What did babies eat before the advent of modern blenders?

What did babies eat before the advent of modern blenders?


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Modern baby foods are commonly made using various strengths of blender, but what was used before then? I assume something like a potato masher, but that would only work for a few foods. So what was predominately used for baby food in the past?


Many babies were indeed fed mashed food, typically of cooked vegetables and fruits. While it's true that not all foods can be prepared like this, keep in mind that pre-modern families rarely have access to the kind of dietary diversity as modern developed economies anyway. So this was likely not a realistic concern for most.

Nonetheless, there is a variety of other historical baby foods. A common method of preparation is to soften food with liquid. For example, since antiquity European babies have been fed bread soaked in honey water, milk, soup, or even wine. Other, probably more familiar examples include what's basically oatmeal or porridge.

At around six months the child would begin a mixed diet of breast milk and cereal [that has been] soaked in milk or hydromel, soup or eggs. At six months the doctors ordered that the child should be given sweet wine or wine sweetened with honey, or water… or else bread soaked in wine.

Rousselle, Aline. "The Bodies of Children", in Porneia: on Desire and the Body in Antiquity. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013.

Likewise, in Asia, infants and toddler were - and continues to widely be - fed congee. This dish is cooked simply by boiling rice in too much water, and has been prepared since time immemorial. No blender or other advanced kitchen appliances required.

One of the first meals fed to a baby is “congee", a broth and rice mixture of the consistency of oatmeal. This dish is usually prepared with meat, fish, or vegetables, but foods other than rice might be removed and not served to the child.

Morris, Heather M., et al. "Cultural brokering in community health." The Canadian Nurse 95.6 (1999): 28.

Finally, there's pre-chewed food. Humans actually come equipped with a kind low powered biological blenders: their own teeth, with which most foods can be rendered viably pureed for feeding babies.

Another acceptable method suitable for meat was for the parents or wet nurse to pre-chew some food and then feed it to baby with their fingers. One text describes the individual servings of pre-chewed food as being morsels the size of an acorn.

Newman, Paul B. Growing up in the Middle Ages. McFarland, 2007.

Premastication has been documented throughout human history and likely dates from the depths of prehistory - it is even observed in our biological cousins such as the orangutans.


Mother's milk, overlapping with more solid food, was typically a major part of a baby's diet for much longer than we now think of in many western countries, where starting weaning at a few months and completing within another few months has become common in the last few decades, and breastfeeding is by no means guaranteed. Substitutes for breastmilk weren't as good or as readily available as now until the 20th century.

Babies develop physically very rapidly around the time they're ready to start weaning, so from around 6 months they can start getting some nutrition from properly solid foods rather than mash, especially if milk is still available. If however you're trying to replace milk with other foods from 4 months, babies will struggle with even soft solids.

The modern version of this is called baby-led weaning, essentially providing foods that the baby can eat with their fingers (this is actually becoming increasingly recommended by health authorities . Raw fruit and veg cut into grabbable pieces, stewed veg/meat, even bread (though that's rather salty). None of these are new - in fact some of them are among the earliest foods known to humans. Of course other primate species don't have blenders and wean onto things like ripe fruit (see First molar eruption, weaning, and life history in living wild chimpanzees, TM Smith et al.)

Further interesting reading:

  • Isotopic evidence of weaning in hunter-gatherers from the late holocene in Lake Salitroso, Patagonia, Argentina. (a long paper, search for "weaning foods" for some discussion relevant to my first paragraph)
  • From the ape's dilemma to the weanling's dilemma: early weaning and its evolutionary context, G.E.Kennedy
  • Isotopes and new norms: Investigating the emergence of early modern U.K. breastfeeding practices at St. Nicholas Kirk, Aberdeen, K. Britton et al shows that for about the last thousand years weaning in the UK has commenced at a few months to a year and completed by about two years.
  • Why are babies weaned early? Data from a prospective population based cohort study, CM Wright et al discusses modern practice and recommnedations in the UK.

Methods for making fruit and vegetable purees existed long before the modern electric blender.

A mechanical food mill is usable on most cooked fruits and vegetables with very good results. I don't know about early historical times, but these things were very typical throughout the 20th century in locales where blenders were not common, for example in Eastern Europe.

