Beyond Pablum: Baby Wants to Order Off the Menu

I love the idea of baby food. Not in the way that someone loves something like a kitten, or chocolate, or flannel sheets. No, I just love the idea that babies have their own food, not entirely dissimilar to fish food, cat food, or chicken feed. But miraculously, babies grow up and stop eating, by design, this mysterious “baby food” and settle for the more pedestrian people food, or as parents call it, “adult food.” I wonder if they miss it?

Not likely. When I was in the first few months of feeding my son, I sampled a few store-bought baby food options, just to see what they tasted like, and they were overly sweet and beyond revolting (and I am talking about the homey organic kind emblazoned with pastoral images). It just seemed somewhat remiss to be introducing my child to the abundance and variety of food with jarred, reconstituted and highly processed baby-friendly foods. I opted for something different, as did parent and New York Times writer Keith Dixon.

In a recent article for the New York Times, Dixon writes about how he and his wife skipped over the multitude of ready-made baby food options, and simply passed along a sampling of what they were eating, albeit in a pureed form. Using a miniature food mill, Dixon and his wife pureed dishes like pasta Bolognese, and passed it along to their eager and appreciative daughter, who loved every bite.

In our house, it was a similar scenario. We opted for fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, pulverized by a food mill or, more conveniently and effectively, a hand blender. Sometime we would give our son mashed and pureed millet with parsnips and spinach (a savory sweet combination that seemed to rock his world) or we would just present him with a more palatable liquefied version of whatever was on the menu (obviously being cautious about potential allergens like nuts, shellfish, etc.).

Dixon and I seem to agree on the merits of exposing your child to as many food tastes and textures (within reason: spicy chorizo is not recommended) to develop their palate and pave the way for a less fussy, more adventurous, eater. That said, I know that time is of the essence when it comes to feeding your infant, and that opening up a jar may seem easier than this alternative. But, I assure you, with a few more twists of the wrist using a food mill, your child will benefit and you will marvel at your baby’s ability to eat onions, curry, and a wide assortment of vegetables that maybe you wouldn’t even consider trying.

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

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Robert O.
Robert O.2 years ago

Thank you Eric!

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B.2 years ago

I agree completely.Very good article. Thank you.

Terry V.
Terry V.2 years ago

noted = good role models

Megan Poettgen
Megan R.5 years ago

Agree with this completely. While my parents used baby food, they also fed us whatever was on their plate that they could mush. While they aren't exactly adventurous eaters, we still got ACTUAL food. carrots, peas, beans, baked potato. They started feeding us solids as soon as we started looking.

mr Crowley
mr Crowley5 years ago


Barbara F.
Barbara F.7 years ago

Our son is now a very healthy 22 year old, but he had only breast milk until at least age six months. Then we had one of those inexpensive baby grinders and made all his food in that. We both worked full time and still sent our homemade food daily to the daycare. Our thinking was that if you want your child's tastes to develop on processed and canned foods, that's what he will learn to like. Now as an adult, he makes very good food choices and will try just about any healthy food.

Jan Seawell
Jan Seawell7 years ago

Thank you for this! It just makes sense and I hope parents will try it.

Carol Ann A.
Carol Ann A.7 years ago

Thanks for the great idea. My husband was exposed to a variety of foods as an infant and child and to this day is an adventurous eater. Since we eat a healthy, largely organic diet, it makes sense that baby should join in.