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Is Bourdain's baby girl a culinary savant?

From Bourdain's blog about what his 1.5 year old daughter likes to eat:

"My one and half year old baby daughter loves olives. And caper berries. And salty parmigiano reggiano cheese. Her love of rabbits (as food) is already well established. But I discovered today that she adores polenta--served with the hot, rendered fat of roasted game birds. And that she goes absolutely bat shit over risotto made with wild nettles. And when her Mom dips a finger in the local red wine, she greatly prefers it to juice. This makes me very proud."

That has to be a joke, right?

Full post here: http://anthony-bourdain-blog.travelch...

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  1. Why does it have to be a joke? Babies will eat all kinds of things if people actually offer them to them. I have fond memories of my niece stealing radicchio off my mom's plate at a family dinner just before her first birthday. She loves pate, and I remember when she was about the same age as Bourdain's daughter my sister told me my niece's newest word was "gruyere."

    There's nothing wrong with giving a baby a drop or two of wine, either. In most countries where wine is habitually drunk with meals most families start their kids off with small amounts of wine at a young age. It's really only in the U.S. that people think of wine as an alcoholic beverage rather than a food.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      My daughter's first taste of wine was at her naming ceremony when she was about 1 month old. It was a Lafitte Rothschild that my father had put down when I was born. I believe it was either a 1962 or 1963 vintage. Either way, it was quite excellent. We dipped a finger in the wine and let her suck it. I have never seen a bigger grin on an infant's face. However, she promptly fell asleep in her high chair, still with a big grin on her face. Six years later she still prefers red wine over whites (in very small amounts and rarely in restaurants because most Americans still don't get it about teaching responsible drinking).

      1. re: rockycat

        Traditionally, don't they give babies a drop or two of wine as part of their bris (circumcision ceremony)?

          1. re: tzurriz

            I just went to a baby naming ceremony yesterday. They do it then as well. How about Baptisms?

            1. re: michele cindy

              I've been to over a hundred Catholic baptisms and there is no wine involved. Wine is only given during Masses to Catholics who have received the sacrament of Holy Communion which is usually at around age 8.

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            Yes, but I have a daughter, not a son. :-)

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Oh, I have fond memories of my godson and his first taste of wine post-snip. He LOVED the taste of that disgusting Manechevitz that his father bought. I'm glad someone does.

          3. re: Ruth Lafler

            After getting the go-ahead from her pediatrician, my daughter decided it was time to introduce my granddaughter to solid foods at five months, after we took her with us to a Chinese restaurant, and she grabbed a big fistful of rice and had it in her mouth and happily swallowed before we even knew what happened! She was not happy when Mom restrained her from grabbing the cumin lamb as well :-). Clearly, she knew she was ready for solid foods!

            I look forward to many chowish outings with my grandaughter, and agree that children, including toddlers and even babies, will eat lots of different foods if exposed to them.

            I have a son and daughter who are close in age and used to bicker a lot as kids. Usually this drove my crazy, but I was always amused that, when I served a spicy stir-fried tofu dish, they would fight over who got the bigger portion. ("MOM: it isn't fair: my brother got more tofu in his serving than I did; I want more!") They never believed me when I told them that some kids actually thought tofu was 'yucky'. :-)

          4. Its all about what you expose your children to, my daughter 20 months old likes most things, & his childs food tastes sound pretty normal to me.

            My daughter eats:

            crab
            shrimp
            scallops
            Pho
            duck
            smoked meats(ribs,brisket, whole pig)handfulls of reggian parmesan
            crawfish
            gumbo
            etouffe
            lobster
            any rice dish
            any pasta dish
            shwarma
            Vietnamese Food
            Chinese food
            Middle Eastern food
            most cheeses

            With the above said I wouldnt give her alcohol, she can already recognize my tequila bottles, and beers by name.

            1. I have to agree with the posts above: I was very surprised to discover my misconceptions about what would be palatable to my young boy. Anything with lamb as the main ingredient is a hit; extra sharp cheddar, olives, and most recently olives wrapped with anchovies (I removed the hot pepper before serving him "gildas"). It is surprising to see a 20 month old devour a plate of anchovies, but I wonder if it's just because few are given the opportunity.

