We moved to Italy just before my son turned six months old. Since we planned to follow Baby Led Weaning we didn’t start until we’d arrived in Italy. So his first experiences of solid food were while we lived in the hotel that was our home for the first two months. Green beans were an early favourite. As were broccoli until they went out of season.
As we started exploring Italy and going out to restaurants, Alex naturally came along, too. So we’d order him half portions of something finger friendly – filled pasta, mozzarella, grilled vegetables. Generally restaurants were more than happy to adapt something from the main menu so he could eat it with his fingers. He’d be eating good, wholesome, nutritious, Italian food along with us, everywhere we went. He absolutely loves it – he’ll wolf down tortelloni like they’re going out of fashion!
We recently went back to the UK to visit family. Along the way we passed through France and Switzerland, so have had a random sampling of European food. Suddenly we found ourselves in restaurants with children’s menus; this was something of a novelty, so we ordered him some kiddy fodder. At a hotel in Calais we ordered chicken nuggets and green beans (again). He absolutely loved it. Win.
On the way back, we stopped in Laon and ordered him a burger patty and a few chips from the kiddy menu. The burger mostly ended up on the floor. The chips all ended up on the floor. That night, we stayed at a hotel near Nancy. The adult food was excellent. But once again, we ordered kiddy fodder for Alex. Chicken nuggets again, this time with what was described as buttered tagliatelle. He likes chicken nuggets, he likes pasta – what could be better? Well, proper food to start with. Frozen chicken nuggets and dry, undressed pasta – well, I wouldn’t eat that shit? Why would he want to? So, predictably, he threw a fit and most of the food on the floor. Talk about a difficult dinner in a nice restaurant when you’re fighting your one year old.
The following day, we stopped at a service station in Switzerland and got him some of what we were having – grilled pork, saute potatoes and grilled vegetables. He absolutely lapped it up. And who can blame him? Proper adult food again.
And then we realised – the trouble with kiddy fodder, is it’s actually crap. We’ve never come into contact with it in Italy – kids menus don’t even seem to be a thing in the restaurants we go to. So Alex gets small portions (or increasingly not-so-small-portions!) of whatever we’re having; or something else suitable from the adult menu. No chicken nuggets. No chips. No bland, brown food.
How on earth do kids tolerate this crap? We’re shoveling bland, uniformly brown food into our children, no wonder they grow up with eating disorders and food issues. You’d have issues if all you saw was brown food that tastes of cardboard. No wonder kids don’t eat vegetables – they’re not brown!
While back in the UK, my Mum prepared some beetroot. Now, I hate beetroot. Call it a childhood with a glut of beetroots. There’s only so many beetroot curries and beetroot pies and beetroot gratins and sliced beetroot with pickled beetroot in beetroot sauce with beetroot juice and beetroot crumble before, frankly, I’d rather shove the beetroot up my arse.
Anyway, beetroot. My Mum had a recipe for beetroot that apparently was rather nice (it was lovely). We weren’t planning to give Alex any - ever tried eating a bowl of beetroots with your hands, while wiping your hands in your hair, eyes, clothes, parents? Precisely. But without thinking we put the big bowl of beetroot right in front of him. His eyes lit up! It quickly became clear he was getting some, he was desperate to try it: OMG red food OMG OMG its so red!! Gimme gimme gimme!
I couldn’t spoon it on fast enough! As fast as I spooned it on he crammed it in his pie hole. He absolutely loved it. I’ve never known him eat food so fast! And now he absolutely loves colourful food. In a pub not long after he didn’t really want to eat his own rather brown food, he wanted my brightly coloured food (plus of course, food off Daddy’s plate always tastes better!)
Will Alex grow out of this love for proper, wholesome, non-processed food? I bloody well hope not. Baby led weaning is giving him a great start with food, letting him try food he wants and he’s trying so much different food – even things we’d think he wouldn’t like (chorizo, really? Really?) I genuinely pity the poor kids that have issues with food. The kids that turn their noses up at everything that’s not familiar and brown. The kids that refuse any vegetable. Instead, Alex turns his nose up at the kiddy fodder. Good on you, son!