bored/lazy before he's filled up his tummy. He starts off ramming food into his mouth at a pace. He usually has something in each hand and often tries to cram everything in at once. Then he gets tired and sits with his arms out to the sides twisting his hands at the wrists and making a funny groaning noise. And because he has been a skinny bean for so long and because I want him to be heading the right way on the weight charts for once I tend to help. Which I'm sure is very naughty - but I just break up piece of food into bite sized chunks and hold them in front of his face, if he opens his mouth I pop them in, if he doesn't open I don't. What is not baby led about that.

SO we are cooking without salt (a revelation for me - Miss Sodium 2010), we have resigned ourselves to the fact that the kitchen rug will at some point in the not so distant future need replacing, we have informed everyone that houmous/gucamole/toast/stew/fruit puree is indeed the new black and is all anyone with a small child will be wearing this autumn/winter - and probably spring/summer too. And of course we are in constant search of new recipes to tempt him with.

While the book suggests that your baby can at six months eat whatever you're eating we're not quite sure that he could manage a fajita, or would particularly like a Mauritian prawn curry, or steak and cannelini beans. Nor do we want to live on stew, pasta bake or homemade fish goujons. Plus Mr Jones and I are back on a healthy eating mission - and Master Jones needs full fat, not low fat - so I've ended up doing a fair bit of extra cooking - but at least it's not purees.

I love cooking for him and it's fun coming up with new baby friendly recipes. He doesn't love them all - meat usually brings forth a rage and broccoli isn't a big hit unless it's carefully disguised. I do like to share a good recipe, so the ones that are a success I shall post here - along with step by step pics if I have time.

The best news is that it's working - the little man is putting on chunk sharpish and I love blowing raspberries on his little pot belly.

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