Baby food and the culture of fear

by DaniGirl on September 23, 2008 · 12 comments

in Mothering without a licence

On Sunday morning, we were driving to meet friends for breakfast and I caught a snippet of a show they were doing about making your own baby food. The guest, whose name I didn’t catch, said something to the effect of “with the state of food safety the way it is, you just can’t trust even baby food makers to be vigilant, so you should make your own instead.”

This rankled me. More maternal guilt, that’s just what we need. And where do we get the ingredients to make our home-made baby food? From the supermarket, of course. The same supermarkets which have recently had e-coli scares with such wholesome foods as tomatoes and spinach. Making your own baby food is a great choice if you have the time and the inclination. You can control the ingredients and, sometimes more importantly, the texture. But it’s certainly not the only choice and I honestly don’t think it’s a lot safer than the commercial options.

Which reminded me that I don’t think I’ve ever told you the story about the first time I made baby food for Tristan, because I too thought it was the best choice from a nutritional and economic standpoint.

I bought a book of baby food recipes for $26, and decided to start with something simple: carrots. Organic carrots, of course. In fact, organic baby carrots, because they were for a baby. I bought two bags, which at the time set me back about seven dollars. I also bought a steamer pot from Ikea for $40. (I still have that pot, and it’s one of my favourites, FWIW.) I prepared one of the bags of carrots by scrubbing them and cutting the ends off. I steamed them within an inch of their lives, for maybe six hours. Okay, I exaggerate, but it was surely close to half an hour of steaming.

I put the carrots in the blender with a tablespoon or so of the reserved water, just as the cookbook recommended, and turned on the blender. The carrot mash was sticking to the sides of the blender a bit, so I used my also newly acquired wooden spoon (I really didn’t do a lot of cooking in those days) to scrape it down a bit. Without turning off the blades. And promptly filled my freshly made organic baby carrots with a healthy dose of splinters.

So I dumped that batch in the trash and washed out the blender and the blades and started all over again with the other bag of carrots. Wash, cut, boil the snot out of them. Put them in the blender. Forget to put the lid on the blender before I hit the “puree” button. Bits of wet carrot splatter everywere, and I mean everywhere. Weeks later, I was finding carrot bits under the microwave and on the underside of the range fan.

In the end, I got about four servings of carrots out of the whole thing. Net cost per serving, excluding the cookbook and the fancy new pot, was $1.75 or so, compared to 67 cents for the jars at the grocery store. You do the math.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jo(e) September 23, 2008 at 9:26 am

Oh, that’s funny. I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t at the time, but it makes for a funny story.

I never bought those little jars of baby food, but I never made baby food either. I just waited until my kids were old enough and gave them real food.

I just never had the patience to spoon food into a child’s mouth ….

2 Loukia September 23, 2008 at 10:48 am

Oh, hilarious, Dani! You sound exactly like I do in the kitchen! I agree with what you said – with the ways things are, even fresh fruit and veggies at the local supermarket can be dangerous! I have made my own baby food from scratch (i.e. boil a sweet potato, puree and serve!) a couple of times, but mostly I buy the jars. Although now, at 8 months old, I’m feeding my baby more ‘real’ food – like, he had some Shepherd’s Pie last night!

3 Veronica Mitchell September 23, 2008 at 11:13 am

I am not blender savvy. Not even a little.

Not to fearmonger even more, but baby food manufacturers do test their beets and spinach for nitrates, which the average consumer does not. This means homemade spinach or beet baby food could actually be more dangerous for a baby than buying it in the little jars.

4 theclevermom September 23, 2008 at 11:19 am

It never has made sense to me why people are so eager to give their money away.

Baby food isn’t an requirement for infant feeding. Try mashing up the food you already make for your family. Don’t eat small child appropriate food? Make some and get healthier.

Table food, mashed to a consistency palatable to each specific child is all any child needs. No extra money spent.

5 Vanessa September 23, 2008 at 12:38 pm

The other benefit to feeding them whatever’s on your plate… smooshed up, of course, or cut to little bitty pieces…. is that they get to experience more flavours and textures than they do with baby food, and in turn, might end up being less picky eaters! Grace (my now 4-year old) LOOOOVED eating the tofu out of the hot & sour soup at our favourite Chinese restaurant from as young as about 8 months old! Talk about flavour! Now… she begs us to bring her to the spicy soup place! Jarred baby food has a valid purpose and a place… we used it too.. but throwing in the “good stuff” on the side is a great way to introduce new foods – and still convenient, because you’re already cooking for yourself!

6 my3sons September 23, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Can’t say I think commercial baby food is as safe as homemade. I mean, look at the things that can happen with commercial baby food:

botulism, glass shards, moldy veggies, cracked jars

just google some of these things and you’ll see lots of recalls and warnings from commercial baby food companies. Of course, this is a risk when we all eat prepackaged food, not just a risk to babies.

I like the cost comparison chart. It’s pretty spot-on from my experience that the cost is cheaper per ounce.

P.S. The Oster big glass blender can do a good job pulverising carrots and a plastic spoon together 😉 never tried a wooden spoon tho!

7 anita kaiser September 23, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Hate the fact that we even have to think about this but somedays we do – I personally did do alot of my own food – for a few reasons – the number one being I only have one kiddo which means I had to get it right the first time and I almost had the energy to do it………….i found a fabulous resource – as mentioned above
and my daughter loved it – so off we went!

8 Renee September 23, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Ha! That one made me laugh. See, that’s why I just skip right to the lazy way and buy the stuff.

9 Sharon September 25, 2008 at 3:12 pm

I’m giggling here. i can so see you doing that.
Thanks for the smile of the day DANI!

10 Marianne September 25, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Skip the baby food and purees and just go with more or less whatever your family’s eating. Google baby led weaning, or baby led solids. It began in the UK, but is gaining popularity in Canada and the US because it’s so practical.

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