I quite often find myself thinking how similar are the businesses of being a mother and being a pig farmer. Babies and pigs: both born pink and wrinkly, make lots of weird grunty noises (particularly when feeding), then they grow gloriously fat and turn their lovely homes into mucky slums…
Now we’ve started weaning the similarity has never been more striking. Over the last month Frida has started wolfing down anything and everything. She is almost embarrassingly undiscriminating. It’s unladylike. Anything I can find at the back of the fridge and mush up a bit she’ll eat, shouting furiously at me right up to the moment it’s actually made contact with her cross red lips and then smearing it all over her fat little fists and face with a look of businesslike dedication.
So yeah. It’s been a month. And so far, we’ve not had to buy a single jar, pouch or box of baby food. I was a bit worried in the first week. I wasn’t sure how we’d manage. It felt like I lived in supermarkets when I was weaning Johnny. Our house looked like something off one of those Channel 5 documentaries on compulsive hoarders – you couldn’t move for primary coloured pouches and boxes and there was a thin film of powdery baby rice over the whole family and all the furniture for what felt like months.
But a month in, I’m feeling pretty cocky, which must mean a disaster is just round the corner, right? I must be one hubristic fall away from a massive Tesco bill…
So here’s the jist of it. We tried baby-led weaning, in fact, we’re still trying it. I really wanted it to work. I love the idea of watching her confidently shovelling food into her mouth. I wanted to be that mother others glare enviously at in cafes, while my baby elegantly and self-containedly works her way through a primavera salad.
But babies are very good at bringing you down to earth with a crash, aren’t they? Frida doesn’t just get cross if she cant get food into her mouth fast enough, she gets LIVID. And so we’ve reached a compromise. I feed her from a spoon and put some finger food in front of her too. She gums at it for a bit, flings it despotically to the floor… But it works for us.
We haven’t had to buy any special baby products or ingredients. But I also haven’t really been making any special meals for her from what’s in the fridge either. I’ve slowly been remembering meals that we can all eat, small pig included, and I’m adding to our repertoire as the weeks past. It cuts down a huge amount on money, time spent cooking and washing up, and general faff…
Mostly, we’ll all eat porridge. I’ve also started steaming and pureeing some fruit and we all eat it on yoghurt. If we’re having toast I’ll cut some into soldiers for her to play with or mush into the table.
Soup: I’m making a big batch of vegetable soup at the beginning of the week, using whatever’s in the fridge, or plentiful at the stall at the end of the road, and some low-salt stock. I leave it thick so that Frida can eat it for lunch as it is and I can thin it out with some water and have it too. Theoretically, of course, J could eat it too but he’s a massive soup refuse-nick at the moment. We’re working on that.
Other favourites at the moment are baked potatoes (sweet or bog standard) with fluffy middles she can easily get down, chicken liver pate (using a recipe in the River Cottage kids book but its delicious for adults too, honestly), or a scruffy buffet of smoked fish, feta, avocado slices, hummus…
Shepherds pie makes everyone happy. This week, I also made this sweet potato, lentil and coconut curry and added some lamb in the pressure cooker. It went down well with everyone too (okay, I lie, it didn’t go down ‘well’ with J but it did go down…) A soft piece of boneless fish and some vegetables to slobber over seems to keep her busy too… Basically, anything vaguely mushy that’s low on salt and heat seems to meet with approval in the pigsty.
I like doing things this way. I like the savings we’re making, obviously, but it also feels good to eat the same stuff as a family. A bit more relaxed, a bit more natural. A bit less pressured since it’s all from one big pot. And something else that I hadn’t anticipated: there’s something deeply, almost animalistically, gratifying about watching her wolf down such a wide selection of tastes and textures. The satisfaction is so completely, disproportionately fulfilling that it must come from some dark, evolutionary place. What do you think? Any other recipe ideas for us? Ideas for introducing more baby-led stuff without provoking the piglet?