Monday, March 21, 2005


*Originally published at MetroDad

From as far as I can tell, L won't be on the full-range of adult solid foods for around a year or so but this hasn't stopped me from being excited at the prospect of introducing her to all kinds of yummy consumables down the road. I've already experimented a bit by giving her small tastes of things other than mom's milk, i.e. a lick from a spoon which had been used to eat cantoloupe, a lick of Fuji apple, a dibby dab of ice cream, etc. I also tried a little chocolate, assuming she would have inherited mommy's chocolate obsessions but I don't think little L is ready for 73% cacao yet.

Ultimately, who knows what kind of food L will or won't like but like most, I'm hoping she'll have a generous and adventerous palette. For me, food was one of the few pure pleasures from my childhood that I don't attribute to nostalgia (like other memories) - there's something so sensuous about food that I never consciously recognized as a child but looking back now, I think the reason I can remember certain experiences with food so intensely (whereas, I've forgotten everything else) has much to do with the ways in which a great meal - even for a child - can light up your senses like few other things available to someone under the age of consent.

My Top Three Foods I Want to Introduce L To:

1) Fruit.
Neither Sam or I are religious people and my opinions on God range somewhere between atheism and agnosticism but if I were to believe in some proof of a Higher Power at work in the world, I'd point to fruit as my evidence. I know there are evolutionary reasons why fruit tastes good - you want animals to eat it, thereby helping to spread the seeds through their scat, blah blah blah. I mean, I'm sure the botanists are right and all, but fuck it: in my perspective, only some omnipotent, omniscient Being would have come up with something as incredible as a watermelon. Or a ripe pear. Or a bowl of sweet strawberries. It's no wonder that so many fruits are equated with aphrodisiacs - there are few other foods I can think of that offer such intense and powerful feelings of pleasure when you bite into them.

Like...a handful of seedless red flame grapes, chilled, on a summer day? That's like a "thank you" gift from Nature that we probably don't even deserve. I can't wait to watch L bite into a ripe strawberry and watch her reaction. Damn, I'm making myself hungry right now, writing this.

2. Pizza.
In Jeffrey Steingarten's book, The Man Who Ate Everything, he writes about "umami", the so-called fifth taste (alongside sweet, salty, sour, and bitter). It's a little hard to describe umami since it's not a combination of other tastes, but rather its own taste (I mean, try describing what sweet tastes like). It can be translated as "deliciousness" and it's supposed to convey a sense of well-being and satisfaction.

Japanese culinary scientists who originally named umami have found that it exists in certain kinds of foods and combinations of food. For example, kelp imparts a good deal of umami, which explains why it's such a staple of Japanese soup bases. Shocked as many will be to hear this, but MSG - unfairly demonized - is to umami what salt is to saltiness. Beef imparts umami as well. And two great sources of umami that we find combined often are cheese and tomatoes.

At least, this is the argument that Steingarden puts forward as to why we like pizza so much and while I hardly need a reason to justify why people like pizza, at least it's nice to know there might be a scientific reason behind it.

Pizza was the first non-dessert "treat" I can remember my parents offering was this pizzaeria outside of Boston (we lived in Burlington for a spell) and all I remember is that their logo used a barbershop spiral and that they would serve their pizzas in between two paper plates, pressed together to form a UFO shape. Like I said, it's strange what you remember from your childhood and I remember the UFO plates because I associated it with this incredible new food.

Remember pizza = umami = mmmmmm...goood.

3. Ice Cream
Greatest. Thing. Ever. If you challenged me to either give up ice cream or sex, I might actually have to go with sex right now (like most new parents, we have ice cream a lot. The other thing? Not so much).

It's a bit strange but for some reason, I associate ice cream with the privileges of adulthood. To explain: when I was young, enjoying ice cream was only possible with the permission of my parents...they had to take me to the parlour, or buy some to take home. But it was a "special" food - not something I could just eat on a whim.

Now that I'm older, I can go out and have ice cream anytime I want to and honestly...there's a still little thrill in realizing that I don't need anyone's permission now. I guess it's a strange marker for passage into adulthood but then again, being able to buy a scoop of mint chip in a sugar cone beats killing a bear or having my privates pierced.

(Honorable mention: sushi. No kid of mine is going to blanch at the idea of eating raw fish, especially when they're half Japanese.)

Posted by P.L. at 9:59 AM


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