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Food. Without it, we would be unable to think about 99 percent of the things that usually bother us.
Call it a design flaw, but we humans need to eat every few hours or we melt down.
In the old days, life was simple: you grew what you needed to eat, or you died. These days, we have Trader Joe’s, a blessing and a curse wrapped into one. Thus far, Lev has been spared the relentlessly cheerful and surprisingly affordable Trader Joe’s experience, as his diet has consisted of the primordial equivalent of sticking your head under a soda fountain and opening your Dr. Pepper Hole. He just suckles at the teet when hungry and we don’t cook or buy any food for him. Breast milk and organic GMO-free formula have been his only source of nutrients for the first 6 months.
But there comes a time in every young man’s life when he has to learn to spoon. We don’t like it, but we do it because, in some way, our lives depend on it.
That fateful day arrived recently.
I had a video camera, Michelle had a raincoat on, and we were ready.
Michelle and I had gone through all the arguments about whether babies should eat rice cereal (which is full of arsenic so … no) or whether they can get any nutrition from oatmeal (no, since they lack amylase, the enzyme to break down carbohydrates) and whether it’s alright to serve infants red wine (not unless you live in France). After many discussions I convinced Michelle it was okay for Lev to eat some food — not for nutritional reasons but simply so he could learn the mechanics of using his tiny tongue to slurp food off a spoon, moving gruel to the back of his esophagus and swallowing it — a fairly complex series of moves we call eating and generally take for granted.
We found PBA-free spoons from Sweden and purchased organic, gluten-free, whole-grain cereal at triple the price of normal baby food, and strapped Lev into a baby chair. I had a video camera, Michelle had a raincoat on, and we were ready.
We surrounded the unsuspecting child, our eyes heavy with anticipation and perhaps a waiting tear, in the event that our innocent lamb actually crossed the gastronomical Rubicon from breast milk to whatever the awful road it is that leads to Arby’s.
We used a wooden bowl, in case, in a tantrum of swatting, he smashed some porcelain. Instead, like a deer blinking in headlights, he opened his tiny mouth— a gap perhaps 3 centimeters across, and lapped at his first taste of semi-solid food — oatmeal, a strange new substance, like a drunken kitten, his minuscule tongue darting in desperate little flickers.
So overcome with pride and joy were we that we instantly violated all common sense and laws of parenting and tried to pour the entire bowl into his unsuspecting mouth, as if suddenly he were ready to do keg handstands.
Lev calmly choked and then kept eating.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.