April 12, 2015

Sweet Potato Stars with Cinnamon Butter

It's a handkerchief-dabbing kind of week for me. My daughter, Nova, turned six months old on Easter, and she's about to try solid food.

Back in September of 2011, I fastidiously planned Darwin's first meal. He was to receive a schmear of baked organic sweet potato on a plate that he could experiment with/potentially consume at the same time that I ate baked sweet potato off my own plate (along with roasted chicken and a spinach salad) while his Dad video-taped the event.

I remember that meal well; anyway, I can watch the footage whenever I want. On camera, baby Darwin gums the plate, smashes the orange dollop with his hands, and ultimately drools on about a quarter teaspoon of his food. The end.

It's not a lot to see, and in fact, he didn't really take to solid food for another three months. But that first feeding is a big old emotional deal, isn't it? A nibble of food now means one less sip of breast milk later. It marks a separation, the moment the shared biology of two bodies begins, just barely, to disengage. A friend described the feeling well, reflecting on her son's first meal: "I took a picture of him, first," she said: a record. "I channeled every molecule of this person through my body." 

How true. Here is my daughter, in her Easter dress, on her half-year birthday. I channeled every molecule of this person through my body:

Despite the gravity of the first feeding, or maybe because of it, I made an effort to approach Nova's first meal casually. I thought I'd offer sweet potato first, but hey, maybe it would be avocado. Maybe I'd serve her in her high chair, or maybe I'd let her lick a little mash from my finger. Maybe it would be this week or maybe it would be next. I waited for the Mood, and today, the Mood knocked.

Scott came home from the city in the evening.

"I gave Nova some [soft-steamed] carrot sticks today," I said.

"Did you videotape it?"


"How did she do?"

"She put one in her mouth, and licked it, and made a face."

"It sounds like it went well, then."

And it did go well, in that now-familiar, anticlimactic way. I'll remember Nova's squirming weight in my lap, and the bright orange shape poking between her small fingers, shiny with baby drool. As the years roll on, I'll allow myself some occasional, quiet sentiment about it. But for now, it's time we got used to washing food from bibs and fingers and the floor under a baby's chair, again.

Next up? Sweet potatoes. Nova, my bright star, and all you babies beginning your journeys as eaters, these sweet potatoes are for you. May you love and be nourished by food for a hundred years!


Sweet Potato Stars with Cinnamon Butter
Makes ~ 15 stars
Materials: one small (1.5-inch) tin-plated star cookie cutter (I use the smallest of this set.)

1 sweet potato
1 pat unsalted butter
dash cinnamon

Peel the sweet potato, and slice it into rounds 1/4 inch thick or slightly less.

Use the cookie cutter to punch star shapes out of the middle of each round.* Use a small bamboo cutting board to help safely press the cutter down.

Fill a pot with an inch of water and a steam basket; add the stars and steam, covered, for 5-10 minutes, or until the stars are tender.

Remove from heat and toss with butter and a dash of cinnamon. Serve.

*PLEASE save the outer edges! Steam them and eat them yourself, or serve them to the kids at another meal.

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