I have always loved cooking, ever since I was a little girl. My grandmother taught me to cook as soon as I was tall enough to reach the kitchen counter standing on a dining room chair. It started with cookies and pies, but as I got older I was enamored with all aspects of cooking. I relished making family meals, and some of my favorite memories from college are of impromptu dinner parties I'd meticulously plan for my friends, which we would eat around my folding card table in my one-bedroom apartment. So it made sense that when I became a mom, I assumed that the one thing I would totally rock was feeding my kids. I was excited to make my own baby food almost as much as I was excited to dress up my infant in all the cute baby outfits I'd received at my shower.
As soon as my son took his first bite of rice cereal, I began prepping a bevy of vegetables for pureeing. I slow roasted squash and simmered apples on the stove. I read baby food blogs and scoured the internet for the best looking recipes — blending together the perfect mixture of mild spices with various fruits and veggies. It was difficult and messy and caused my kitchen to look like the food fight from Hook had just taken place, but as I finished my first batches, I felt so satisfied. It had been a huge labor of love, and to me, that was what food was all about.
However, that deep satisfaction and joy I felt was unfortunately short lived. As I spooned the perfectly pureed peas toward my 6 month old, it was clear he was not having it. The peas went everywhere except in his mouth. My mother, who Skyped me for the momentous moment, assured me that it was because I was trying peas. "Babies aren’t really into peas and other green veggies," she said.
“Try adding some bacon to it,” she urged. “That was your favorite as a baby: vegetable bacon.”
I tried the applesauce first, and it was delicious. My baby, on the other hand, didn’t agree. He thrust his tongue out every time I'd manage to spoon even just a little bit of it into his mouth. He gagged like it was the worst thing in the world. He shoved the spoon away, and screamed indignantly when I tried to gently coax him into eating it.
Needless to say, I did not try pureeing bacon into my child’s baby food because a.) this is no longer the '80s and we do not feed bacon to infants and, b.) we do not waste bacon in this household. I tried, instead, to feed him some of the homemade applesauce, since technically I had met his pediatrician’s advice to “start vegetables first.” Sure, he hadn’t eaten any of the vegetables, but I was anxious to not feel like such a food-making failure, so applesauce it was.
I tried the applesauce first, and it was delicious. My baby, on the other hand, didn’t agree. He thrust his tongue out every time I'd manage to spoon even just a little bit of it into his mouth. He gagged like it was the worst thing in the world. He shoved the spoon away, and screamed indignantly when I tried to gently coax him into eating it. Maybe it’s the texture, I thought.
So next we tried peaches, which were admittedly awful to make. The process involved scoring the bottom, loosening the skin in boiling water, carefully peeling, pitting and halving, further cooking, then pureeing — all to get a few measly baby servings out of a Costco-sized flat of fruit. Yet again, I tasted the literal fruits of my labor and was surprised by how good baby food could taste. And for the second time, the spoon met my baby's mouth in utter disdain.
We tried every kind of puree I had prepped and frozen and nothing seemed to make him happy. I was burning myself out with the endless food prep, trying to find something, anything, he would like. I felt terrible for wasting so much food, so much time, so much effort. It wasn’t long until I found myself absolutely hating the process of making my own baby food, and one day at the store, I cracked and bought a couple jars of baby food to give myself a break.
Making my own baby food was supposed to be fun. I'd thought it would be something I loved, but instead it was a chore that made me feel like a total failure. I had wanted so badly to be the sort of mom who made everything from scratch, who threw herself completely into motherhood, but it turned out it was a lot more important to have a kid that actually ate.
That was when the real slap in the face came: he loved the jarred food. The unnaturally smooth applesauce with an unpleasant tinny flavor? I could barely get it to his mouth quick enough. The dull-tasting sweet potatoes became a new pantry staple. I'd sometimes try to sneak back in my own food, hoping to salvage my endless efforts, but he would know instantly. He only wanted the crud that came in a jar.
I held tight to my hope that he would one day come around to my homemade baby food, but that day never came. The purees became freezer-burned and to be honest, once I'd discarded them I was glad to put that failure behind me. Making my own baby food was supposed to be fun. I'd thought it would be something I loved, but instead it was a chore that made me feel like a total failure. I had wanted so badly to be the sort of mom who made everything from scratch, who threw herself completely into motherhood, but it turned out it was a lot more important to have a kid who actually ate than it was to have an Instagram-worthy baby food prep setup every Sunday.
By the time my next baby came around, I retired the mini blender to smoothies only. I wasn’t about to go through the trouble of making my own baby food again because the truth was, I'd hated it more than I wanted to admit. It was a whole lot of work for very little reward. I’d much rather buy my baby food (and my sanity) by the jar.