Introducing babies to food and cooking: the "rules" vary by culture
Piove shared an amazing story about including his baby-now-toddler in food prep. It's a long post, but worth the read if you'd like to see an incredible example of how culture shapes our parenting, in this case, with respect to infant feeding.
I know that it is recommended to include toddlers in cooking, but we have involved our 6 month-old since he became interested in food. Raiden was 10 weeks old when he first reached for the food on my plate, and grabbed himself a handful of guacamole. He has been eating a couple of solid meals a day since, as well as breastfeeding.
Neither my wife nor I like bland food, so we decided not to stick to the conventional idea of feeding only bland "baby" foods to Raiden. He loves to watch us cook, and we let him smell all of the herbs and spices before they go into the meal. I have just cooked him a satay with mince [ground beef? -- Ed.], mushrooms and zucchini. He loves it. Often he prefers fruit, so will get apple and cinnamon or apple and honey [before you comment about the honey, keep reading. -- Ed.] or even apple and nutmeg.
He has tried a wide variety of foods, and will eat almost anything. Of course, we have made a few mistakes... He has an allergy to kiwi and breaks out in a rash. Apricot and pears give him the farts really badly. (Sorry I mean wind!) So far, he has tried: apple, apricot, mango, guava, lychee, banana, feijoa, plum, avocado, rice, potato, tofu, mushrooms, corn, tomato, capsicum [bell pepper -- Ed.], carrot, olives, gherkins, eggs, fish, chicken, mince, cheese, yoghurt, toast with all sorts of condiments... plus a heap more. His diet is almost as varied as ours, although we have just introduced small amounts of dairy products.
We find that he is much more likely to eat what he is served if he has seen it prepared.
Needless to say I was floored by that list of foods, some of which I've never tried. I think Raiden happens to be one of those kids who's unusually attracted to food, but I also I admired Piove's willingness to buck conventional wisdom. However, I was worried about the honey. My response:
Thanks so much for this -- amazing! Where do you live? (I noticed the European names for a few of the foods you describe.) I ask, because while it sounds like your little guy is as healthy and adventurous as they come, some of what you're feeding him goes against the medical advice I've heard in the US. Specifically, parents here are warned against serving honey to children under a year old due to the risk of infant botulism. Because of this, I'm hesitant to post this as a hack. Which is not to say what you're doing is wrong...on the contrary, we should all have such hearty eaters! I just want to err on the safe side in this case.
We live in New Zealand, my wife is Swiss, and I am a local, but we spent a lot of time in Australia. We have never heard that you shouldn't feed a young one honey! On the contrary, honey is touted as a super-food with anti-bacteriological properties. There is even a type of honey that is used as a dressing in some hospitals as it kills things antibiotics won't.
My wife and I looked at the list of "allowed" foods and researched what other societies did. We found that what we are told is mostly convention. Even our GP admitted as much. So, we decided not to avoid too much of anything, variety being the spice of life and all that...
After reading your email I did a bit of research. All of the sites that related to infant botulism were US-based, and I found this one quite interesting. It seems that the source of most cases of infant botulism are never identified, and about 10% of the honey on the market contains the spores, as well as most unwashed fruit and vegetables.
Feel free to edit any foods that I have mentioned that may be unsuitable for the US (or any other) market.
So let me be clear. Parent Hacks suggests you do NOT feed your infant honey. But I thought this discussion was fascinating because it illustrates how culturally-based certain "iron-clad" parenting rules turn out to be. I remember watching my cousin in India strain the juice of a tangerine and feed it to her three month-old. "Cereal" was a ground mix of grains and legumes, to which her mother added warm buffalo milk. When I asked my cousin if she ever bought baby food (in jars), she looked at me with a quizzical expression, like, why?
I would love to hear your take on what and how to feed a baby...especially if you live outside the US.