If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my first eight months of child-rearing, it’s this: as a new parent, it is nearly impossible to avoid receiving a lot more advice than you actually need or want on all topics related to the raising of children.
We’re nearly two months into feeding Clara solid food, and as we’ve talked to more and more people about what she’s eating (and how much, and how often), the list of Don’ts has ballooned to epic proportions: no eggs, no meat, no wheat, no tuna or swordfish or shellfish, nothing spicy, no nuts, no salt, no added sugar. Yikes.
It's hard not to listen to all of it, not to let yourself be buffeted by the winds of other people's personal biases and anxieties. When we find ourselves starting to panic about gluten allergies or mercury poisoning, we invariably return to the grounding advice of our beloved pediatrician, given to us when Clara was six months old. (By then, she had already sprouted two little Bugs Bunny teeth and was utterly transfixed by the sight of us eating, an elastic ribbon of drool slowly stretching from her mouth to her chest as she followed our every bite.)
Dr. Rivendren said It Was Time, and then she shared her simple rules: Wait three days before introducing the next new thing, and avoid honey and cow’s milk until at least a year. With a few exceptions (the most notable involving a bad reaction to pork and ending similarly to the pie-eating scene in Stand By Me), we've managed to chill out and let ourselves be guided by these rules.
When Clara was born, I felt like I had ages to plan her first meal, to come up with a long-term strategy. But then six months had passed, and I didn’t have a plan. What I did have was a bounty of late spring/early summer produce. So I went to the farmers market, chucked some great looking vegetables into my bag and headed home to cook. Aiming for softness without the blender (more on that in my next post), I cooked any and all resistance out of English peas, tender new carrots, and smooth, unblemished green beans, mushing them gently before feeding them to Clara. I baked sweet potatoes in foil and steamed young, unblemished summer squash not much bigger than my index finger. Clara loved it all.
A few weeks later, I noticed broccoli at the market for the first time. A pile of plump, white garlic hovered nearby. I remembered Roy Finamore's Broccoli Cooked Forever. I had drizzled olive oil over the sweet potatoes last week, so that didn't count as a new food, and I'd just leave out the anchovies and pepper flakes (for now). I could get away with two new foods at once, right? It was just broccoli and garlic, after all.
I'm happy to report that Broccoli Cooked Forever was a hit. What's more, Finamore's is a method -- lots of olive oil and garlic, paired with long, slow cooking -- that works magic on pretty much all vegetables. One of our collective favorites is carrots. The garlic and carrots melt sweetly together, slicked with olive oil, so that you get the sense you're eating candy. The best part? You can make a big batch, eat half with your dinner and then mash up the rest to feed the baby.
Photos by James Ransom (except for the photo of Clara)
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).