Monthly Archives: March 2010

Baby food. Easy, nutritous and super cheap.

I am an unrepentant foodie. Most of the television shows I watch are programs about food. I watch programs about how to cook the food, the people who cook the food, where they buy the food, how the food is different in other cities and countries, and the science that makes food do what it does. I buy cook books with compulsiveness of an addict, even going so far as to purchase instructive text books for culinary students. When we went to Europe, we visited the local food markets at every opportunity. I cook nearly all the meals in our house.

I like food.

If I like food so much, why should my son eat processed food pastes?

Logan started eating solid food recently, and while he seems more confused and curious about the experience than anything else, he dutifully eats his servings. I want my son to be healthy. I want him to have a fair chance of beating the odds against the diabetes epidemic that is sweeping our country. I want him to LIKE food.

So I make his baby food.

This is so much easier than it seems on the surface. About an hour of my time and $3 worth of produce can yield nearly 40 servings for the little fella. When I’ve completed the task, not only am I filled with the sense that I am having a positive impact on my son’s life during his most formative years, but I’m left wondering why anyone buys baby food.

First of all, it’s expensive. Even in bulk it can cost more than a dollar a jar for baby food, leaving me to believe that most of the purchase cost is subsidizing the miniature glass jar industry. The food in those jars has typically been processed to a high degree, and while it increasingly includes organic ingredients, the provenience of these fruits and vegetables is unclear. Where did that food come from? What shape was it in before being sent through a mass production process watched over by robots more interested in preserving profit than the health of the customers? And what of those preservatives? What is the long term impact of ingesting calcium benzoate or sodium metabisulphite?

So, I make my own baby food. Following is the recipe I used for sweet potatoes. You can use the same recipe and preparation method for virtually any vegetable, the only difference being the amount of time needed to steam the product. Some vegetables, like the delicious and nutritious avocado, don’t need to be steamed at all. If you don’t have a steam basket, buy one, they’re super cheap and it will last you decades.

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup of water

Peel the sweet potatoes and then cut into  3/4″ to 1″ cubes.

Peel the sweet potatoes
Place in a steam basket, making sure the water doesn’t rise into the basket. Steam for 20 minutes.
Cube and steam
Add the water and steamed sweet potatoes to a blender, and blend until smooth. It won’t take long. I’m using a Blendtec blender, because I have one, and they are awesome. Realistically, once steamed the sweet potatoes are tender enough you could probably blend them with a fork.
Pop in the blender and puree
While you’re waiting for the mixture to cool a bit, scoop some out and make yourself a snack. Here I’ve added a little butter, some cinnamon and maple syrup. It’s delicious and the perfect reward for doing the right thing for your child.
Treat yourself!
Once you’ve had your snack, the mixture is probably cool enough to prep. Line a baking tray with waxed paper and scoop out little portions in neat rows. I’m aiming for 2 teaspoons, and so I’m using a #60 scoop because it’s easy to use. You could use teaspoons, serving spoons or a garden spade, it really depends on how big your baby is.

Measure out

I’m also using quarter sheet pans because they fit in my freezer just right. You can get either of these two important cookery tools at any commercial cooking supply store. Most sell to the public.

Bag and tag
Pop the trays in the freezer and in about 20-30 minutes, you’ll have frozen little pucks of nutritious baby food. Peel them off the wax paper and pop them into a freezer bag for cold storage. They’ll last in the freezer for months. Probably longer. The three sweet potatoes I used yielded 36 baby servings and 2 adult servings and it cost me about $2.60.

Reflections in a photograph

This is a picture of a man I’ve never met. His name is Rodney Stuart Scott. This is the shore of the Lake of the Ozarks, and the date was April 1971.

Rodney Scott
This is a picture of me taken from a cheap webcam while sitting at my cheap desk in a cheap cubicle, and it was taken sometime around 2000. It was during my “chubby” period.

Office head shot

The resemblance is not coincidental.

I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person. I believe that I display an attention to detail that is above average. Despite that, I was probably thirteen years old before I recognized an odd discrepancy in the photos of my parents wedding.

My parents had a very romantic, albeit as related to me very cold, wedding on the sandy shores of the Atlantic in or Virginia Beach. I believe it was at or near the First Landing cross at Fort Story. Regardless, a cross on the beach featured prominently in photos of the event.

Also featured prominently in the photos was an infant of perhaps six to eighteen months old.

I knew that the child was me. I had been told this several times. I was somehow cognizant of this fact, and that I was present at the wedding, but for whatever reason it never occurred to me to ask how, or why, I was present at the wedding.

The answer, of course, is obvious. I was born prior to the wedding. What I didn’t find out until that day, or did not process fully, is that my mother had been married before, and the man who is my father adopted me. This is something of a delicate subject in my family. My mother doesn’t speak of it often, and my father becomes visibly distressed when it’s brought up, despite the years that have passed.

I understand that many people who learn they are adopted, or discover unknown family members, feel compelled to search them out. I don’t really share that compulsion. I have a mild amount of curiosity, but beyond some rare internet searches I’ve never attempted to find Rodney. Last year when I uncovered a pretty reliable lead to his whereabouts, I didn’t pursue contacting him.

What do you say to a progenitor you’ve never met, know little about, and rarely thought of? I have a father, a man who chose to raise me and faced the numerous challenges of bringing me to adult hood, notwithstanding my many immature attempts to sabotage that process. I’m satisfied with the father I know. I don’t think I wouldn’t refuse to contact Rodney if the situation arose, but I have little inclination to pursue said contact.

This is not a photo of my son Logan. This is a photo of me at thirteen months old.

Escape Artist

I really shouldn’t be surprised at the resemblance between me and my son, but I find myself experiencing a certain among of dissonance when looking at the picture. A wave or a pulse of unreality. Like looking into the mirror and seeing someone else, I look at the photos of someone else and see my own reflection.