Mothers would also use a special kind of grater, with four star-like pips on each hole, to create a slightly rough puree from either raw or cooked plants.

Then there are also meat grinders, also a post-industrial-revolution tool, but quite good at making a mash-like substance out of many foods.

Simple mashing also works remarkably well for many fruits and vegetables, especially when cooked. For that, you can use a levered press.

A more affordable and broadly represented instrument is the simple masher you already mentioned.

And to make it very simple, there is always the humble fork. A star chef might turn their nose up at a mashed puree full of 3 mm pieces, a baby would swallow.

And if you are looking for truly ancient tools, a mortar and pestle have been used for tasks like flour making thousands of years before mills were invented. They are not only usable with raw grains, but with most other foods, and are the preferred preparation method for many traditional recipes, even outside of baby food.

Of course, all of these tools require a much longer preparation time than using a blender. But spending that kind of time on food preparation was the norm, and people just did it.

I cannot give you data on which society used which tool in what proportion, or what was the actual ratio of using pureed foods versus foods which are soft for other reasons. But as you see, humans have always been able to puree food, independently of electric appliances.


Also, an aside which is not really related to history: if you want to puree a food nowadays, be it for a baby or for some other purpose, some of these tools are still superior to a blender, which is very sensitive about the liquid-to-solid ratio. You also have the choice of further modern tools such as food processors, slow juicers, and electric mill/grinders.


Vegetables, fruits can be pureed. Meat is very easy to grind, or cooked meat can be chopped fine pieces. Carbohydrate sources like noodles, potatoes or rice are generally very easy to cook to a soft mash. Blender is not a must, even nowadays.


Usually mashed food usually vegetables and fruits. I've personally seen babies being fed mashed potatoes and mashed banana.


Blackface: The Birth of An American Stereotype

Billy Van, the monologue comedian, 1900. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID var.1831

Historian Dale Cockrell once noted that poor and working-class whites who felt “squeezed politically, economically, and socially from the top, but also from the bottom, invented minstrelsy” as a way of expressing the oppression that marked being members of the majority, but outside of the white norm. Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core. By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.

The pervasiveness of stereotypical images like these made the civil rights efforts of African Americans even more difficult. The black people represented here were irresponsible, laughable, and difficult to understand. If white people accepted these stereotypes, it became that much easier to deny African Americans the full rights of citizenship.

The first minstrel shows were performed in 1830s New York by white performers with blackened faces (most used burnt cork or shoe polish) and tattered clothing who imitated and mimicked enslaved Africans on Southern plantations. These performances characterized blacks as lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice. Thomas Dartmouth Rice, known as the “Father of Minstrelsy,” developed the first popularly known blackface character, “Jim Crow” in 1830. By 1845, the popularity of the minstrel had spawned an entertainment subindustry, manufacturing songs and sheet music, makeup, costumes, as well as a ready-set of stereotypes upon which to build new performances.

Cover to early edition of Jump Jim Crow sheet music.

Thomas D. Rice is pictured in his blackface role he was performing at the Bowery Theatre (also known as the "American Theatre") at the time. This image was highly influential on later Jim Crow and minstrelsy images.

Blackface performances grew particularly popular between the end of the Civil War and the turn-of-the century in Northern and Midwestern cities, where regular interaction with African Americans was limited. White racial animus grew following Emancipation when antebellum stereotypes collided with actual African Americans and their demands for full citizenship including the right to vote. The influence of minstrelsy and racial stereotyping on American society cannot be overstated. New media ushered minstrel performances from the stage, across radio and television airwaves, and into theaters. Popular American actors, including Shirley Temple, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney donned blackface, bridging the minstrel performance across generations, and making blackface (racial parody, and stereotypes) a family amusement.

Blackface and the codifying of blackness— language, movement, deportment, and character—as caricature persists through mass media and in public performances today. In addition to the increased popularity of “black” Halloween costumes, colleges and universities across the country continue to battle against student and professor blackface performances. In each instance, those facing scrutiny for blackface performances insist no malice or racial hatred was intended.


