On my post with the pro-breastfeeding video, Zoe commented that she’d “never seen anyone turn a hair” at the sight of a breastfeeding woman in the city of Norwich where she lives. (Or the city closest to where she lives? Where do you live, Zoe?)
I was struck by that, because you know that? I haven’t, either. Well, not when I was nursing my own children. This is even more striking, perhaps, when you understand that my eldest is 28. She was breastfed till she was over a year old. In all that time, as a stay-at-home mother, I took her wherever I went and nursed her when she needed. Restaurants, libraries, bus stops, church (and no, I didn’t necessarily go down to the nursery, which was often too full of distractions and noise), coffee shops, malls… Everywhere. I never once took her to a public toilet to nurse, either. Ick. My two younger children are almost-25 and 20. They, too, were nursed till they were a little over a year old. They, too, went everywhere with me, feeding as required.
And in all that time, I never had one negative remark. I did have a few positive ones.
– From a very elderly woman in the church I was attending at the time, when I slipped into a pew at the back of the sanctuary to nurse, a lovely frail lady who tottered back to keep me company. “It’s so nice to see young mothers feeding their own babies again! I always thought it was such a shame when those ridiculous doctors convinced all those poor women that those concoctions in bottles were better than what God had given us to feed our babies.” If she was 80-something then, and had fed her babies when she was in her twenties, she was talking about the 1920′s. History, right there in the pew beside me!
– From the woman in the seat beside me on a trans-Atlantic flight. My eldest was 9 months old, and I was nursing her during the ascent to assist with the popping of her teeny eardrums. “Oh, such a smart idea. She’ll be so much happier.” (Turns out she was a pediatric nurse at Sick Kids in Toronto, and her lovely husband an Anglican priest.)
For the most part, people ignored me when I fed my babies. Granted, that could have been the averted eyes of the squeamish … but I never got that impression. For the most part, I assumed people were just respecting my privacy.
Oh, wait! I’m wrong. I did have one negative response. When my son, Adam, my middle child, was five days old, we were visited in our home by good friends. When Adam cried, I made ready to nurse him. The husband of the couple made an exclamation of dismay. “You’re not going to do that here?!?”, he wailed.
I raised one eyebrow (I can do that) and nailed him with a steely glare. My tone was measured, but ironclad stern. “Byron. This is my home, and my baby is hungry. Yes, I’m going to ‘do that’ here. If you don’t like it, you can go out in the kitchen.”
Meantime, his wife, appalled, rolled her eyes at me as she smacked him in the arm. “BY-ron!!!” He glanced at my then-husband for male support, and found none. He was a great guy, Byron, and knew when to admit defeat. He grinned, heaved a giant mock-sigh. “Oh, all right. I guess I’m outnumbered.”
I fed my baby. Byron did not run cowering to the kitchen, and discovered being in the room with a breastfeeding baby wasn’t as horrific as he’d feared. (Three or so years later, when Byron’s first child was born, he was the strongest supporter of breastfeeding his wife could have asked for. I take some credit in turning that around.)
Now, recall that all this was far closer to 30 years ago than 20. Three decades ago, pretty much, I nursed children in several cities in Ontario, with no backlash, no resistance, no negative comments whatsoever. Thirty years ago! Why, I wondered, this sudden flurry of defiantly pro-breastfeeding articles I’m seeing? As if women expect, as if they’ve actually been receiving, flack, push-back, disgust? I’m baffled.
The Canadian in me wants to suggests that it’s because breastfeeding is only just now being truly popularized in the (prudish) US, and so all these articles, posters, tweets and comments reflect American battles, battles largely won in Canada two and three decades ago. It could be that. Except that the video I posted was from Australia, of course. Hm. Is Australia equally prudish? I wouldn’t have thought so, but who knows?
Or was it that my experience wasn’t representative? I lived in urban Canada, in Ontario. Would I have experienced more revulsion had I been in rural Ontario? (Though that sweet little old pro-breastfeeding church lady? She was in Buffalo, New York, where I was living when my eldest was born.)
Or is it that there are pockets of prudery here and there, that people in those pockets post something on the internet, and the rest of us all read/watch what they’ve posted and come to believe it’s a bigger problem than it is? Because that happens. We know it does.
So, wanting to get to the bottom of it, I have a couple of questions. The first is for you currently (or recently) breastfeeding women.
