Feeding Junior: Adventures in Whining and Dining

We are proud to say that we've survived the first two years of parenthood. There have been triumphs and challenges but overall it's been a joyful experience that we wouldn't trade for all the truffles in the world. And of course our foodie lives have changed...we're not dining out as much, grocery choices have changed, our cooking repertoire is different, and our entertaining practices are revamped. It's a whole new culinary adventure.

People ask us what it's been like being foodies and raising a child. Is he a good eater? Is he a picky eater? Will he eat what you eat? Have you given in and resorted to fast food outlets?

I've viewed feeding Junior as a bit of a science experiment. With my dietetics background, I stuck to a lot of health based feeding choices: breastfeed as long as possible, hold off on solids until 6 months, delay the introduction of nuts to 2 years, etc. etc. But I also use a lot of foodie intuition in feeding him: not restricting my diet while breastfeeding (theory is that breastmilk flavoured with a variety of foods will make for a more receptive baby), talking about food, smelling ingredients around the house...

We've exposed Junior to our world of food from day 1. His first outing was to La Petite France. I'd carry him in the sling while I cooked. I'd put him in the bouncy seat while I'd make meals and I'd have him on my lap while we ate dinner. As an older baby we continued to take him to restaurants and we'd take him on weekly visits to the farmers market where he could see that food doesn't just come from a grocery store. And as Junior began to sit and stand, I'd give him kitchen utensils and equipment to play with. Eventually he started raiding kitchen drawers and cabinets for interesting things to cook with.

This led us to buying Junior one of those play kitchen sets. One with a sink, burners, oven, dishwasher, etc. and some play food that he can cut. Well, this has been the best toy anyone could wish for our child. Since getting this toy, Junior plays with it several times a day, imitates cooking and asks for real ingredients to cook like dried pasta, leafy veggies, dried beans.

Now that he's old enough, Junior 'helps' out in the kitchen. I give him tasks like stirring dry ingredients together for a batter, carrying jugs or containers from the cupboard to the counter and counting cups of flour. It gives him the opportunity to explore raw ingredients while learning about counting, colours and textures. One of his favourite tasks is helping me unload our bi-weekly SPUD order. We count, smell and talk about what's in the box and Junior gets excited about eating what we get. He even loves it when I read the newsletter to him.

One of the most rewarding food related activities is simply eating together with Junior. I strongly believe that it's important to build a social environment around food. Mealtime is our time to have a conversation, talk about the day, tell stories and ultimately build our relationship. The dining room table is also our platform for modelling healthy eating behaviour and a positive attitude towards food. At meals Junior is given choices and it's his decision to eat or not. When he refuses food we don't make a big deal over it so that food doesn't become a battle.

As a result of all this, much of Junior's world revolves around food. He was saying "broth" at 17 months. Before he was 2 he could tell you what ingredients go into making french toast. He gravitates towards story books about food. He will ask to smell boxes of tea leaves and herbs in the garden. He 'reads' cookbooks from our collection. He will tell you that apples grow on trees and carrots grow in the ground. He is receptive to trying new foods. Despite his willowy build, he can outeat most 4 year olds we know. At a restaurant he will easily sit and eat for an hour.

All these things are wonderful and we are grateful from a foodie perspective. But as all parents know, kids can change with a blink of an eye and all this interest in food can just evaporate and Junior might only want grilled cheese sandwiches. Well, we'll just have to make sure it's locally produced, 3 year aged cheddar on organic slow rise artisan bread...