              39 Replies
              1. re: Bellyacher

                My nearly 9 month old wants to eat whatever we eat. The only thing she hasn't liked so far was the baby rice cereal we tried to give her as her "first" food. Her actual fist food was pasta with pesto and imitation crab that she grabbed off her dad's plate.

                Yesterday she went nuts over saurkraut and german potato salad at German Fest here in Chicago.

                1. re: Bellyacher

                  I think it's pretty common outside of the US for parents to give children whatever it is the parents want to eat. I think in the US, we have such a big baby food and child foodindustry that it's less common for children to be introduced to "adult" foods as an infant/toddler.

                  1. re: queencru

                    other than baby formula as an infant, my daughter skipped right past the jars of baby food stage, and started eating off our plates.

                    1. re: swsidejim

                      My niece also pretty much skipped baby food and went straight to "regular" food cut up into small dice. It was so much more enjoyable to feed my niece by putting a few piles of food on her highchair tray and letting her pick stuff up and feed herself than trying to shove spoonfuls of babyfood into a baby's mouth. I'm always amazed that people think babies need special food and/or bland food. What did babies eat for the thousands of years before Gerber? What do babies eat in cultures where spicy food is the norm?

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        i agree. I think babies will adapt to what they are exposed to, be it wild game, meat, seafood, veggies, spicy food, etc

                    2. re: queencru

                      "I think it's pretty common outside of the US for parents to give children whatever it is the parents want to eat."
                      I agree. I never saw a child's menu in France or Italy.
                      It's shocking that the menus for children here are limited to unhealthy and processed foods such as fried chicken tenders, pizza and hamburgers. I think that if parents offered their children healthy "adult" foods when they are infants or toddlers, they will grow up with adventurous and healthy eating habits. At least it worked out that way with my son.

                      1. re: queencru

                        in the US, we have such a big baby food and child foodindustry that it's less common for children to be introduced to "adult" foods as an infant/toddler.
                        ~~~~~
                        Marketing Demons at their worst, IMO. Let the kid try anything they want from the adult plates. I've loved lamb as long as I can remember, and this was when lamb was a lot gamier than it tends to be now.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          No kidding. Now they have these special toddler meals as well. It's not just marketing, though, it's also the post-me-generation emphasis on everyone having exactly what they want. I've heard people talk about how much trouble it is to have family dinners when everyone wants something different, so they've got to make one thing for the adults, one thing for the teen, one thing for the younger child, etc.. What ever happened to everyone sitting down and eating the same thing? At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, when I was growing up we ate what the cook put on the table.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, when I was growing up we ate what the cook put on the table.
                            ~~~~~~~~~
                            I shall join you at that curmudgeonly table, Ruth, and be proud of it. While I know kids and families are more over-scheduled now with after-school activities, perhaps that shouldn't interfere with a set dinner time.

                            But then again - I don't have kids. I don't have to have them have a "resume" showing all of their extra-curricular activities at age 10 or 12 so they can get into a top private school. (or even age 3, for that matter, to get into pre-school!) So my perspective is going to be different in that situation.

                            But one meal cooked, one meal eaten by all? Can still be done. And should be done, IMO.

                            (Edited to fix the absolutely HORRIBLE grammatical mistake in that last paragraph. LOL)

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              When I was in high school I had choir practice and dance practice after school or in the evening at least three nights a week, and I still managed to eat what my family ate. We ate a little later the nights I had choir practice and a little earlier on nights I had dance practice, but one meal was cooked (and sometimes that one meal was cooked by me).

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Guess my house missed the post-me-generation boat. Dinner around here is like paint at the Model T factory--you can have whatever kind of food you want, as long as it's what I cooked. Curmudgeonhood doesn't have to wait for old age.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                To be fair, very young toddlers have different nutritional needs than adults (this doesn't really apply to kids over the ages of 3 or 4) -- they require a lot more fat in their diets than we do. I don't buy much 'toddler' food for my kid (who is awfully skinny for her age) but if I ate the amount of fat she needs in her diet I'd blow up like a balloon. Young toddlers also aren't really responsive to communication, so there's no sense of "You eat that or you get nothing" -- a lot of parents are just thrilled when their kid eats something even vaguely healthy. My 1 year old daughter is welcome to eat anything off my plate (except sushi, and boy did she want that pretty colored maguro! And wine, of course, which she also wants desperately. And coffee.) but I fix her her own meals as well so that she'll eat more than a bite of things.

