Whoever came up with the idea of baby-led weaning: congratulations, sir, sterling plan. I can only assume it was somebody at one of the major detergent manufacturers.
In earlier days, before we allowed Mina hands-on involvement in what went into her mouth, we often had her in the same clothes for a couple of days running. No chance of that nowadays. Come bath time, she wears the day’s menu in all its multicoloured glory. The churn of the washing machine is the soundtrack to our lives.
I used to think that I ran a tight ship where the girls were concerned, but since embarking on Mina-led weaning no mealtime pass without her resembling Joseph in his dreamcoat. I don’t remember Lola being quite so fond of slathering herself in her lunch but then when she was a baby sleep deprivation had unhinged my mind so exhaustively that anything could have been going on.
Now that she’s an expert, here then is Mina’s guide to consuming her favourite foods and drinks:
Apple – If you need to learn how to make food last, you would do worse than observe Mina eating an apple. She makes her way through a slice at the same rate as coastal erosion, though to be fair she does only possess four teeth. Chunks of apple also have the benefit that they can be saved in the mouth for hours, hamster-like, to be regurgitated and dropped onto the carpet at an entirely random point later in the day.
Broccoli – Or a tale of two textures. Florets get shovelled into her mouth like they’re coated in cheap chocolate, while the stalks get short shrift. Again, this is probably dental-related.
Cereal – For Mina, the secret to eating cereal, especially her favourite multigrain O’s (which incidentally cost more per ounce than rhino horn), is to chuck every second one on the kitchen floor then lean over the side of her highchair to stare at the discarded torus as if the whole state of affairs was an unexpected accident. Then she’ll pop one in her mouth before dropping the next one and staring at it perplexedly.
Fruit juice – Juice has an unusual property in that no matter how little you allow Mina to ingest, she always retains 50% and dribbles the other 50% down herself. I suspect I could feed her individual droplets from a pipette and she’d still manage to expel half of it down her chin. See also Water.
Green beans – Everyone, and particularly Mina, knows that the best part of green beans is the beans themselves. These can simply be sucked out and the flaccid pods dropped into her bib where she need never trouble herself with them again.
Lemon – Best consumed raw. When I give Mina the wedge off my gastropub fish and chips, I can guarantee that I won’t hear a peep from her for the foreseeable future. And remarkably, whereas her sister could’ve won gurning contests during her lemon-eating days, Mina barely even pulls a face.
Rice cakes – What do rice cakes and the rock cycle have in common? Well, nothing unless Mina’s involved. Rice cakes are solid when you take them out of the packet, however Mina is expert at masticating them into the consistency of wallpaper paste and drooling this slurry onto her dress where it resolidifies to be carried around with her for the rest of the day. If you think back to GCSE physics, you’ll recall that rocks are formed in a very similar manner.
Salmon – In Mina’s mind, salmon cannot be eaten off a fork or spoon; it must be plucked from the utensil and held fish to skin. This means that the piscine stench endures regardless of how many times her hands are washed. Lady Macbeth’s damn spot came out with less trouble. I can recall several occasions where I thought the tang would never go and that Mina had successfully consigned herself to a lifetime of hands that reek of salmon.
Strawberries – Mina’s number one preferred fare. Coincidentally also the foodstuff that she manages to make the greatest mess with. These facts may well be connected. Nothing if not an epicure, she begins by holding her strawberry aloft and giving it a firm squeeze to ensure that as much juice as possible sluices down her forearm. Only then is she ready to rub the pulp around her face, maybe occasionally getting some in her mouth. Typically, I’m never far away, clutching kitchen towel, swabbing for my life like an assistant surgeon trying to keep on top of extreme hemorrhaging.
Water – You’d think Mina could manage a bit of water. After all she’s had a fair amount of practice. Think again. Apparently her objective is total refreshment and accordingly she has developed a technique which involves downing as much water as physically possible until she almost drowns, then violently spitting it back out in a torrent while gasping for air as though I’ve been waterboarding her. She has drier baths.
Pushing food down her neck is one thing, but Mina – and her sister Lola – are unusual amongst city kids in that they have a notion of where it comes from too thanks to our humble allotment. I’ve previously written about the importance of our rented garden to the girls.