I don't know if anyone else ever feels this way, but some days, it seems like the whole day is focused on getting dinner on the table. I do the dishes, plan a meal, go grocery shopping, make the dinner, maybe do even more dishes. And then dinnertime comes...and we finish eating in ten minutes. Ugh! All that work, and for what?!
So today, I felt well rewarded for the seemingly interminable task of providing food for my family: Gus took an hour to eat his supper! We sat down to dinner (samosas and dhal), and he just looked at the food and started fussing. He had hardly wanted to eat all day; he only ate the fruit from his breakfast and lunch, plus a snack of green olives--you know, every baby's favourite food! But I just wanted those precious 10 minutes to eat my dinner and talk to Jon. So I went to get him a plum, thinking that it might occupy him long enough for me to eat. He pounced on it and chowed it down in no time. So I got him a second one. And a third. And he ate them with vigour! (They were just little English plums, so it really wasn't that much food). By the time he finished the third plum, I was done eating, and I didn't want him to eat the whole punnet in one go, so I went to get a cloth to clean him up. When I got back to the table, he was actually eating some of the other food on his tray! I couldn't believe it--I thought he was completely uninterested in the food I had cooked. But apparently, he just needed a bit of an appetizer of plums before he was ready to tuck in to the main course. So for the next 45 minutes, he ate several helpings of dhal, made a good dent in his samosa (made with filo dough instead of deep fried!), and gnawed away on some naan bread. And I had a cup of tea and some lovely dark chocolate--and plenty of time for conversation with my hubby :)
It does make me think about what and how babies eat. I think it must be really frustrating to have food that you didn't choose shoved in your face every day and be expected to "clear your plate". We only do this to children, really, but even the youngest babies must have a hankering for certain foods some days and no appetite for it on other days. Obviously Gus can't tell me what he wants, and you can only go so far to fulfill a child's wishlist anyway (based on what food is in the house, how much time you have to make the meal, etc). But I do think it is important to respect a child's preferences as much as is practicable, both to help them to have a sense of control over their own lives and to help foster a healthy relationship with food. And who knows--he might just end up devouring the food you had originally prepared anyway!
Gussy's Favourite Dhal
adapted from Vegetarian, ed Nicola Graimes
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mild chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 cup red lentils
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes
extra water, as needed
juice of 1 to 2 limes
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup slivered almonds (toasted if you are feeling fancy; leave out of baby's portion until they can chew nuts!)
freshly chopped coriander/cilantro (optional)
In a saucepan, heat a tablespoon of your favourite cooking oil. Add onion; cook 5 minutes until softened. Add carrots, ginger and garlic. Cook 5 minutes more. Add spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add lentils, coconut milk, and tomatoes. Simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring regularly, because the lentil will stick to the bottom. Add a bit of water if needed (I added about 1/4 cup). When lentils are soft, remove from heat and stir in lime juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle almonds and coriander/cilantro on top. Serve with rice or naan.