Whenever mothers meet me, they ask me in one voice, “Please aunty, tell me how to make my baby eat. I worry that he is not eating enough.” I see these plump moms and under my breath I murmur, “Now, just by worrying, you can conveniently lose some of those extra kilos .” (Me and my wickedness!). I clear my throat and ask them,“Ok ladies, answer my questions!’’
Do you panic when the child pukes and refuses to eat?
Do you think your baby will become under-nourished?
Do you feel guilty that you are not feeding the child the way your mother fed you and your siblings?
If the answers are in the affirmative, then you may be worried; but I am reassured. Times have changed. You have to accept and change your ideas, yet keep the old traditions intact. If you think that only Benjamin Spock can guide you, then it is time for a re-think.
Maathi yosi, ladies. (Think differently)
Our South Indian food is the best, and time-tested, believe me! If you don’t, ask the Taj Coromandel restaurant chef.
What we forget to do is to give the child a little warm ajwain water before he is given food. Take a tea-spoon of ajwain and boil in water. Distill and mix with a little palm sugar candy. Or you can get ready-filled bottles in shops. But don’t be lazy, and DIY at home, ladies. A little love, mixed with a little ajwain water, goes a long way.
Digestion will not be a problem at all. Make it a point to give this frequently; at least, every weekend if you are pressed for time. In fact, by doing this, you’ll be less harassed, I guarantee you. Babies and toddlers do not come with well-developed digestive systems. Why, don’t we as adults also suffer indigestion from time to time?
Secondly, our good old rice and dal with home-made ghee – this is the best food to start with. To this, add a little clear rasam made for the family. Rasam has pepper, dhania, cumin, salt and tamarind – and gives off a subtle aroma.What better way to introduce the children to the tongue-tickling taste of our region?
A word of caution: Do not use ready-made ghee. Children’s tastebuds need to be nourished. Readymade ghee, as you know, tastes like Dalda – and robs food of its taste. I recommend buying unsalted butter and melting it – till the sputtering melting butter becomes silent and still and starts boiling over. This kind of ghee has the rich colour of sesame oil, and gives out an aroma that will bring our devas from their loka down to your kitchen. And, according to Ayurveda, cow ghee is also good for health. Did you know this, ladies?
Our native vegetables and greens are not to be neglected. Boil and mash them, and mix with paruppu saadam (dal and rice). Drumstick, lady’s finger, string beans, snake gourd are good and full of nutrients. ENGLISH VINGLISH veggies came later!If your child is constipated, boil big-seeded raisins, mash and give with any fruit juice.
Now for the feeding methods: You must have patience. Make the child listen to stories as you get him to eat.
My children loved to hear stories about themselves (megalomaniacs)! But that was the best way to learn about thaathaas and paatis. They knew their family tree. My in-laws were pleased when the children could utter the names of their parents. Also try out these gimmicks:
- Make alphabet dosas, India-shaped, and Australia-shaped dosas too.
- Make your children the passengers on a plane. You are the hostess. Serve them.
- On moonlit nights, show them the full moon and tell them how the size reduces day by day, even as their plates get emptied little by little.
- Tell them the Crow-paati-vada-fox story - version 3.4 - I am outlining it for your benefit.
A well-mannered crow, chockfull of etiquette (and life-skills learnt from Parent Circle magazine) buys a vada from paati and dutifully pays `1.
It asks for a tissue to wrap up the vada, and says, “Thank you, paati.” Now paati is completely foxed! Tissues, she can understand, she is a modern paati.
Don’t crows normally turn their tail wings around on trees and (alarmingly) position these above your head? Impolite crows have become polite? Crows paying for vadas? What is this world coming to?
Well, this polite crow perches on a tree. A fox comes and asks the crow to sing. The crow carefully holds the vada in his claws. “I won’t be foxed with this old approach,” he says. The fox is even more shocked when the crow adds, rather modestly ‘’And my CDs are available in the shops and uploaded on the Web too! Listen to them and give me a feedback.”
Now the fox is foxed! But he does not give up. “Please, but I want a live concert,” he pleads. “Put the vada in your mouth, and sing in that beautiful, ‘cawing’ voice,” he wheedles.
The crow comes near the fox, “I am not that old, you stupid fox. That mistake was made by my great, great, great grandfather. Over the generations we have evolved, you know. Here, let me share the vada with you. Do not litter the place.”
“And after wiping yourself, make sure to throw the tissue in the dust bin. Be eco-friendly, like us. Henceforth, do not try to cheat people!”
The fox felt bad about even trying to cheat the crow and promised to treat the crow to a vada the next day.
The paati was delighted, her business was sure to prosper! You see, the crow cared (about the fox’s hunger) and so he shared!
If you also care, you can share this story as Paati Sonna Kadai – paatis are being barraged for tales after the media popularised the dance show of the same name by dancer Shobana Balachandra!
So moms, if you like my story, I have more... ciao! Rev aunty (I am aunty to you, my dears!)
* Paruppu Saadam is boiled dal mixed with cooked rice.
Revathy Sankkaran is a TV artist, a writer, and composer who relates wonderfully to parents and children alike. Her rendering of twinkle twinkle little star in different accents has gone viral in social media networks.