The contents of our freezer once were monochrome. It housed sticks of butter for baking, packages of nitrate-free lunchmeat leftovers from a Montrose shopping spree, maybe a three-pound farmer’s market fryer still waiting for its Crock Pot debut. Peek inside, and it was all frosted-over metal and meat collecting freezer burn. That was before I started making baby food.
Now, thanks to the addition of summer’s fresh bounty – pureed and then frozen in ice cube trays to form perfect little blocks in all the rainbow’s colors – my freezer has gone from dreary to inspiring. This week I added New Mexico Sunset Orange (aka carrots) to the steadily blossoming color palette within the deep freeze. It already boasts the colors of Rich Roasted Apricot, Perfectly Purple Plum, Crimson Kiss Cherry, Light Honey Peach, and Grassy Pea Green. It’s as if all the vibrant hues of a farmer’s market stall were transposed by kaleidoscope onto the inside of my icebox. It’s beautiful.
My Cuisinart and I have formed an intimate relationship this summer, bonding over the creation of food in vivid colors. I admit, I’ve become a little obsessed with the project, which started innocently enough as a means to expend a surplus of apricots purchased during an early summer fruit craze at the farmer’s market. I found homemade baby food recipes online at HYPERLINK "http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com" www.wholesomebabyfood.com, and the food processor has barely stopped pulverizing since.
I now get a little thrill every time I open the freezer door and see all the Ziploc bags lined up neatly on the shelves, their labels (Apricots 7/15, Cherries 7/22, Plums 7/29, Peaches 8/14) serving as a testament my summer’s inspiration I have found this summer, my finger hovering above the Cuisinart’s ON button.
Is it odd to feel ecstatic over frozen fruit pulp? Perhaps. Is it weird to get excited while manipulating a fruit-macerating blade? Probably. But it’s all in the name of feeding my baby, so I’m going with the excuse that my recent spells of baby food-making madness are simply an effect of strong motherly instincts. And not a bizarre penchant for obliterating fruit into mush.
I should interject here that all this frenzied putting away of fruits and veggies for Elodie occurred before the munchkin had actually taken her first bite of solid food. I was banking on the assumption that she would love the summer garden’s crops as much as I do. When my mom was feeding me my first foods, there was no such thing as “organic” baby food, of the jarred variety at least. So she painstakingly popped peas out of their skins for me, mashed sweet potatoes onto my plate, and blended apples into perfect consistency for snack time. By making it herself, my mom knew exactly what went into what I was learning to eat. I credit her for kindling in my young palate a fondness for fresh, simple, and colorful foods prepared in a home kitchen.
We are lucky these days that the pendulum of food culture is swinging back closer to nature, especially when it comes to feeding our littlest eaters. By now, who hasn’t been frightened by “The Dirty Dozen” – those fruits and vegetables (peaches, potatoes, and strawberries among them) that supposedly harbor on their flesh a Petri dish of pesticides, fertilizers, and other not-good-to-ingest chemicals. It’s as if handing your child a conventionally grown apple is akin to giving them a teaspoon of toxins. So my generation of mothers is fortunate to have the option of buying organic baby food in a jar. And it’s probably not bad tasting, and definitely a lot easier than hauling the Cuisinart down from the kitchen’s highest untouched shelf, pitting a hundred or more cherries, and splattering their juices all over the ceiling. But, I must admit, there is something inherently wholesome and fulfilling about making your baby her own food, in your own kitchen, using fruits and vegetables that were grown not far from where you live.
Needless to say, I was eager to introduce Elle to the colorful, flavorful world of solid foods. And this week, our stock of rubber-tipped spoons finally got their big debut. We sat Elle in her high chair, strapped a bib ‘round her neck, and for her first-ever meal fed her… putty colored rice cereal, out of a box.
I had, of course, harbored visions of my rich-hued homemade baby food decorating her first meal. But, alas, everything I read about baby’s first feeding recommended starting with unexciting – but easy to digest and not apt to cause an allergic reaction – rice cereal. And yes, it was out of a box (but whole grain and organic, at least.) Despite the blaring lack of color on her plate, I acted enthusiastic, and Elodie took to eating solids in stride. I explained to her that this eating thing would get a lot more interesting, we just had to follow the three-day rule: Only one new food at a time, for three days straight, as recommended by, well, everyone. Which meant that on Tuesday she could have carrots! And Friday, peaches! Apricots on Monday! Hooray!
The bright orange carrots that arrived in last week’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box had been peeled, steamed and pureed, and were ready to make their move into Elodie’s tummy. I was eager to begin teaching her about eating local, seasonal, and organic, and not to mention healthy, starting with her first spoonful of homemade baby food. I proudly brought her a tiny bowlful of the homemade carroty goodness, dipped her spoon into the season’s fresh and organic bounty, and – Voila! Carrots!
She proceeded to spit them out. And the next bite. And after that, refused to open her mouth.
What? How could my daughter not like carrots! I was crushed, but, for the sake of instilling good eating habits nevertheless, tried not to act too disappointed. “Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow,” I said cheerfully, cringing as I washed the ginger-tinted carrots down the drain. Maybe she was tired, or not very hungry.
I called my mom. “She didn’t like my homemade, organic, locally grown carrots!” I lamented, “But loved rice cereal out of a box!”
“Well, how long did you feed her the rice cereal?” she asked.
“Three whole days! Just like they said to do.”
“Give it a week,” she counseled. “It takes them a while to figure it out. Don’t worry, she’ll like carrots.”
So, following grandma’s advice, we went back to rice cereal. And Elodie has been eating it up like a champ. The rainbow’s array of summer fruits and vegetables remain in the deep freeze, waiting for Baby Elle’s palate to mature. In the meantime, I’m taking on the task of making homemade rice cereal… not as colorful, but gratifying nonetheless.