When my son turned five months old and weaning off rumbled in my sights like a potato-laden eighteen-wheeler, I was both terrified and fired up. On the one hand, I was going crazy not knowing how and what to start feeding him, but on the other, the baby had to start eating AT SOME POINT.
What, Krassimira, you expect to wait for your son after his language school entrance exams, asking him „So, how did your essay go?“, listening to his inarticulate grunting, then telling him: „Good boy, here’s an 8-ouncer, don’t bite the nipple.“
On the other hand, ambition beckoned. Hello, steamed zucchini, smelly broccoli and you, disgusting, bland potato! You’re here to turn this baby into a human that will someday achieve greatness, and write great school essays in particular.
Of course, this could only happen on one crucial condition: I had to find and buy not just any zucchini/broccoli/potato, but the most impossibly organic one, pristine as an angel’s tear, having grown in the rich, loamy soil, clean of any synthetic fertilizers, sprinkled with holy water and carefully picked by honest, hardworking hands that have never touched those paraben-laden supermarket hand-creams. In other words, I had to find the pure pinnacle of all zucchini, guaranteeing that this child:
- will get a fair start alongside the other children in this world of goji berry, macadamia, organic potatoes and molecular baby cuisine
- as he starts school, having to answer the teacher’s question: „And you, Boris, have you been fed organic zucchini or regular ones?“, he would not feel ashamed in front of the other children, but instead tell her, coolly and with slight bemusement, in English, French and Mandarin: „But, Ms., what are you saying? Organic, of course!“, then sit next to his desk-mate, herself nourished on organic cucumbers, and strike up a conversation with her about Space and shuttles.
And so, at the peak of July’s most horrible heat, 90 degrees and it wasn’t even 10 A.M., I took my first steps along the Women’s Market in Sofia, armed with a grocery bag, a great deal of money and a great deal of hope that somewhere out there a zucchini waited, the fruit of sustainable organic farming, a zucchini to give my life meaning, to bring my child a lifetime of happiness, good fortune and straight A’s in math.
I scanned the horizon, a sea of stalls, groaning under the weight of produce.
Were there tomatoes? It was chock-full of them. How about watermelons, apricots or honeydew melons? You wouldn’t believe that there were so many honeydew melons sprouting from our good earth. And the zucchini? Oh, of course there were piles of them, but even with the naked eye I could see they were neither bio-, nor organic, nor even eco-. All of them glistening, a little too green and suspiciously plump, proclaiming from the first they’d been watered with gallons of heavy metals, slathered with paraffin, antifreeze and sodium glutamate.
Just in case, I wandered over to the nearest pile and, not touching them, I asked the seller: „Where are the zucchini from?“ adding conspiratorially: „I’m looking for some, for a baby,“ expecting it to work as an „Open Sesame“ that would make him exclaim: „HA, well good to know, because I have some right here, just for babies!“ pulling out a secret stash from behind the stall, and in it the zucchini diamond I was looking for.
Instead, the man gave me a contemptuous look, nervously stuttering „FRAMDAHOLESALERS“, then turning to the next in line, who wanted four pounds of nectarines. I humphed unhappily and sailed off to the next stall, where of course the same scene played out, and on, and on; an hour later I was at the other end of the market, sweating, restless and despairing, and most of all, without a single stupid organic zucchini in my bag.
My strength failing, hopelessness settled in. Krassimira, what sort of mother are you? You son will obviously be weaned on regular zucchini, missing out on dozens of essential minerals and vitamins, forever doomed to mediocrity, sitting next to another such as himself at school, a boy or a girl whose mother couldn’t find an organic carrot and instead resorted to regular ones, or – God forbid – canned!
Frantically, I turned over plans in my head, maybe growing my own zucchini on the windowsill, carrying water from the Boyana springs, so someday five years later I would steam them, mash them with a bit of butter and ensure a cloudless future for my child. And as I was making my way home, eyes downcast, bag empty, I found myself in front of a modest little stall with three small, twisted zucchini on it, as well as some unprepossessing sprigs of parsley and a couple of emaciated carrots.
Hope glimmering, I turned to the woman behind it, asking: „So… where are the zucchini from?“ and then almost collapsed under the stall, down among wilted lettuce and overripe apricots, as she sang in a heavenly voice: „From our garden in the village of &%3647488”.
„OH YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH,“ I whinnied, euphoric, almost punching the poor woman’s shoulder, then added: „I’m buying them all!!!“, as if I was acquiring Apple stock or cocoa from Borneo.
The wings of victory carried me home. Everything had gone as planned: the child would get the best that life had in store, namely, a twisted, dark green, repulsive little zucchini, grown on the ass-end of the country, come into the capital to steer a small babe in arms to becoming a future citizen of the world.
I steamed the pathetic vegetable freak for exactly 11 minutes, added butter and mashed it, then I strapped the child in his seat, and with a trembling hand I scooped some of the foul looking stuff and stuck the spoon in his mouth.
I admit: when he spat it out, repelled and indignant, refusing to have anything to do with it whatsoever, I grew somewhat anxious. Was this the fabled weaning process?? After two hours in the heat, groping at hundreds of zucchini, I expected a little more teamwork, dammit! I got over it in a few minutes. But I had yet to introduce potatoes, carrots, broccoli…
Squash. Where the hell was I going to find squash in July??
EGG YOLK!! And not from a hapless, depressed, bipolar, barn-grown hen, no way – only from a free-roaming, emotionally-balanced one, an independent thinker, deciding for herself whether to lay her egg in the roost or a hole in the lawn or wherever the hell she decided to plunk the damned thing.
I wiped the mess off the floor and threw the bio-organic mush in the toilet, waving it goodbye, forcing myself to be positive, to think how I’m looking out for my baby’s best interests, giving him the best chance to be a true human.
After all, you can’t feed your child organic zucchini, yolks from emancipated hens and highland berries, and have him turn out to be a douchebag, right?
Jokes aside: All mothers go through this madness: „My child shall eat only the most pristine, most clean-grown food.“ As extreme as it is, it’s completely normal. Anyone, given the chance, would try to ensure the best for their child; I haven’t heard anyone weaning their baby on smoked sprats or moussaka. Still, it’s good to be aware that over-zealousness does more harm than good, mostly to the mother, who turns into a stumbling moron, making pilgrimages from greengrocer to greengrocer, looking for the perfect cucumber or potato. The child doesn’t care that much; they will survive and make a perfectly serviceable human, whether weaned on organic yolks or regular ones, and most of all, nothing at all in their appearance will suggest whether they had chia seeds for breakfast or grandma’s good old pap!