                                1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                  The Spouse has an issue with giving the offspring caffeine. I don't, but I respect his decision here. Neither of us mind letting the kid have decaf coffee, though. All the flavor, none of the buzz. So if the little ones really want coffee, go for the low octane.

                                  Btw, my mother always let me have regular coffee when I was very young. My grandmother would yell that it would stunt my growth. I'm a 5'10" female. Can you imagine how tall I'd be if I hadn't been drinking all that coffee?

                                  Gotta love bubbemeises.

                                  1. re: rockycat

                                    My mom was like yours- I think I had coffee at age 2 because it was a way to get me to drink milk. I also drank huge quantities of Pepsi, but I was apparently a very calm and well-behaved child despite having enough caffeine to sustain the average adult. I was extremely skinny as a toddler though so I needed all the extra calories and fat I could get at that point.

                                    1. re: rockycat

                                      I think I've read that decaf coffee isn't really no-caf, though, but just lower caf?

                                      1. re: Jacquilynne

                                        I checked my decaf instant this morning and it says "99.7% caffeine free".

                                      2. re: rockycat

                                        When I was a kid I was obsessed with cowboys. I wore little cowgirl outfits (complete with little boots, hat, holsters and toy guns) and had a little stick pony. When I was about 5 I said I wanted to try my parents' coffee. My Dad gave me a cup of coffee that in reality was just a little coffee with milk and sugar added. I commented that it didn't look like their coffee (they drank their coffee black) and my Dad said that he made me "cowboy coffee." He said that's the way cowboys drink their coffee and he though that's the way I would want it. I said, "of course" and loved it! Now I drink my coffee black but we still call coffee with milk and sugar cowboy coffee in my family.

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          I've read that raw fish isn't healthy for children or those with compromised immune systems.

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            That is correct... even pregnant women should stay away. Also... independent of cooking.. the popular fishes for sushi (Ahi, Toro etc.,) tend to be those high in Mercury which is the fast track for ending up with Napoleon Dynamite as your kid.

                                            The great thing about living in Hawaii is all the superior quality fish at very low prices... the bad thing is all the military bases & small industry that has polluted the waters with substantial amounts of mercury, lead & arsenic.... so you have to really watch how often you eat the tastiest of the local fishes.

                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                              This is, I know OT here - but I've not been able to find the old thread, and wanted to thank you for recommending the Nescafe Classic instant coffee - so much better than Taster's Choice, and I think of you many mornings as I make it!

                                        2. re: Amuse Bouches

                                          My daughter is always asking to taste our coffee and tea, and my main objection is the temperature, rather than the caffeine. I let her taste it when it's cooled down enough.

                                          In the "Little House" books, the girls sometimes drink what they call "cambric tea," which is milk, sugar, and a splash of tea. My niece (rising 5) gets something similar -- very milky coffee.

                                          1. re: jlafler

                                            Careful, Ruth may be creating a monster. My 11-year-old is now a daily coffee drinker. No sugar, just a splash of half-and-half. The upside is that she shares roasting duties (and even knows to kill the heat if she hears the second crack start).

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              Not me! I don't drink coffee myself, let alone give it to children -- I'm not only bitter-sensitive/averse, but I'm also almost freakishly sensitive to caffeine. Jlafler's niece is the daughter of her sister-in-law (who also happens to be named Ruth, just to make things more confusing: my poor niece has two Aunt Ruths!).

                                            2. re: jlafler

                                              Caffeine can be addictive. Just think if about it... if you are or were a coffee drinker, & you go without a cup, you get cranky, headaches etc. I also don't let the kids have cola, unless it's a special occasion. My daughter - 8, once in awhile asks for a sip of my tea or coffee, I let her taste it before I sweeten it, and she then she doesn't ask again for a long time.
                                              http://www.medicinenet.com/caffeine/p...

