Friday, September 26, 2008

Leave my Chunky Monkey alone!

So I’m all for promoting the power of breastmilk, but this silly prank by PETA goes a little too far.
The most worrisome aspect of this is that the campaign fails to point out that the alternative to breastmilk for babies (formula) is made of cow’s milk. Presumably, babies whose mothers were producing breastmilk for the ice cream market would have to be fed something – and the tainted milk scandal in China has shown us that milk used for infant formula is no more protected than any other part of our food chain.
PETA, how about doing dairy cows and humans a favour by pointing out the “absurdity” of feeding the milk of another animal to a human infant?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

La dolce vita - very, very dolce

I grew up in an Italian household (well, half) and spent a lot of time with my family as kid and teenager. So, I thought I knew Italy and Italians… but being a parent in a foreign land is an eye-opening experience.
Italians pride themselves on their food and the quality of their cuisine. But their infant and child feeding practices are spectacularly different from those in North America.
While everyone I met was impressed that I was still nursing Thomas at 18 months, they were genuinely surprised that this was possible. Much as the theory that ‘latte materno’ is the best survives, in practice, it’s quite unusual to see mothers nursing in public and most women I met didn’t nurse past a few months.
Things got even weirder. At the grocery store, they sell powdered cookies – I thought I read it wrong, but no. The powder is mixed with milk and given to infants and toddlers (and sometimes preschoolers) in bottles. It’s like a very sweet, unfortified pablum I guess. They also sell powdered chamomile and melissa mixtures, meant to be mixed with water or formula to help baby sleep – something I had never seen here, but which is common there.
While fresh healthy food is prized, there’s far less focus on what’s in prepared products. Juices, yogurts and cookies almost universally contained artificial colours, flavours and shocking amounts of sugar. I found myself intervening daily to keep my 4-year old and 18 month-old from drinking the Coke being offered.
On the flip side, it is kind of neat to look at a baby food aisle and find the culture reflected in them. Jars of rabbit, veal and prosciutto puree stand next to jars of “latte e biscotti” (again with the cookies!). Did I forget to mention the trout and vegetables?
It was a good trip, but I’m glad to be back home, where the labels make sense to me and the only powdered cookies my kids eat are the crushed ones from the floor.