1. How do most people respond to you? Positively? Negatively? Neutrally? (Not the outliers, now. The majority. I don’t want to hear about that one stinker every so often, and make him/her sound like they’re the norm. I’m interested in your everyday experience.) Though I admit I’m curious to know how frequently you encounter those stinkers, if you do.
2. How do you, breastfeeding or not, account for the sudden upsurge in defiant women demanding their right to … do something I thought was a non-issue 28 years ago?
I’m baffled. And curious.
1 small onion, grated
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon allspice
500g ground beef
6 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
Whisk together onion, egg, bread crumbs, mustard and allspice. Mix in beef. (It’s best to use your hands when you add the beef.)
Form the beef mixture into 1-Tablespoon balls. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes. (Makes about 30 meatballs.)
Meantime, in a pot big enough for the amount of pasta you’ll need, heat water to boiling.
While meatballs cook and water comes to a boil, cook mushrooms, thyme and pepper over med-high heat until just brown, about 10 minutes.
By now your water should be boiling. Drop in the noodles. Give them a quick stir, turn the heat to medium-high then return to the mushrooms.
Sprinkle mushrooms with flour. Stir till absorbed. Add broth and sour cream, and stir a minute. Add cooked meatballs. Cook till sauce thickens a bit, about two minutes.
Serve over hot egg noodles.
First Course: salad
Main Course: Swedish meatballs on egg noodles
First Course: carrot-peanut salad
Main Course: lentil-rice patties
First Course: raw veggies and dip
Main Course: Southwest bean salad
First Course: pesto on naan
Main Course: tofu in peanut sauce
First Course: salad
Main Course: peanut-butter sandwiches
It’s a long weekend here in Canada, so no Monday menu on Menu Monday!
First Course: gazpacho
Main Course: spinach pie
First Course: cauliflower and cheese sauce
Main Course: stuffed peppers
Main Course: enchilada bake
First Course: couscous salad
Main Course: lentil curry
I have written on many occasions of the thrill of teaching children to enjoy new foods. Repeated exposures is the key! The adult gets to choose what, where, and when, the child gets to choose how much and even whether to eat! Be cheerful, be upbeat, be casual!
Repeated exposure is the key! I love the way “French Kids Eat Everything” describes the reaction of French parents to a child’s declaration, “I don’t like this!” They don’t, apparently, get worried. They don’t try to force the kid to eat it. They certainly don’t offer alternatives. No, they are quite nonchalant about it. This reaction is normal. It is only to be expected.
“Well, no,” they will say, matter-of-fact. “Of course not. You haven’t tried it enough yet.”
Because, you see, in the French world view, it is a given that it takes a few attempts before you begin to enjoy a new food. That’s just normal. But in time, you will. No biggie. Everyone does.
This is a large part of my approach to feeding the children. I feed them what I feed them. I do not worry about “kid-friendly” food, which is so often so nutritionally void, or even outright unhealthy. (It is ironic to note that so-called “kid-friendly” food is about the un-kid-friendliest edible substance out there.) I feed them interesting, varied food, heavy on the vegetables, moderate on carbs, light on meat. And yes, they eat it, without tantrums (them or me), because I just keep putting it out there. Over and over again. Expecting initial resistance, but also confident that, with repeated exposures, they will first observe, then taste, and eventually learn to enjoy the food.
I do this with the children every single working day. Food education — by example and experience, not by words — is part of my job description. I don’t know why it took me so long to have the thought, but about six weeks ago, I thought to myself, “If it works for the kids, I’m betting it’ll work for adults.”
Further consideration pointed out we adults do it, too, only we call it “developing a taste” for something. And then there’s that whole “acquired taste” idea. What else is that, if not learning to like something through repeated exposures?
That’s when I decided that it was time for me to put my money where my mouth was — or, perhaps, my mouth where my principles were — and learn to like something. Try it on. See if it really works. I mean, I know it does. I can cite things the kids didn’t like initially, but loooove now. But for myself? What would it be like to start with something I genuinely didn’t like, make myself eat it time and again, and see if I could find myself actually enjoying it? (Research suggests that 7 – 15 tastes is sufficient to accomplish this. Really! That’s all! I wouldn’t be forcing food down my revolted throat for months on end.)