American History Highlights Celluloid and the Dawn of the Plastic Age

"There are plastics in your toaster, in the blender and the clock, in the lamp and in the roaster, on the door and in the lock, in the washer and the dryer and the garden tools you lend, in your music amplifier and electric fryer—you have got a plastic friend!" Or so goes a ditty from the 1964 World's Fair touting the ever-loving glory of that synthetic significant other in all our lives—plastic! It's a material that's has become so ubiquitous in our culture that we tend not to think about it too much. At least not until it comes time to take out the recycling. But from whence did all these plastic goods come? A new display at the American History Museum takes a look at celluloid—the granddaddy of all  modern plastic materials.

So what exactly got the ball rolling on plastics? It was, well, balls. Before the advent of synthetics, billiard balls were made from ivory, which was both scarce and expensive. (Not to mention the ethical issues that arise from harvesting ivory, but somehow methinks that wasn't a huge concern way back when.) Enter inventor John Wesley Hyatt who—in spite of professional chemists' warnings of causing an explosion—blended camphor with nitrocellulose and produced a hard, moldable substance he dubbed "celluloid." Patented in 1869, Hyatt and his brother began producing celluloid in 1871, marketing it as a substitute for natural materials like ivory and tortoiseshell and was used to create objects like jewelry, combs, mirrors, toys and even shirt collars. "It will no longer be necessary to ransack the earth in search of substances which are constantly growing scarcer," boasted one promotional pamphlet.

"Celluloid was a new material," says the American History Museum's Ann Seeger who co-curated the display with Eric Jentsch. "It was the first semi-synthetic plastic, and despite some ambivalence on the part of producers and consumers, it was widely accepted and utilized in the production of fancy goods aimed at the growing middle class." However, a market for plastics that looked like plastic took a while to develop. "It was in the 1920s when DuPont launched a line of dresser sets made of celluloid that are clearly synthetic that the innovative aspects of celluloid were more widely recognized," Seeger says. "Perhaps the artificial aesthetic became accepted because celluloid (and the other plastics that followed) were seen as more modern than traditional materials."

And oh, what a glorious family of plastics succeeded celluloid! It includes the likes of polypropeline, polyetheline, polystyrene, polyester, nylon, bakelite, lucite and the plastic commonly known as vinyl. (You may not know it by the oddball names, but you're probably most familiar with polypropeline and polystyrene polyethylene by way of Tupperware products.)

Though innovative, celluloid had its problems—namely its highly flammable nature. "When in storage celluloid must have air circulation so we keep it on open shelving rather than enclosed cabinets," Seeger says. "The acids used in the production of celluloid can sometimes off-gas and if those substances are allowed to accumulate the results are disastrous, even to objects stored nearby." That said, finding celluloid objects in pristine condition can be a bit of a challenge, which is another reason why this display is most definitely worth a look.

Celluloid has since been replaced by more stable and substantial plastics, with one notable exception: the production of ping pong balls. For whatever reason, a suitable synthetic substitute has yet to be found. I love life's little ironies.

"Celluloid: The First Plastic"—which highlights a collection of over 1,700 celluloid objects donated to the museum by Dadie and Norman Perlov—is currently slated to be on view through the end of the year.

About Jesse Rhodes

Jesse Rhodes is a former Smithsonian magazine staffer. Jesse was a contributor to the Library of Congress World War II Companion.


Who Invented the Piña Colada?

Is there a cocktail more summer-y than the piña colada? Just one taste of rum, pineapple, and coconut and you’re instantly transported to an island getaway. But how did the official drink of Puerto Rico come to be? Just who was the first to come up with this magically tropical combination anyway?

The oldest legend traces the cocktail back to the early 19th century, when Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí mixed white rum, pineapple juice, and coconut milk and served it to his crew in an attempt to boost morale. What better way to raise spirits than with free spirits, right? When he died in 1825, his official recipe was lost to history.

While various iterations of the beverage were served over the centuries that followed, the piña colada as we know it didn’t come to fruition until the 1950s. In 1954 one of its key ingredients–Coco Lopez, a pre-made coconut cream– was invented. It quickly became popular and highly influential in the island’s culinary scene. This proved instrumental in giving rise to the modern day piña colada, as did the technological advent of blenders.

