In my former life, before Leo, I cooked a lot. I read cookbooks and food magazines for fun. I shopped for food like some women shop for shoes, emerging from the Park Slope Food Coop with a spring in my step, my canvas bags full of leafy green vegetables, wild mushrooms, and ripe, seasonal fruits that would inspire our meals for the week. I loved food so much I became a food writer. And for all the strain of hustling to put together a viable freelance career, I loved the perks: working from home while something delicious simmered on the stove, eating freshly made salads for lunch, trying new restaurants and filing the receipts under “research.” My former life wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely delicious.
I don’t do any of that any more. Leo eats paper, so my cookbooks are stacked in treacherous towers on top of the low bookshelves (which now contain train parts and fabric books; Where’s EeBee? is a fave). We’ve gotten so far behind in our member work shifts at the Food Coop that we’re no longer allowed to shop there (Paradise Lost!). I’m doing one of my full-time projects in an office right now, and last week, on my birthday no less, I called a 50 cent bag of sour cream and onion potato chips lunch. On the plus side, I looked a little thinner the next day, and could probably get rich quick marketing the chip diet to other sedentary types who work near a vending machine.
Leo, however, has never had a potato chip, and I’m trying to keep him from making paper his primary food source. So this Sunday we went to an overpriced organic market to buy him chard, kale, sweet potatoes, squash, maple-oat teething biscuits, unsalted rice cakes, avocados, Greek yogurt, goat cheese, bananas, apples, chicken and gluten-free fusilli. I fed Leo broccoli and lentil soup for dinner (he was ravenous all weekend, and kept crawling over to the kitchen to stand at the baby gate and shout for a snack). Then we put him to bed and ate a meal based around a can of refried beans.
In my former life, I would have found this a tad pitiful, and I might not have wanted to make our night’s menu public. But you know how they say that toddlers may not always eat a balanced meal, and as long as their diets balance out over the course of a few days, it’s fine? Well, I figure that counts for us too. And thanks to Leo’s solid naps today (he’s particularly hungry and tired these days, possibly because he spends every waking minute moving), we did pretty well in the cooking and eating department actually.
During Leo’s morning nap, I made whole-grain soda bread for breakfast from The River Cottage Family Cookbook, which Aaron gave me for my birthday. We ate it warm with honey and cheddar cheese, and Leo enjoyed some for a snack when he got up. I made lentil soup and a green salad for lunch, which we sat down to during Leo’s afternoon nap. We hadn’t had a salad in so long it felt like a gleeful celebration of spring. But tonight, I’m working, so out came the can opener.
We spent most of dinner discussing how wonderful we think our child is. How he tasted dirt at the park today (healthy?), how he had so much soup for dinner his tummy hung over his diaper before bathtime, how he and our downstairs neighbor, 8 month old Sadie, were so happy to reunite this morning that they crawled headfirst into each other. In my former life, all that gloating about a kid with a rashy face and a tendency to fill diapers at the worst possible moments would have seemed absurd. Luckily, all that’s behind me now.