ETCETERA / Home thoughts

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The Independent Culture
OK, let's get down to the basics: let's talk about baby food. Not everyone knows this, but baby food is an emotive subject. Baby food unleashes fear and loathing in many mothers - a seething maelstrom of maternal emotion is whipped up with the mushy, messy, splodgy stuff that junior eats for tea.

Luckily, I'd forgotten about baby food until last week. I'd forgotten about how I used to feed Jamie all those years ago on Sunshine Banana Breakfast, much to the disapproval of other mothers whose names I won't mention here. ('You mean, you give him that dreadful packet stuff? But it's so bad for him. He'll get into terrible habits, and never eat proper food when he's older.') Those mothers - real earth mothers, I suppose - used to puree organic parsnips and then freeze the result in ice-cube trays, ready to serve up in dinky little portions for lunch and supper. I don't know what their babies ate for breakfast - home-made wholefood muesli, I expect, with carrot juice on the side.

Nevertheless, Jamie seems to have turned out all right. He's nearly five, and he eats what all his friends eat: fish fingers, chips, frozen peas, chips, sausages, chips. Yes, yes, he eats a bit of broccoli too, and baked potatoes, and the occasional apple. Also, because I still feel the odd twinge of shame about my failure to puree organic vegetables for him when he was a baby, I try to make up for my past inadequacies by regularly feeding him vegetarian sausages for dinner. You see, I am a good mother at heart.

But now it's baby food time again. Tom is four months old, and looks as if he could do with meat and potatoes three times a day. This baby is big. So I thought, time to start checking out the new baby food products. And it's all changed since last time. The manufacturers seem to have cottoned on to the fact that most mothers are riddled with angst about what they feed their children, so these days you can go to Boots and buy packets of organic baby rice, and smart little jars of organic spinach and carrots with 'Mother's Recipe' written on the label. No need to mess around with sieves and ice-cube trays any more: it's all been done for you.

Still, real mothers won't be impressed by those jars. Real mothers will always go and buy fresh spinach and lovingly prepare it for their babies. Real mothers take lots of time making baby food, just to show how much they care.

The trouble with the real mother approach - and I know this to be true, because I tried it once - is that when your darling infant spits out your carefully cooked food, or eats it and then vomits it up five minutes later, you might feel just a little bit hurt, or even slightly cross. Or maybe not. Maybe real mothers never get impatient. But I do.

Anyway, I've settled on a compromise now. Yes, I bought that packet of organic baby rice in Boots. And yes, my apple puree comes from a jar. But then I mix it all together with freshly squeezed breast milk and a generous dollop of maternal guilt. Mother's Recipe, yum yum yum. What more could a baby ask for?-