A Gastrodad Guest Post: Tabula Rasa

Now that our kids have moved on to the pleasures of (and rejection of) solid foods (organic strawberries, grass-fed beef, octopus, stilton, and marcona almonds and the like… to varying degrees), we thought it appropriate to let another gastrodad report from the front lines of early gastrokiddom. The first half year or so is a developmental stage we’ve nearly blocked out in some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder haze; there are vague memories of rubber coated spoons, bibs encrusted with unidentifiable orange matter (is it carrot? is it squash? is a bacterial colony with a savage tan?) and intricate high chair cleanings involving detergents, hardware dissassembly, and q-tips. And so, the first in an ongoing series of gastroguestposts…

It is a rare privilege to be given the role/responsibility of building an individual’s palate and gustatory partiality from the ground up. This is my designated job, as steward of my 6-month-old son’s taste buds; an untouched field of receptivity and relative ignorance of what lies ahead. Every thing (edible) that enters his mouth will be the product of my labor and intention to not just nourish him, but also broaden his cultivation and sensory experience. He will know the gamey tang of fresh goat cheese, the caramelized sweetness of roasted parsnips, the pillowy goodness of warm focaccia, among other singular pleasures that only good food could offer. But for now, he must start with the basics: purees.

I combed the Internet, as well as the shelves of many downtown bookstores, for the ideal baby food cookbook. Something that showed appreciation for whole organic foods but refrained from being dogmatic. It was by sheer luck that I happened upon Naturally Delicious Meals for Baby: Over 150 Fun, Fresh, and Easy Recipes to Nourish Your Baby and Toddler by Gerrie Hawes from the UK, the woman behind the UK company Fresh Daisy which sells baby food purees sold at numerous British markets (sadly not in the US). So far, this book has been a great primer in approach, instruction, and general mush preparation. Divided up into four main sections, starting with simple purees and, at last chapter, moving towards more involved items like tempura.

So, I began my son’s journey with one of my all time favorite fruits, the avocado. I let him swat at the dark green pebbly skin of the avocado before I halved it, scooped it out into a mixing cup, and began to work it with my new handheld immersion blender. This being the first time I had actually used the blender, I was excited and somewhat rushing to get my son his first meal, while I began to prep for our grown up dinner of paella later that evening. In retrospect, I should have slowed down and maybe reconsidered my extreme multitasking routine.

Once thoroughly blended into a puree the consistency of light cream, I unplugged the handheld blender and began to transfer the avocado into a serving bowl. I noticed a repository of avocado chunks that had been wedged between the blade and the domed guard of the blender, and I hooked my index finger in to gather the remainder of the avocado. Funny, the blender turned out not to be unplugged. In my haste, I had turned the mere intention of unplugging this whirling digit extractor into something I had thought was safely accomplished. What happened next could only tastefully be described as a mess of avocado and blood that looked like Jackson Pollack does Christmas. Soon there was shock and awe, and then came dinner (after multiple attempts at dishcloth tourniquets). I was not about to let 6 or 7 lacerations ruin my son’s first meal. The happy ending in all of this, is that avocado turns out to be one of his favorite foods, thus far, and if he ever chooses to make a fuss about eating my cooking, all I need to do is wag my badly scarred finger at him.
—Eric Steinman

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