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Baby Food 101: Baingan Bharta

Baby Food 101: Baingan Bharta

February 16, 2010

‘Growing up without meat stunts growth’ say some of my family. Well, my vegetarian 7-month-old is heavier than some 1-year-olds...

For me, vegetarianism is easy. Not only do I like vegetables, I like meat-free food. Even before my journey into vegetable love, I regularly skipped meat, eating out and at home. Vegetable love doesn’t come as easily to my husband, but he sticks to his principles all the same. Yet Joe and I had the luxury of deciding to go veg ourselves--Mir does not.

It’s not that I intend to force my beliefs on Baby--I’m a strong believer in informed choice. But with vegetarian parents, it’s unlikely he’ll run into meat-centric meals anytime soon. Most babies are vegetarians for the first six months of life--those with lactose and other milk intolerance could be considered vegan. Solid foods enter the scene at between four and six months, starting with grains, fruits and vegetables. Pumpkin, sweet potato, avocado, and apple become the order of the day. Lentils and beans follow. Then, around eight months, stewed pureed meats become an option. As appetizing as pureed beef flank sounds, Baby will be giving it a miss.

Of course, it’s common knowledge that growing up without meat stunts growth--according to some of our family, anyway. Phone calls are filled with tales of iron deficiency and lectures on the perils of a meat-free diet. “Give him some steak,” suggests one uncle. “That’ll build him up good.” Build him up? At 7 months, my child is heavier than some 1 year olds, and at least as tall besides. If he gets any more built up, I won’t be able to carry him down the stairs.

Much as I hate to admit it, our families are right--to some extent. Baby may not have the chompers for steak, but he will need protein. And much as I love a good tempeh stir fry or a tofu hotpot, they’re not exactly baby-friendly. When I asked our pediatrician about protein and vegetarian baby foods, she looked at me askance. “You’re Indian aren’t you? There are millions of vegetarian Indian children and they’re doing just fine.” Colour me embarrassed. I mumbled something about having an omnivorous Scottish mother then hustled us out of there.

Once home, I pulled out my trusty Charmaine Solomon book. The doctor was right--page after page detailed baby-friendly recipes overflowing with protein. Baingan bharta (my personal favorite), mushroom saag, curried chickpeas, good old yellow dal were bursting with nutrition. But would they be too spicy? And would Baby really care for eggplant and chickpeas?

A few days later, I settled Mir in his booster seat and fired up the grill. We sang songs (Panch Chota Bandariya, my pigeon Hindi version of Five Little Monkeys, is a favourite); I cooked. Half an hour later, I gave Baby his first real taste of Indian food--a lightly spiced version of baigan bharta, sans yoghurt. Ever-hungry, he grabbed at the spoon, jamming it first into his chin, then into his mouth. Seconds passed; faces were pulled; the spoon was banged; food was swallowed. Trembling, I scooped up some more, waiting for a tantrum, expecting a torrent of spit up. Bang, bang, bang. Baby thumped his hands on the table, universal infant speak for “more”.


  • Murenajap
    28.12.14 05:28 AM
    The stuffed mushrooms - the general principles and ways of preparation
    The stuffed mushrooms are extremely appetizing and elegant dish which will decorate a table on any holiday. Though it can quite be present at the daily menu especially as cooking doesn't demand a lot of time and forces. Only champignons in connection with feature of a structure of a hat are suitable for a farshirovka. It is better to take large mushrooms as to fill them with a stuffing much more simply.

    stuffed mushrooms preheat oven

    The stuffed mushrooms - preparation of products
    For preparation of their stuffed mushrooms it is necessary to wash out carefully cold flowing water, to clear and cut off legs. The part of recipes provides use of mushroom legs in a stuffing and if they aren't a part for a farshirovka, they can be fried with onions and a tax to meat or potatoes.

    www stuffed mushrooms
  • Nitin
    07.10.11 05:38 AM
    thats really good to know and a rare feat I must say. Macroscopically speaking, I tend to believe that there's only very small area left even in India now where majority of people are vegetarian. But as you mentioned, many people move to meat on health grounds, many others never try it in their life times...
  • Peta Jinnath Andersen
    Peta Jinnath Andersen
    31.03.10 07:35 AM
    Becoming vegetarian was easy for me, because I didn't like meat. But my husband had a hard time with it - I think the only thing that's kept him with it is knowing he's not harming animals. We're from a place with very, very good seafood, too, so he's not sure he'll be able to keep it up when he's home.
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    23.02.10 02:19 PM
    Love your writing, Peta - great stuff.

    I now avoid red meat and chicken apart from when I'm a guest in somebody's home and it's served to me, but it's so hard to give up fish when I'm living in a seaside paradise.

    Apart from no longer finding meat particularly tasty, I don't like the energy exchange involved - vegetarian food just seems so much more peaceful.
  • Nikhil
    19.02.10 07:55 PM
    No, in fact I come from a family of carnivores as well. :-) Its tough, but after a few years, you don't really care much...although I do crave for Chicken once in a while I must admit! :-)
  • Peta Jinnath Andersen
    Peta Jinnath Andersen
    19.02.10 07:52 AM
    Thanks for the thoughts, Nikhil!

    I'm a vegetarian more for principle than health--like you, I consider eating meat cruel. Mir is definitely doing well on a vegetarian diet. He's noshing on avocado, sweet potato with paprika and fenugreek, bananas, whatever he can get his sticky little fingers on. As the only vegetarians in the family, though, I'm already wondering how I'll explain that we don't eat meat when we're at a family gathering full of it.

    Is everyone in your family a vegetarian?
  • Nikhil
    17.02.10 05:55 PM

    There are many uninformed presumptions people have about meat. A large part of India survives without it, compensating protines with other sources like Soya, farm grown eggs etc. Besides being unhealthy (except certain parts of white meat or fish), at least in the modern context it is also cruel. No longer does our beaf come from cows which roamed the medows or chickens that quacked their way around coops.These are industrialized animals, bred to be killed, stuffed into cages, crammed together in the most inhumane manner. Most of them are disabled in some form or the other by the time they are ready to be slaughtered. Do watch the latest documentary to be nominated for the Oscars - Food.Inc and you will probably think twice before feeding your baby meat.

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