However, here’s where things get a little sticky. In the decade that followed, three bartenders claim to have created the drink. And the supporting evidence for each of them is a bit spotty. Ramón “Monchito” Marrero Pérez insists he was the first. Pérez, a bartender at the Caribe Hilton, a luxury hotel in the heart of San Juan, was tasked with coming up with a signature drink for their Beachcomber Bar. He allegedly experimented with a variety of ingredients, including the newly available Coco Lopez, for over three months before coming up with the now-classic combination in 1954. Pérez was so dedicated to his drink that he literally served it for a lifetime. He worked as a bartender at the Caribe for 35 years until his retirement in 1989.

Fellow Caribe Hilton bartender Ricardo García, however, insists the drink was actually his brainchild. In a 2005 interview with Coastal Magazine he explained that the drink was the result of necessary improvisation. In 1954 the coconut-cutters union went on strike, which prevented him from serving up a popular drink composed of rum, coconut cream, and ice in a hollowed out coconut shell. The lack of available coconuts forced him to use hollowed out pineapple instead. As the drink got more and more popular he started adding freshly pressed and strained pineapple juice into it as well. The name piña colada loosely translates to “strained pineapple,” so this account seems entirely plausible.

Related Video: How to Make Three Poolside Cocktails

The hotel stands by Pérez’s account and the Caribe Hilton has since acquired not one, but two proclamations by Puerto Rico’s governors hailing it the official “Birthplace of the Piña Colada,” one in 2000 and the other in 2014, which marked the drinks 60th anniversary.

However, just two miles west of the Caribe Hilton is another establishment that claims they’re the true creators of the drink. Restaurant Barrachina may not have an official government proclamation to prove it, but they do have a plaque out front. The sign states that renowned Spanish mixologist Ramon Portas Mingot first concocted the drink there in 1963. The date of invention seems a little late comparatively, but hey, who knows, right?!

Regardless of its nebulous origins, the drink went on to become a worldwide sensation and quickly caught on in the United States as the drink of choice for glamorous and wealthy Americans who could afford to vacation in such tropical locales. Joan Crawford allegedly said the piña colada was “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.” It’s a statement that functions as giant praise and amazing Hollywood lore.

In 1978, the piña became the official drink of Puerto Rico. That same year, Rupert Holmes went on to release his biggest hit, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” a yacht rock classic about two equally horrible, married people who rediscover each other given the power of classified ads and coconut cocktails. It may be a cringeworthy association, but at least it’s not Margaritaville!

If you’d like to take a stab at making your own piña colada, try our classic recipe. And if you’re in the mood for something a less traditional, take look at these inspiring pineapple-based cocktails.


Baby Food

Mid-nineteenth-century America was gripped by a cult of motherhood. Then, a few decades later, many women refused to nurse. Photograph: Southworth & Hawes / Courtesy Buhl Collection Illustration: Advertising Archives

There are some new rules governing what used to be called “mother’s milk,” or “breast milk,” including one about what to call it when it’s no longer in a mother’s breast. A term, then, nomenclatural: “expressed human milk” is milk that has been pressed, squeezed, or sucked out of a woman’s breast by hand or by machine and stored in a bottle or, for freezing, in a plastic bag secured with a twist tie. Matters, regulatory: Can a woman carry containers of her own milk on an airplane? Before the summer of 2007, not more than three ounces, because the Transportation Security Administration classed human milk with shampoo, toothpaste, and Gatorade, until a Minneapolis woman heading home after a business trip was reduced to tears when a security guard at LaGuardia poured a two-day supply of her milk into a garbage bin. Dr. Ruth Lawrence, of the breast-feeding committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics, promptly told the press, “She needs every drop of that precious golden fluid for her baby” lactivists, who often stage “nurse-ins,” sent petitions and the T.S.A. eventually reclassified human milk as “liquid medication.” Can a woman sell her milk on eBay? It has been done, and, so far, with no more consequence than the opprobrium of the blogosphere, at least until the F.D.A. decides to tackle this one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, does provide a fact sheet on “What to Do If an Infant or Child Is Mistakenly Fed Another Woman’s Expressed Breast Milk,” which can happen at day-care centers where fridges are full of bags of milk, labelled in smudgeable ink. (The C.D.C. advises that a switch “should be treated just as if an accidental exposure to other bodily fluids had occurred.”) During a nine-hour exam, can a woman take a break to express the milk uncomfortably filling her breasts? No, because the Americans with Disabilities Act does not consider lactation to be a disability. Can a human-milk bank pay a woman for her milk? (Milk banks provide hospitals with pasteurized human milk.) No, because doing so would violate the ethical standards of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. If a nursing woman drinks to excess—some alcohol flows from the bloodstream into the mammary glands—can she be charged with child abuse? Hasn’t happened yet, but there’s been talk. Meanwhile, women who are worried can test a few drops with a product called milkscreen if the alcohol level is too high, you’re supposed to wait and test again, but the temptation is: pump and dump.

