Thanksgiving week was a week of milestones – besides the holiday, Sprout ate “real” food for the first time.
The pediatrician recommended that we start him on solid foods at the fifth month, beginning with rice cereal to get him used to eating from a spoon. We’d been doing that for the past week, but it was providing more entertainment value for us than nutrition for him.
But the day before Thanksgiving was Sprout’s introduction to the wide world of vegetables. While I was never super-keen on a wide array of veggies as a kid, I’ve grown to love them as an adult. I eat very little meat and am an avid gardener, with an almost exclusive focus on edible plants. So I was particularly excited that the first real food we fed him was one that we grew ourselves.
Of our crop of root vegetables, we chose sweet potatoes. They are sweet for veggies, so he would have a relatively pleasant experience. In addition, they’re packed full of nutrients, so even though he wouldn’t be getting many calories, they’d provide a lot more value than the rice cereal. The night before, Chris chopped them up, steamed them, and blended in ice cubes to create a puree. (In his “past life,” he was a professional cook, so his experience making purees for fine dining translated well to baby food – just leave out all of the ingredients like salt and oil that make it tasty for adults.)
The momentous time arrived – just as we were trying to get out the door to drive home for Thanksgiving. So much for taking time to savor the wonders of childhood. Nonetheless, we tried to make it meaningful, including the requisite videotaping.
Despite our enthusiasm, Sprout was more confused than anything else. He’d open his mouth, take the spoon in, close his lips, and then roll the food around until it either ended up on his face or down his throat. He was making a face like he wasn’t enjoying it, but kept opening his mouth back up. Chris thinks that every mouthful, he thought, “Maybe it’s milk this time?” and then, “Oh, I guess not. How disappointing.” Fortunately, babies don’t have strong deduction skills.
It’s probably the best reception we could expect. While the rice cereal was half-milk, the sweet potatoes were far different from anything Sprout had ever eaten. While I know there are zero guarantees, I’m hoping that by starting him on fresh vegetables from the beginning and progressing to tastier ways of cooking them that he’ll grow to love them. I’m a big believer in having kids trying foods multiple times, especially when combined with a “no thank you” taste policy. My mom always had me take at least one taste and I’m a pretty adventurous eater now.
The best part of introducing Sprout to sweet potatoes was that he could actually eat with us at Thanksgiving dinner. Before he was able to sit with minimal support, we either had to put him in his pack-and-play or trade him off between us as the other person ate. Meals were inevitably rushed. Now that he’s able to sit in his high chair at dinner, he feels much more like a member of the family. The fact that he was actually eating something similar to what we were – albeit without seasoning – just reinforced that feeling.
Having Sprout with us was even more significant because it was the first time that Chris and I were able to make it home for Thanksgiving in years. Chris always had to work on Thanksgiving, so he couldn’t even have a “real” Thanksgiving dinner, much less be able to go home. Being able to all eat together – my parents, his parents, and us with Sprout – filled me with so much thankfulness for our family. Sprout’s constant smile and joy at being with his grandparents was just the whipped cream on the Thanksgiving pie.