My son turns one year old this week and it hit me that it’s more than a nominal event. This emotion crept in while I was chopping finger foods for his lunch. As I tediously minced a baked sweet potato, sautéed baby broccoli and scooped applesauce into his miniature bento box, it dawned on me that I’d spent about 40 minutes in the kitchen getting food ready for his lunch — and I’d enjoyed it.
In fact, for the past six months, preparing his tiny wellness menu has taken up most of my time in the kitchen. I have to disclose that since having him, we signed up for one of those meal delivery services. And while it’s organic and delicious, it requires no creativity, renders lots of plastic guilt and still requires extensive cutting and stirring. I wouldn’t call it cooking, because it’s mindless, but sometimes that’s what you need when you have a baby and a job and 14 other things going on.
At first, I made him lots of purees, and now he mostly eats some of what we do. There’s spaghetti, beans and couscous. Some nights there’s fish. There’s little that this gordito won’t eat. But putting it all together gives me such happiness even though it’s the simplest meal, and he truly doesn’t care what it is.
So much of babies’ first year is about food. Are they getting enough milk? Is the breast milk making them gassy because mom ate broccoli? Is he allergic to peanuts? Ok, he loves peanut butter. Can he eat too much peanut butter? Does that accidentally have honey in it?
It really is exhausting. So instead of focusing too much on what could go wrong, we just hope he has a good relationship with eating and a connection to how food is made. He has a seat that hooks to our counter so he can sit there while we cook and he can babble. He loves to yip when the coffee grinder goes off every morning. When he’s at my parents, my dad hooks the seat to the pull-out cutting board so the baby can “help him make homemade pasta.” I remember doing the same (though not that young) and catching the scraps of dough as they fell on the floor. To this day, I love them.
He’s had a taste of legal crack as well: Grandparents have slipped him tastes of doughnuts and ice cream. He is a fan of French fries, and oddly likes feta. Seeing food through his eyes has been a wonderful journey.
I’d heard that packing lunches was a chore, another item on the to-do list. It definitely can be. And look, I’m only a year into it so talk to me when he’s in middle school. But it’s also an exercise of love. It’s fun to send him off to daycare with his little pack and picture his octet of one-year-olds politely sitting around a miniature table, eating together, talking politics. Every day I open the pail to see if he ate everything and am delighted when he usually does.
Next year will bring its own set of challenges, menial tasks and lots of joy. But it too will fly by. I’ll try to continue enjoying the chopping and food prep —before he’s old enough to tell me he wants to make his own lunch.
Christine Benedetti writes about food here every other week. Mostly the plant kind. She’s editor-in-chief of Aspen magazine, but you can reach her @cabenedetti.