The problem is, what don’t I like? Not many things, really. My mother did a great job of teaching me to embrace new foods, but despite her very best efforts, I have a few genuine dislikes. Liver and lima beans I’ve mentioned before, I’m sure. Not a huge fan of shrimp, though that’s absolutely a texture thing, not a taste. Blue cheese.
Hmmm. Now, I love cheese of all descriptions. Mild, strong, hard, soft, flavoured, herbed, garlic-ed, rolled in nuts. Mmmmmm, cheese. Except blue. Have never liked it. At all. At a restaurant, I once inadvertently ordered a poached pear dessert with a Stilton cheese dressing, because pears! walnuts! cheese! I would LOVE it, right? Yes, well. Too bad that Stilton is a blue cheese. Who knew?? I actually gagged when I tasted it.
So. Blue cheese? Bleah.
The perfect project!
Off I go to our local produce-and-cheese specialty shop. They have a hundred different kinds of cheese, I’m sure. All manner of them. I approached the fellow behind the counter, told him of my project, had him suggest a couple of mild blues. “Here. Try this one. It’s not a true blue cheese, more just a brie with veining.” Okay. I love brie! That was my first attempt. Veining. I can manage a little veining, right? (And, please note, I’d decided I wasn’t going to mask it in any way. Smearing it on crackers and eating it is about as unadulterated as it gets, short of licking it off my fingers.)
I let the kids in on The Great Blue Cheese Project, of course. I pointed out how, in recent memory, Jazz had learned to like kiwi, and was currently learning to like carrots. Josh had learned to like beets. Rosie had learned to like beets, too, and is currently tackling zucchini. Poppy has just learned that while she doesn’t like cooked asparagus (yet), she does like it raw.
So. Lots of food-learning happened and happening in this house, every day. And now MARY was going to learn to like something! THIS was the cause of much fascination. And hilarity, as Mary made much of that first bite of blue cheese with her avid audience.
I sniffed it. And pulled a DISGUSTED face.
“I don’t want to eat this! I don’t like this!”
“You can’t learn to like it if you don’t try it!” Grace is a word-perfect imitation of me. (Grace, who, it turns out, actively likes blue cheese, and politely pines for the small piece I had purchased for myself. Oops. I should’ve bought enough to share.)
“Do I have to??” They’re LOVING the role reversal here. Loving it. They gather around to encourage.
“Yes, and then you will get to like it, and it will be one more good thing to eat for you!” Jazz hasn’t got the words quite down pat, but she obviously gets the gist.
“Oh, okaaaaaay,”, and with great reluctance, I take a teeny, tentative bite. The kids wait, mouths open, eyes wide with delight. My revolted face causes them to scream with laughter. I play to my small gallery.
“BLEAH! I don’t like it! Blue cheese is YUKKY!”
“But you tasted it! Good for you!” Grace pats my back, her small hand offering comfort.
“It was hard, but YOU DID IT!” Jazz has heard that one often enough.
“Yay, you are tasting it, and soon it will be yum-yum-YUMMY for you!” Poppy, my eager little cheerleader claps, then throws her hands in the air.
Boy, these kids are good. They have heard and absorbed all my messages. This is GREAT!!
The blue cheese … is not so great. I don’t like that musty scent up the back of my mouth and into my nose. I tamp down visions of mold spores percolating into my brain. My revulsion may be exaggerated, but I am not enjoying it.
But the project continues. Over the next few weeks, I went back to the cheese store several times, each time going for a stronger cheese. I have blue cheese once a day or so. And you know what?
It got easier every time. Really and truly. Even as the cheese got stronger. It went from gross to neutral to pleasant. And then there was the day I’d bought some blue and some asiago (I love asiago, and this was a new, softer version) had both on lovely crisp rice crackers … and liked the blue better!
Good heavens. It actually works! You know, I had done this with kids, I believed it works … but experiencing it myself was another whole world of conviction. I’m an adult. My tastes are more established. I am likely, much as I hate to admit it, to be ‘set in my ways’, at least a bit. And here I am, a whole new realm of taste opening up to me.
How’s about that?! This is so cool!
My next step? I’m going to go back to that restaurant, and order that poached pear dish! And you know what? I’m betting I will love it.
Meantime, the kids have been observing every step of the way. Laughing at my theatrics, and being drawn along the process, this time as observers. It’s been a learning experience for everyone.