My friend s. has been sampling the banana, apple, pea, carrot, sweet potato, and avocado purees she's been preparing for her 6-month-old son. "Making purees is fun! Why don't adults ever eat them?" she wonders, pronouncing the carrot puree "surprisingly good."
Mashed potatoes, hummus, guacamole, applesauce--sounds like a balanced diet to me.
Actually, aren't vegetable purees The Thing at certain fancy restaurants these days? Or is that over now? (It's a measure of how little I get out nowadays that I'm not sure of the answer to either of those questions.)
Well, be they trendy or no, I've tasted a puree or two myself recently--I don't want to force or coax or cajole Monkey into eating, but I can't bear to waste baby food. The last thing I ever wanted to be is a garbage-disposal parent, but I see those little dollops of leftover carrot or sweet potato or applesauce and realize that this pretty much represents the sum total of my kitchen labors for the week, and I think, I am NOT dumping that down the drain. So into my own mouth goes the tiny, rubber-coated spoon.
And I'm struck by how rarely we adults experience the pure, unadulterated taste of a single thing. Even those simple recipes that are supposed to celebrate high-quality, farmer's-market-fresh ingredients by doing as little as possible to them usually include a little salt, fat, and/or sugar--all verboten ingredients when you're making baby food.
The purees I'm feeding Monkey, on the other hand, contain just a single vegetable or fruit and a little bit of its cooking liquid (I'm oven-steaming, about which method I would provide more specifics if it weren't an absolutely seat-of-the-pants operation). It's amazing how much nuanced flavor these absolutely unadorned foods have.
(And this, without even using the best possible ingredients. Yes, yes, everything is organic--you don't have to confiscate my Mama Merit Badge after all--but bought from the supermarket; the carrots came out of a bag--a plastic bag, people!--and the apples had been hanging around in the fridge for weeks.)
I think I can taste not only what I am eating but also--unless my jaded palate is playing tricks on me, and projecting my memory of what's not there--hints of the ingredients that are often paired with those foods. That is, I'm getting a glimpse of why those flavors go so well together.
Carrots have a bright, almost citrusy sweetness, and an undertone of earth.
Sweet potatoes are more caramel and brown sugar, with a buttery smoothness that fills my mouth.
Apples are surprisingly tart--Braeburns are, at least--but a floral taste lingers behind.
I'm not ready to give up butter and salt, dressings and sauces, altogether, but I'm glad to have had a taste--a real, though small, taste--of these things.
And for those adults inspired to eat more purees themselves, a few grownup ideas:
Delicata squash and celery root (The Wednesday Chef)
White beans (Orangette)
832 more possibilities (Epicurious)