“Food is not only taste, but also atmosphere. Food is about family and friends.”
Living on the salary of a medical resident required a very stringent food budget. It was not difficult for my husband and I. We never felt deprived having been raised on a diverse diet eating nutritiously and economically. Although born thousands of miles apart, we were both raised on similar cuisines highlighted by the importance of the table and appreciation of genuine foods. This is what we wished to teach our children by having them experience with us a world of foods that may not be popular for most, but nourishing as well as able to meet our budget. We also agreed that children whenever possible should help prepare different foods, see how dishes are made to be able to enjoy fully the genuine dish along with an enriched table experience. Children raised with food culture are more appreciative of quality and are more apt to seek this quality in their adult life. They also would be less likely to seek foods prepared out of the home when they can eat nutritiously and economically at home.
When our first child was born in 1968, we were living in a studio apartment in New York City. Jorge had received a residency in plastic surgery at New York University Medical Center. I nursed for six months and then proceeded to give Michelle small pureed samples of our table food. Reading baby food labels and discovered that the baby food industry was basically adding salt and sugar to baby food. So I followed my mother’s way of doing things and made my own baby food.
Michelle’s first solid food was mashed bananas which was great while traveling through Europe by car. Bananas were followed by mashed sardines, nourishment that fit well into our budget. For less than nine cents a can at the time, we could get four jumbo Portuguese sardines, in either a tomato or mustard base. This was one canned item my mother did buy, provided she could see the whole sardine from head to tail. Years later, as a mother herself Michelle, who still loves sardines, asked me how I managed to get her to eat them as an infant, considering that she was unsuccessful with her daughter Laila. I reminded her that when she was six months old she had no options. She ate what we ate and watched our excitement as we made a big thing out of each new addition to her diet.