So guess what I’m doing today? I’m off having a baby! I’ve set the camera to auto, so hopefully I’ll be back soon with pictures, but in the meantime, I wanted to leave you with a guest post by my wise and wonderful friend from law school Cat. Cat has shiny hair to rival Kate Middleton’s (maybe it goes with the name) and is a fantastic writer. She still considers herself a novice cook, but wanted to tell you about her cooking inspiration, and I thought today of all days this would be appropriate!
Cooking for Baby
Catherine Cugell Rombeau
When Kate graciously invited me to guest-blog here on The Domestic Front, I pitched myself as an outside voice: someone who doesn’t cook, posting on a cooking blog! Oh, the anarchy of it all. But what else did I have? I am not a good cook. I salivate over the food porn on here as often as anyone, but at the end of the day, I end up setting the water to boil for Annie’s Organic. And I am a fearful cook, which may be the worst kind. I measure obsessively, am afraid to substitute, and have an unfortunate tendency to pull things out of the oven just a little too early. Once in a while I will venture into slow-cooker land, but I have to be feeling particularly girded.
When I got pregnant, I did consider that my current culinary acumen wouldn’t manage to keep our child alive once she joined us on the outside. But I figured I had plenty of time before she needed real food. And didn’t reading food blogs count as preparation? Turns out, though, that many folks feel very strongly that unless you scrub, peel, steam and puree every morsel that goes into your beloved babe’s mouth, you are one sorry excuse for a parent. I have a knee-jerk reaction to this sort of dogma; it makes me want to push Ellie’s stroller right up to the McDonald’s drive-through already. I was determined to dig in my heels: my daughter wasn’t going to miss out on any life-altering culinary experiences just because I didn’t mash up her yams myself.
And yet, somehow, I’ve ended up making all of Ellie’s baby food after all. I know it doesn’t actually count as real cooking, but I’m still sort of astounded by my enthusiasm for it. To the great skepticism of my husband, I went and bought one of those baby food processors to steam and puree all of Ellie’s fruits and vegetables in one easy little machine. And I actually use it! All the time! Unlike, say, the mixer taking up space on our kitchen counter, or the bread maker hiding in our basement (what can I say, my husband did our wedding registry). I’m not sure why–so I can claim the moral high ground? Save money on store-bought options? Conserve time by freezing trays worth of food at once? Use up leftovers? Maybe all of those hold some truth (bananas going bad? Smoosh them up for Ellie, she won’t know any better!). But I think in some small way, making Ellie’s food myself has allowed me to connect with her and with the safest edges of cooking, without feeling so afraid.
My parents didn’t cook much for us. Anyone remember Steak-Ums? Staple of my childhood diet. I often feel at sea in the kitchen, without instinct or experience telling me how long to bake or how much spice to use (note to self–do not double cayenne pepper just because you are doubling the rest of a jambalaya recipe). But it’s nearly impossible to screw up pureeing peas. And when I feed them to Ellie, and she smacks her lips in appreciation, I think: I did this! I made something that fills my daughter! I can take care of her! Somehow it gives me hope that I can come up with 18 years’ worth of meals for her that don’t necessarily consist of Velveeta Shells & Cheese (well, not every night anyway), and that Ellie will be more excited to try new and unconventional foods than I ever was. Perhaps she will not be 24 years old and have to move to Manhattan before she tries sushi, for instance. And maybe one day we will cook together. Today, steamed and blended broccoli, tomorrow, mother-daughter dinner parties for 12! Or maybe I’ll settle for baking her a first birthday cake that doesn’t collapse in the middle. Baby steps.