A proper hat makes a man smile

I see it in Logan, and I see it in Rodney.

How not to babysit for me.

As a new parent, I have found that I am flush with new perspectives and emotional responses. I find that I am far more likely to be infatuated with miniature clothing prominently featuring cartoon animals. I am more tolerant of being liberally coated in drool. I engage in singing more often, which is to say “at all,” to a visibly pleased audience of one.

It’s not all so positive though. I’ve also noticed some increased tendencies to be overly and aggressively protective, a response I probably don’t need much encouragement with. When the pediatrician’s office notified me that Logan’s insurance was being denied prior to his frenectomy, I did act very gentlemanly. Fortunately, I was able to channel my displeasure at the insurance company, an industry that I believe deserves all the abuse it gets.

Today I saw this video. I’ll warn you, that links to a surveillance video of a baby sitter abusing an 11 month old child in ways that are potentially fatal. A year ago I would have watched this video and had a negative response along the lines of “That’s terrible. This person should face a stiff penalty.”

I watch it now and I’m filled with a murderous rage. If that were my child in the video, I would have to be restrained. Just sitting here typing this, and remembering it, makes me angry. I think of my son being treated like that and I feel compelled to violence.

Here is a picture of a puppy to help you get over the angry thoughts.

The Still Face Experiment

I like to think that I’m a good person, and I continue to hope that despite my flaws (the number of which varies depending on whom you speak with) that I will continue to grow into a good and responsible father. I am though, by all accounts a stoic person. Again, depending on whom you discuss it with, but stoicism ranges from “laconic” to “cold and emotionless robot.”

I tend to project, I don’t know, austerity? I don’t always smile a lot.

So, when I see something like this, it concerns me. This is a demonstration of the Still Face Experiment. It’s a cognitive exercise that very clearly demonstrates the capacity of infants to understand and respond to emotional cues from their mothers. It’s easy to see, that from even a very early age, children are beginning to form the basis for how they will interact with people as they grow older. You can argue Nurture vs. Nature all day long, but here is empirical evidence that you can try at home.

I try to engage Logan as much as possible, which isn’t nearly as much as I probably should. My idea of engagement and interaction is likely… stunted, but own perceptions of what I desire in social interaction myself. When I do engage and interact, I wonder, “is it enough?” Perhaps I’m just a relatively featureless and static antecedent who performs certain tasks. Should I giggle more? Possibly I should spend more time ticking, or performing raspberries? Maybe he’s too young to be sending down to the corner store to pick up cigarettes and whiskey? Should they be walking on their own before you do that?

Parenting is hard, there really isn’t much of an instruction manual.

That was kinda depressing. Here’s a picture of my son to make up for it.

Logan

Man. Is he smiling? I can’t tell. I better tickle his feet tonight.

The problem with babies

One of the biggest problem with babies is that they frequently and repeatedly do things that are cuter than you may believe possible.
Babies move a lot, and make good photos blurry.
And nearly every time they do one of these things, they manage to get just out of focus. Clearly, I need a lense with a faster auto focus.

When avacado is the Rubicon

Last week Logan had a routine check up and got his latest vaccination. The little feller is up to 13 lbs now. He’s pretty squarely in the 10th percentile for weight, but he’s still growing and the doctor says he’s perfectly healthy, just on the small side.

Hanging out with poppa.
His five month birthday was on Tuesday and we celebrated by introducing him to solid foods. The doctor said we could start with things like pureed avocado, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. We elected to start with avocado because the only prep required was vigorously beating it with a fork. The others require steaming before vigorous beating with a fork. Since I seem to have trouble updating a blog more than once a week, foods requiring two prep steps are right out.

Five months old
At first Logan was pretty excited about it. He loves to grab things and cram them into his spit hole. Once the little spoon covered in green goo got in though, he quickly cycled through a series of emotions, starting with surprise and ending with confusion.

Avacado, first try, curious
That first time yielded some pretty poor results. He spent most of the time slowly pushing the avocado around with his tongue. His brow furrowed and leaped and if he had eyebrows, they would have danced like a silk worm choking on opium. If he managed to consume any of the avocado during that session it was in error.

Avacado, first try, displeased
The second session went better, and he even seemed to be pleased to participate. He still makes funny faces, but that’s because he’s a baby. He puts down about 2 teaspoons at every sitting and tries to grab at the spoon when he can.

Avacado isn't all bad
He’s even started to interact with cups and glasses. He’ll suck on the spout of a sippy cup without prompting, and gum at the edges of mugs and glasses. We’re not sure if he’s mimicking us, relieving some teething issues, or genuinely desires drinking from them.

Showing an interest in cups

I have a cup!

Grandpa Glenn and Lori visited, requiring a visit to a restaurant. A once regular occurrence that we only occasionally indulge in these days. Logan took this opportunity to try out his glass skills on something more challenging.

Logan and Grandpa Glenn

It's no margherita, but it's a start.
With only minor assistance Logan will stand now, and he can pull himself up to a standing position. His balance is still about equitable to mine after a liter of whiskey though.

Grandpa's hat is too large
More and more often he is sitting up under his own power, and he really seems to enjoy the bumpo seat for this.

Sitting up

Although these pictures seem to give the impression that he enjoys playing with things laid on the tray, these photos were stages. As far as Logan is concerned the tray serves two purposes. It is primarily a place from which to toss things onto the floor, failing that, it is a fine target for spirited beating and slapping.

Reviewing the day's news

Just hanging out, what's up with you baby?

Still no inclination to crawl. I suspect that this is a skill that will be learned during a flash of insight and mastered while our back is momentarily turned.

Why, howdy there pardner