                                              1. re: michele cindy

                                                Everybody has to make their own decisions about what to feed the kids, but the notion that some foods are "bad" tends to be an over-reaction to media hype. For example, the claim that caffeine is addictive is not generally accepted in the scientific community. While studies have found that some people have a physical response to caffeine withdrawal, that response was "primarily found in heavy caffeine consumers who also had histories of alcohol or drug abuse, and not in moderate consumers." http://www.medicinenet.com/caffeine/p...

                                                As a daily coffee drinker since age 10, my personal experience is that I can go a day (or several) without coffee without any problem. No crankiness, no headaches, no effect whatsoever (other than the increased probability of a nap after lunch).

                                                As to the article you link, it should be noted that all of the children in the cited study drank more than 300 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of six cans of soda or three cups of coffee) every day. Some of them much more. The researcher found those kids to be jumpy and distracted. Duh.

                                                There's no dispute that caffeine causes problems when consumed in high doses, especially among kids and people with addictive personalities. But neither is there any evidence that caffeine consumed in moderation presents any health risks or causes any behavioral problems for people of any age.

                                                IMHO the key word here isn't caffeine--it's MODERATION.

                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  I agree moderation is key. I am one of those who have a very low tolerance to caffeine. I drink 1 cup of tea a day, if I miss a cup I get very jumpy and a headache. If I drink more then 1 cup I get very jumpy and a headache. I also find too much sugar for my kids makes them crazy even though dr.s will tell you otherwise. Just curious, what's your view of having caffeinated beverages in grade schools?

                                                  1. re: michele cindy

                                                    Firmly opposed, and not just because of the caffeine. Overconsumption of soft drinks causes problems in addition to the jitters, and adolescence is not exactly prime time for impulse control.

                                                    1. re: michele cindy

                                                      Honestly I find the entire array of foods you can find in schools these days horrifying. We got a snack machine and it was really exciting, and now high schools have separate machines for ice cream, candy, pepsi products, normal snack items, and who knows what else. In addition, cafeterias have moved from perhaps having pizza delivered (everyone ordered only one piece too) to having a whole snack line, selling huge cups of ice cream, etc. This is not only in high school but also in middle school.

                                                  2. re: michele cindy

                                                    Not everyone has immediate caffeine addiction issues. The Spouse has exactly the reactions you describe and has learned to regulate his caffeine intake. The only time I have ever had any noticable reaction to caffeine is when I had some supercharged mega-grande espresso/chocolate combo with something like 3 extra shots. It was enough caffeine to fuel a city bus and I was swinging from the chadeliers. Otherwise, I don't feel a thing.

                                                    I personally choose to avoid caffeine when practical (I buy caffeine-free sodas but will happily drink whatever is around if there's no choice) just because I don't see why we need it.

                                                    1. re: rockycat

                                                      They help my headaches quite a bit. I know caffeine does the opposite for others but for some reason it helps me quite a bit. I don't typically drink more than one cup of coffee per day unless I have a really bad headache, and I don't drink any other caffeinated beverages. Coffee sometimes keeps me awake, but it's usually more the liquid issue just like I'd have with drinking water.

                                                      1. re: rockycat

                                                        OMG - I would not sleep for days if I drank something like that! I just think that kids do not need caffeine, it's a drug, and it effects me like one, and I use it like one (when needed). When they are older they can decide for themselves. An occaisional cola at a party is fine, but an everyday beverage is out of the question. Mine are little, so I hope when they become teens, they'll understand. But then again, depriving them may want them want it more! Any advice on that topic???

                                                        1. re: michele cindy

                                                          My childhood caffeine intake was astronomical, yet as a teen and a young adult, I pretty much drank no caffeine whatsoever. It just didn't hold any appeal or mystique for me. I also ate quite a bit of candy as a kid and now I have it from time to time, but generally do not buy candy for myself anymore. There was no idea in my house that anything was particularly forbidden. My grandfather thought if I refused to drink milk at age 8, why not drink some wine instead? I had no interest.

