My grandson, the somewhat grandly named Declan Ulysses Grimes, visited us for the holidays. Declan is just starting to eat solid foods.
One day, we'd made pea soup using a bone left over from a magnificent country ham. It made a beautifully silky, salty broth. When Declan tried a small bit of the soup – perhaps his first taste of any kind of meat – his head snapped back and he jerked around a little, squiggling in what may have been slight discomfort. He didn't seem to be unpleasantly surprised, and he didn't make what could be called an unhappy face. The soup was not hot, so perhaps he was reacting, with his whole body, to the fatty meat taste or the salt or the slightly chalky texture of the peas. Hard to say. He had maybe two spoons of the stuff. That was enough. No crying, no whining, just done.
The next day as I was walking on the second floor, I heard happy squeals arising from the kitchen below. Declan's dad, Ben, was feeding him sweet potatoes and Declan was emitting little bursts of delighted approbation. He really likes sweet potatoes. With every spoonful of the orange spud that Ben lifted from Declan's tiny bowl, the baby let out a laughing gasp as though to say, "What, there's more of this delicious stuff?! Bring it forth: I must have it!"
I have never seen anyone enjoy a spoonful of anything as much as Declan enjoyed those potatoes.
We eat out a lot, sometimes five nights a week. We enjoy an unbelievable quantity of great grub. For that, we are inexpressibly thankful. Problem is, when you eat a lot of good stuff, it's sometimes hard to appreciate all of it. You get jaded. You don't want to be that way, but it happens.
So one of my resolutions for 2014 is to take the time to fully absorb each bite, to try to avoid over-thinking, to try put aside comparisons with other foods, or the culinary tradition that might have created the dish in front of me and to just, you know, live in each bite.
It's impossible to recover innocence, but it might be good to try to recapture what it's like to eat more like a baby, slowly, thoughtfully, and when circumstances permit, with joy. To get in the mood and the moment, I'm considering a bib.
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