Trier, Germany is notable for its well-preserved Roman ruins. Indeed, some of the buildings I would not even call ruins and are still very intact. I remember the impressive architecture, but I also remember Trier as the place my daughter got her first taste of “real” food. No, watery rice cereal doesn’t count as “real” food. She stomached the rice cereal once or twice but I couldn’t bring myself to make her acquire the taste, so we moved right on to “real” food, which at six months she was more than ready for.
Pausing for dinner at an restaurant surrounded by the medieval city center, it was the season for Spargel Creme Suppe (white asparagus cream soup – a true German tradition). When the steaming bowl arrived at our table and we started slurping it up, my daughter was visibly interested. Many parents can relate to their baby’s intense desire to try big people food. Why not give her a taste? I didn’t pull out my checklist. Let’s see, at what age do I introduce asparagus? Is that before or after carrots? What about the cream in the soup? Is my child going to develop lactose intolerance because she is tasting cream? Can her stomach handle this after only eating a little rice cereal? Will she develop allergies? Will those lead to greater health problems and impact her mental development? Will she be able to do well in school and get good grades? Will she be able to go to college and get a good job?. . .
Actually, none of those too-much-reading-and-not-going-with-your-natural-parent-instinct questions crossed my mind. Let the girl try some soup, for crying out loud! It was the perfect texture and she loved it. No, we didn’t let her have the whole bowl, just several tastes, in spite of her protests against moderation. And there was no turning back after that. At home or at restaurants, if it was on my plate, she got at least one bite. Most items I would toss into the small, manual baby grinder we traveled with. This practice made traveling and “what do we feed baby when we travel?” a non-issue. Garlic grilled salmon, spinach curry, bbq chicken – you name it. We threw it in the grinder and baby devoured it. If it didn’t come from our plate and she saw me get it from a separate container that smacked of “baby food,” she didn’t want it. To this day neither of our girls like items on the kids menu. Seriously, who would take mushy, overcooked boiled broccoli over sautéed and seasoned broccolini? Not me! And now, neither will my kids.
I did my fair share of reading up on baby before she was born and even purchased “Best Food for your Baby & Toddler” by Jeanneatte Bessinger when my second was born. There’s enough information online and in published material to scare you into never making your own baby food, thinking it’s too complicated to do it “right,” and to decide to only buy organic baby food from a glass jar when it comes time to feed baby solids. And who would introduce anything other than rice cereal for baby’s first food? That’s what everyone says you should do – unless you read the fine print. “While there is no actual research proving that one food is better to start with than another, there are a few foods that most babies traditionally do quite well with” (Bessinger, 93). Ha! No research. Tradition. “Most” babies. What follows is three pages of information on allergies, hypersensitivity, deadly allergies and foods to avoid. That’s scary stuff – enough to make any parent throw out common sense and read the following two hundred pages to make sure they do everything “by the book.” Of course, you have to make sure you’ve picked the “right” book.
What about the other thousand websites and books that present other views? One website says the “forbidden baby food” list is too expansive. It quotes a study that states “there is no convincing scientific evidence that avoidance or delayed introduction of potentially allergenic foods, such as fish and eggs, reduces allergies, either in infants considered at increased risk for the development of allergy or in those not considered to be at increased risk.” Did you know in Israel it is common to feed infants peanut products? Did you know in Germany it is common to feed eggs to infants? In fact, in January the “rules” in America were changed and now parents are encouraged to introduce all those allergens (peanuts, eggs, milk, etc) before 12-months (see related articles after the photos). My point? We can read and read and fret and read and ask other moms and read more and talk to different pediatricians with different opinions then read some more and then just be paralyzed and resign ourselves to spending inordinate amounts of money on prepared organic baby food from a glass jar. Or, you can read, ask for some opinions and do what you think is best for your child and your family. Just don’t let fear guide your parenting. That takes out all the fun. Like the fun we had, sitting in a medieval square, giving tastes of asparagus cream soup to our 7-month-old and watching her squeal with delight.
Asparagus season, known in Germany as spargelzeit, begins in April and lasts about two months. One of the best asparagus festivals (there is a festival for everything!) takes place in Schwetzingen, Baden-Wurrtemburg, at some point during the first week of May. It is complete with music, parades, the crowning of the asparagus king and queen and, of course, lots of asparagus of the white variety, which Germans prefer. For all you want to know about Germany’s asparagus tradition, and more, check out this website from a Taste of Europe.
I recommend Trier to anyone traveling the western regions of Germany near the Luxembourg border. The Roman ruins at this UNESCO World Heritage Site are some of the most well-preserved in Europe. Plenty of cultural events take place year round, including the medieval market, which takes place this weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Stop by if you’re in the area!
These photos were taken in the fall, not during our spargelzeit visit to Trier. Enjoy!