                                                          1. re: michele cindy

                                                            I wouldn't sleep for days, either. Sometimes I drink a cup of strong tea in the morning, and I can feel it all day. If I drink tea in the morning a few days in a row I start having trouble sleeping. I have to be careful about drinking tea in the afternoon -- a couple of times I've drunk too much and been up until three in the morning.

                                                            1. re: michele cindy

                                                              The only time my son had coke or pepsi was when someone else gave it to him. If his aunt brought a six pack to a picnic and all the cousins were drinking them, I wouldn't make an issue about it -- though afterward I might say, "Couldn't they have brought Juice Squeeze or at least root beer?" Now, as a teen, he never has it. At least as far as I know! He also doesn't drink coffee yet. Back in kindergarten his music teacher taught him a song that started, "C-O-F-F-E-E is not for ME." He used to sing it to me in a morning and tell me I was addicted to a drug. Thanks, music teacher....

                                                              1. re: michele cindy

                                                                While it's true that caffeine and alcohol are drugs, coffee and wine are food. Of course a wise person will limit or eliminate the intake of any food that has ingredients that the person does not tolerate well. But if coffee and wine were just delivery devices for caffeine and alcohol, I'd be drinking Nescafe and cheap vodka, not home-roasted Ethiopian Koratie and old-vine Zinfandels.

                                                                As far as kids and food, mine are now 11 and 14, and my approach has been to monitor the intake of everything except fresh fruits and vegetables, but not to prohibit anything. Rather, I emphasize moderation and try never to demonize a food or make a big deal about it when telling them they can't have something. Once they were old enough to carry on a conversation, I started talking to them about all different kinds of food and trying to get them to think about what they're putting in their bodies, and they figured it out pretty quick.

                                                                For example, I had them look on the back of a soda can to see how many grams of sugar it contained, then scoop that amount of table sugar onto a scale using a teaspoon. They were surprised and a little disgusted, and now are self-limiting when it comes to soft drink intake. Another time I cut up a McDonald's hamburger patty and a home-cooked patty and had them taste them side-by-side. Now neither of them will willingly eat at McDonald's.

                                                                Every kid is different, so you have to play it by ear with your own. But it's my experience that if you teach them to respect their food and themselves, they tend to make pretty good decisions.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                  AB that's good advice. I like your visual uses and taste demo's. The other night I made quesidilla's, I purposely left out the roasted peppers since in the past they never cared for them. I told them, take a bite of the quesidilla, now try it with this pepper added to it. It worked, and they saw how much better they tasted. I'm proud of my youngest, the other day she told me she wants to be able to eat hot, spicy food just like me one day. I told her, just eat a little bit and gradually add more heat little by little, and one day you will.

                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                    That sounds like a good approach. We're doing something similar, though since our daughter is still little, we keep it simple. So we say things like "we don't eat ice cream for breakfast, but you can have some later if you want."

                                                                    Our biggest problem is that when we give her a small portion of something she wants, she'll demand more before she's even tasted what she has. "Eat what you have, and then we'll give you more" doesn't satisfy her. We are firm, though, because we know that if we give her more she probably won't finish it. Clearly it's about control, not hunger.

                                                2. I dunno, my daughters ate all those things from a pretty early age. (Okay, no wild nettles; they aren't in my culinary repertoire.) Rabbit, polenta, risotto--those are pretty bland and universally enjoyable. Sure, Gerber doesn't offer Thumper in a jar, but that has more to do with cost and marketing than with palatability for the toothless set.

                                                  Parmesan, olives and capers are more intensely flavored, but if they're introduced and enjoyed as part of a dish or with other foods I can see a kid taking to them. By the time my youngest was 5 she was taking a chunk of Parmiggiano Reggiano to school for a snack. Same with wine; so long as it's just a drop or two, or is diluted with water, kids will happily drink a little.

                                                  1. My kiddo (1 year old) loves olives (and anything salty, really). She doesn't eat much, but bland food isn't really her cup of tea. She went nuts for the tandoori chicken I made last week. And she's ALWAYS going for the wine (which we do not let her have).