An observation, historical: all this is so new that people are making up the rules as they go along. Before the nineteen-nineties, electric breast pumps, sophisticated pieces of medical equipment, were generally available only in hospitals, where they are used to express milk from women with inverted nipples and from mothers of infants too weak and tiny to suck. Today, breast pumps are such a ubiquitous personal accessory that they’re more like cell phones than like catheters. Last July, Stephen Colbert hooked up to a breast pump on “The Colbert Report.” In August, the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, told People that she has often found herself having to “put down the BlackBerries and pick up the breast pump.” Pumps, in short, abound.

A treatise, mercantile: Medela, a Swiss company that has long been a breast-pump industry leader, introduced its first non-hospital, electric-powered, vacuum-operated breast pump in the United States in 1991 five years later it launched the swank Pump In Style. Since then, its sales have quadrupled. The traffic in pumps is brisk, although accurate sales figures are hard to come by, not least because many people buy the top-of-the-line models secondhand. (Manufacturers argue that if you wouldn’t buy a used toothbrush you shouldn’t buy a used breast pump, but a toothbrush doesn’t cost three hundred dollars.) Then, there’s the swag. “Baby-friendly” maternity wards that used to send new mothers home with free samples of infant formula now give out manual pumps: plastic, one-breast-at-a-time gizmos that work like a cross between a straw and a bicycle pump. Wal-Mart sells an Evenflo electric pump for less than forty dollars. Philips makes one “featuring new iQ Technology” the pitch is: the pump’s memory chip makes it smart, but the name also plays on dubious claims that human milk raises I.Q. scores. State-of-the-art pumps whose motors, tubes, and freeze packs are wedged into bags disguised to look like black leather Fendi briefcases and Gucci backpacks are a must-have at baby showers the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Metro model—“the C.E.O. of breast pumps”—costs $329.99 at Target. Medela also sells Pump & Save storage bags and breast shields. (The shield is the plastic part of the contraption that fits over the breast it looks like a horn of plenty.) Medela’s no-hands model can be powered by your car’s cigarette lighter. Strenuous motherhood is de rigueur. Duck into the ladies’ room at a conference of, say, professors and chances are you’ll find a flock of women with matching “briefcases,” waiting, none too patiently and, trust me, more than a little sheepishly, for a turn with the electric outlet. Pumps come with plastic sleeves, like the sleeves in a man’s wallet, into which a mother is supposed to slip a photograph of her baby, because, Pavlov-like, looking at the picture aids “let-down,” the release of milk normally triggered by the presence of the baby, its touch, its cry. Staring at that picture when your baby is miles away, well, it can make you cry, too. Pumping is no fun—whether it’s more boring or more lonesome I find hard to say—but it has recently become so common that even some women who are home with their babies all day long express their milk and feed it in a bottle. Behind closed doors, the nation begins to look like a giant human dairy farm.

This makes it all the more worrying that the evolving rules governing human milk, including the proposed Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2007, look a muddle. They indulge in a nomenclatural sleight of hand, conflating “breastfeeding” and “feeding human milk.” They are purblind, unwilling to eye whether it’s his mother or her milk that matters more to a baby. They suffer from a category error. Is human milk an elixir, a commodity, a right? The question is, at heart, taxonomical. And it has been asked before.

