As a first-time mother eighteen years ago, I thought I was prepared - after all, I had read 'What to expect when you're expecting' cover-to-cover. Plus, having grown up with three generations under the same roof, I had helped care for my new-born niece and nephew as well. My daughter was on the smallish side when born, and one look at her brought this roaring maternal lioness to life inside me. Combine that with the speed of how hard and fast I fell in love as soon as we locked eyes, and I was a goner.
Alarmingly though, she started losing weight after we took her home, and dropped to under six pounds. The pediatrician insisted on supplementing breast-feeding with formula, but that didn't sit well with me. Most days it seemed as though all I did was feed her, all day long. Then, it seemed as though it happened overnight, and this kid started to look as though someone had taken a bicycle pump to her. I even started calling her my Michelin tire baby. Fat babies are my favorite.
Soon it was time to supplement breast milk with solid foods, and apart from rice cereal, one of the first foods she had was pureed spinach. As I added more variety to her diet, it seemed as though she still couldn't get enough. Her favorite (as well as my second daughter's), was a sort-of soup: jasmine rice, (homemade) chicken stock, carrots, spinach and chicken breast cooked in a pressure cooker, then put through a food mill to make it safe and easy for her to eat. I would mix in a spoonful of plain yogurt, and my children ate it with great relish. At the age of nine months, I fed her pad thai that I had cooked for our dinner, and this child squealed with happiness. Apparently, food has always been our love language.
Fast forward a few years, and if my children were hungry, grumpy, or just needed a quick meal, I would make them a fried rice of sorts with spinach and eggs. Carbs, protein, healthy greens all covered, plus they ate it with plain yogurt. I've been made aware through the years that this combination, as well as all the things I cooked for them were considered 'weird' and 'gross' by several of their friends, and I was okay with that. After all, I wouldn't typically reach for rice, fish, fermented soybeans and umeboshi for breakfast, but Japanese children have been relishing it for centuries.
This past week, both children came home from each of their long, tiring days to spinach-and-egg fried rice. I can't remember the last time I had cooked it, but the satisfaction on their faces as they took the first bite made me wonder why I hadn't more often. They were no longer teenagers in this mama's eyes, but little girls with pigtails, looking at me like I could make all their boo-boos better.
Comfort looks and tastes different to each one of us. But it can be as simple as a bowl of rice. What does comfort look like to you? More importantly, who in your life could use some?
Wife, mother, baker, jam maker, hug dispenser, reader.