During the two short weeks we were in Europe, Anneka took a giant leap forward in eating. She was already trying real, solid, adult-style food – usually with us feeding it to her via spoon. But after our trip, she had increased her skills in feeding herself.
Of course, she wasn’t using a utensil just yet. Just her hands. Still, her accuracy improved almost daily. By the end of the trip, she rarely missed her mouth. The progress was pretty impressive!
We had plenty of the baby pouches because we just didn’t know what to expect. Would travel disrupt Anneka enough to drive her to nursing? Would unfamiliar foods not cooked at home throw her off? Would she eat from the baby pouches exclusively?
No, no and no.
Anneka expanded her palette with some serious enthusiasm. Happy squawks and applause were common at mealtime. Her reactions may even alter how and what we cook at home. Here’s the breakdown on fun new foods she tried.
My cousin had a big German lunch ready to go for us, which was a nice surprise (interesting fact: Apparently, Germans eat their biggest hot meal in mid-day, with their dinner consisting mostly of cold cuts, cheese, bread and pickles). Part of that meal was homemade spaetzle, an egg noodle I remember well from growing up; my cousin’s homemade version, though, was far better than any I’d ever had before. Anneka absolutely loved them. I have a feeling that the texture and size helped her handle them more easily than, for example, a spaghetti noodle.
On our last night in Germany, we also went to a pan-Asian restaurant. We gave Anneka a nibble of unagi – her face, as one friend put it after watching the video I took, went from “what in the world did you just feed me?” to “what do I have to do to get more?” in less than three seconds. She even did an appreciative interpretive dance with her hands; she also usually claps at mealtime, often when she’s starting to get full but has enjoyed her meal (which is pretty much all the time).
Our hotels also had those wonderful huge breakfasts similar to what we had in Scandinavian and Nordic countries – all sorts of yogurt, bread, cold cuts, cheese and fresh fruit. Anneka didn’t mind any of that!
One of the highlights of our trip was spending a few days with David, my good friend from high school. Bonus: His mom and dad were visiting from France. And his mom always, always, always cooks something fun – it was at her house that I experienced couscous for the first time.
This time, she introduced Anneka to the wonders of ham. She is now an enthusiastic fan. And she was just always eager and willing to whip up something especially baby friendly, even mixing ingredients in a blender to make them easier to chew.
Oh, and Sarah and I also got treated to a first for us: Brik, a Tunisian dish involving a crispy shell, egg and tuna, among other ingredients. It was delicious, fun and nearly impossible to eat in a dignified fashion.
Holy cow, Belgium turned Anneka into a foodie. I expected that frites would go over well, and they did.
I never expected, though, to see the little girl to grab piece after piece of mussels and stuff them in her mouth. It was a good thing she was willing to help because Belgian serve mussels in enormous quantities.
We found an Ethiopian restaurant in Brussels, and it was absolutely delicious. Though Ethiopian is probably a bit too spicy for Anneka, I figured we could at least let her sample injera, the pancake-like bread that also serves as the cuisine’s utensils. I was bummed that she fell asleep before the food arrived (but not before she’d charmed people at all the adjacent tables).
Overall, I’d say we’re well on our way to avoiding the picky eater trap. Whew.