In 1735, when the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus first sorted out the animal kingdom, he classed humans in a category called Quadrupedia: four-footed beasts. Even those of Linnaeus’s contemporaries who conceded the animality of man averred that people have two feet, not four. Ah, but hands are just feet that can grip, Linnaeus countered. This proved unpersuasive. By 1758, in a process that the Stanford historian of science Londa Schiebinger has reconstructed, Linnaeus had abandoned Quadrupedia in favor of a word that he made up, Mammalia: animals with milk-producing nipples. (The Latin root, mamma, meaning breast, teat, or udder, is closely related to the onomatopoeic mama—“mother”—thought to derive from the sound that a baby makes while suckling.) As categories go, “mammal” is an improvement over “quadruped,” especially if you’re thinking about what we have in common with whales. But, for a while, at least, it was deemed scandalously erotic. (Linnaeus’s classification of plants based on their reproductive organs, stamens and pistils, fell prey to a similar attack. “Loathsome harlotry,” one botanist called it.) More important, the name falls something short of capacious: only female mammals lactate males, strictly speaking, are not mammals. Plenty of other features distinguish mammals from Linnaeus’s five other animal classes—birds, amphibians, fish, insects, and worms. (Tetracoilia, animals with a four-chambered heart, proposed by a contemporary of Linnaeus’s, the Scottish surgeon John Hunter, was at least as good an idea.) Linnaeus had his reasons. Naysayers might doubt that humans are essentially four-footed (whether on scriptural or arithmetic grounds), but no man born of woman, he figured, would dare deny that he was nourished by mother’s milk.

Then, too, while Linnaeus was revising his “Systema Naturae” from the twelve-page pamphlet that he published in 1735 to the two-thousand-page opus of 1758—and abandoning Quadrupedia in favor of Mammalia—his wife was, not irrelevantly, lactating. Between 1741 and 1757, she bore and nursed seven children. Her husband, meanwhile, lectured and campaigned against the widespread custom of wet-nursing. The practice is ancient contracts for wet nurses have been found on scrolls in Babylonia. A very small number of women can’t breast-feed, and wet nurses also save the lives of infants whose mothers die in childbirth. But, in Linnaeus’s time, extraordinary numbers of European mothers—as many as ninety per cent of Parisian women—refused to breast-feed their babies and hired servants to do the work. In 1752, Linnaeus wrote a treatise entitled “Step Nurse,” declaring wet-nursing a crime against nature. Even the fiercest beasts nurse their young, with the utmost tenderness surely women who resisted their mammalian destiny were to be ranked as lowlier than the lowliest brute.

Enlightenment doctors, philosophers, and legislators agreed: women should nurse their children. In “Émile” (1762), Rousseau prophesied, “When mothers deign to nurse their own children, then morals will reform themselves.” (Voltaire had a quibble or two about Rousseau’s own morals: the author of “Émile” had abandoned his five illegitimate children at birth, depositing them at a foundling hospital.) “There is no nurse like a mother,” Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1785, after discovering an infant-mortality rate of eighty-five per cent at the foundling hospital in Paris that relied on wet nurses (the hospital where Rousseau’s children all but certainly died), a discovery that explains why Franklin, in his autobiography, went to the trouble of remarking of his own mother, “She suckled all her 10 Children.” But wet nurses were not nearly as common in Colonial America as they were in eighteenth-century Europe. “Suckle your Infant your Self if you can,” Cotton Mather commanded from the pulpit. Puritans found milk divine: even the Good Book gave suck. “Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes, Drawn Out of the Breasts of Both Testaments” was the title of a popular catechism. By the end of the eighteenth century, breast-feeding had come to seem an act of citizenship. Mary Wollstonecraft, in her “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” (1792), scoffed that a mother who “neither suckles nor educates her children, scarcely deserves the name of a wife, and has no right to that of a citizen.” The following year, the French National Convention ruled that women who employed wet nurses could not apply for state aid not long afterward, Prussia made breast-feeding a legal requirement.

