What do they feed babies in.... ?
- Wayne Keyser
Prompted by the "My Chowpup Eats Everything" thread just below ... does anyone know what they feed babies and pre-teens in countries with notably spicy cuisines?
What does a baby in Sichuan province eat? What do little kids in India eat? Do they go for some (or all) of the spice?
I saw a Travel Channel show (just a moment of it in passing) where a street-market vendor (maybe in Africa???) was chewing on a fresh pepper and told the host to try it. The vendor was happily munching away, and the host nearly collapsed in pain - what do kids THERE eat?
So who's an overseas veteran who can speak from personal experience?
Mexico doesn't exactly count as overseas, even though I live here full time, but it sure counts as spicy.
Mexican toddlers chow down on the same stuff their parents eat. I've seen lots of 18-month-olds snarfing down jícama with powdered chile, salt, and lime, robbing their parents' plates of other fruits (mango, pineapple, etc) with the same mix of spices on them, and taking pieces of *carne asada* out of Mom and Dad's tacos--the meat slathered with *salsa picante*.
On the other hand, there are plenty of Mexicans who don't eat anything at all picante, and their kids usually grow up refusing to eat spicy foods.
We're indian, and I have a 22 month old son. He's been eating indian food since he was 6 months old, and we eat pretty spicy food. We would just tone it down a bit by adding either plain yogurt or ghee into it to dilute the spiciness. Gradually, we began using less yogurt/ghee and letting him eat it the way it was prepared. Now he loves spicy foods -- he'll take a spoon and eat a spicy mint chutney right out of the bowl. He even likes to dip tortilla chips in chutney instead of salsa.
If you baby them (for lack of a better word) then they won't be open to trying the foods. We have several indian friends who never fed their kids indian food when they were younger and now they complain that all the kids want are burgers and chicken nuggets. People are usually pretty surprised when they find out my son eats the same foods we do.
I can't speak for spicy--because I live in Spain and they don't really do "picante" here--but I can attest to the fact that kids eat the same food as adults here. Even the baby food has fish and jamon in it.
My son's school just sent home a note about the school lunches this year, stressing that if at all possible children really should go home and eat lunch with their families so that they can learn good eating habits and manners. If this isn't possible, then the school provides only one option for all kids (except a no pork version for muslims and a bland diet for those with a note from a doctor). There is no fried food or "kid food"--I've never seen a kids' menu here--they eat grilled squid, beans with chorizo, roasted fish, stews, pretty much all the same stuff you would see on a "menu del dia" at the grown up restaurants.
When we were living in the US, my son ate spicy food--Thai, Indian, Vietnamese--without any problems, but after moving to Madrid, he learned that "picante" was a bad word from his Spanish friends and family and now he won't eat anything spicy, despite our encouragement. So I think kids' tolerance to spicy things is not only determined by what you are exposed to, but also the cultural attitudes of your peers...
After living in Switzerland and Italy I noticed that while they do make and sell baby foods the selection is very small. Most children that I saw eating out and the children of friends I saw eating at home just ate whatever the parents ate. Along the coast the kids ate lots of seafood. In Switzerland I saw kids eating sweetbreads. And this included babies. The only modification done was in bite size and/or texture. More importantly there were no "short order" cooks for the little ones- you know those type of parents who cook a separate meal because their child would never eat xyx and then go on to cook 2 more things because the child still refused to eat.
Sure some kids might be "born" picky but I found starting my son on full tastes by just using a baby food grinder to grind up what I was eating has kept him, at 4, still interested in new foods and tastes. he just doesn't like bland food. Even the times he does have the occasional box of WW Annies he wants me to add peas and carrots and lots of pepper.
I believe you will find in cultures where breastfeeding is very common that children have more experienced palates.
Children get so accustomed to the everchanging flavors in breast milk. I am still nursing my 2 year old, (in america), and he LOVES spicy food as much as I do. Just the other day my aunt tried some jalapeno peanuts. She had to run and get something to drink. Later my son grabbed them and started eating them. You should have seen everyone jumping out of their chairs to get them away from him. They were amazed at how much he loved them.
My children eat the same as my husband and I. In fact my son can tolerate spicier foods than my husband.
re: Becca Porter
I totally agree but was lambasted last time I said the chowpups were more likely born than raised because in my experience with friends and their kids was that all the breastfed kids were more adventurous eaters than the the formula fed kids for just the reason you stated: The flavor of breast milk changes daily while formula never changes and remains overly sweet. Also the moms ate a wide variety of food while pregnant and in general were adventurous eaters themselves. Sure there are other things that can influence a chowpup but breast feeding is a great place to start.
I BF my son much longer than most Americans unfortunately are comfortable with but I didn't care about the stares and the comments. My son is healthy and eats anything and everything! Formula feeding was just a risk I wasn't willing to take (plus its free!)