There was also a soppy side to the Age of Reason. In 1794, Erasmus Darwin offered in “Zoonomia or The Laws of Organic Life” a good summary of the eighteenth century’s passionate attitude toward the milky breast:

When the babe, soon after it is born into this cold world, is applied to its mother’s bosom its sense of perceiving warmth is first agreeably affected next its sense of smell is delighted with the odour of her milk then its taste is gratified by the flavour of it afterwards the appetites of hunger and of thirst afford pleasure by the possession of their objects, and by the subsequent digestion of the aliment and, lastly, the sense of touch is delighted by the softness and smoothness of the milky fountain, the source of such variety and happiness.

A half century later, across the Atlantic, this kind of thing had turned into a cult of motherhood, abundantly illustrated in daguerreotypes from the eighteen-fifties that showed babies suckling beneath the unbuttoned bodices of prim, sober American matrons, looking half Emily Dickinson, half Leonardo’s “Madonna and Child.”

Then, bizarrely, American women ran out of milk. “Every physician is becoming convinced that the number of mothers able to nurse their own children is decreasing,” one doctor wrote in 1887. Another reported that there was “something wrong with the mammary glands of the mothers in this country.” It is no mere coincidence that this happened just when the first artificial infant foods were becoming commercially available. Cows were proclaimed the new “wet nurse for the human race,” as the historian Adrienne Berney has pointed out in a study of the “maternal breast.” Tragically, many babies fed on modified cow’s milk died. But blaming those deaths on a nefarious alliance of doctors and infant-food manufacturers, as has become commonplace, seems both unfair and unduly influenced by later twentieth-century scandals (most infamously, Nestlé’s deadly peddling of infant formula in Africa and elsewhere, which led, in 1981, to the landmark International Code for Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes). In the United States, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century physicians, far from pressing formula on their patients, told women that they ought to breast-feed. Many women, however, refused. They insisted that they lacked for milk, mammals no more.

“I’m sorry, ladies, was this man bothering you?”

In 1871, Erasmus Darwin’s grandson Charles published “Descent of Man,” in which he speculated that the anomalous occurrence in humans of extra nipples represented a reversion to an earlier stage of evolution. If our ancestors once suckled litters of four or six, and if—as was supposed—men had nipples because male mammals once produced milk, maybe women, too, were evolving out of the whole business. In 1904, one Chicago pediatrician argued that “the nursing function is destined gradually to disappear.” Gilded Age American women were so refined, so civilized, so delicate. How could they suckle like a barnyard animal? (By the turn of the century, the cow’s udder, or, more often, its head, had replaced the female human breast as the icon of milk.) Behind this question lay another: how could a white woman nurse a baby the way a black woman did? (Generations of black women, slave and free alike, not only nursed their own infants but also served as wet nurses to white babies.) Racial theorists ran microscopic tests of human milk: the whiter the mother, chemists claimed, the less nutritious her milk. On downy white breasts, rosy-red nipples had become all but vestigial. It was hardly surprising, then, that well-heeled women told their doctors that they had insufficient milk. By the nineteen-tens, a study of a thousand Boston women reported that ninety per cent of the poor mothers breast-fed, while only seventeen per cent of the wealthy mothers did. (Just about the opposite of the situation today.) Doctors, pointing out that evolution doesn’t happen so fast, tried to persuade these Brahmins to breast-feed, but by then it was too late.

The American epidemic of lactation failure depended, too, on the evolving design of baby bottles: so sleek, so clean, so scientific, so modern. The first U.S. patent for a baby bottle was issued in 1841 the device, shaped like a breast, could be held close to a mother’s chest, almost like a prosthetic. Year by year, bottles became less like breasts. The familial cylindrical bottle, called the Stork Nurser, dates from 1910 and is tied to the rise of the stork myth: milk comes from the milkman babies come from storks. Perversely, Freud’s insistence that infants experience suckling as sexual pleasure proved a boon to stork-style repression, too: mothers, eager to keep infantile incestuous desire at arm’s length, propped their babies up in high chairs and handed them bottles.

Meanwhile, more and more women were giving birth in hospitals, which meant that, for the first time in human history, infants born prematurely, or very small, had a chance of survival—if only there were enough milk and a way to get it into the belly of a baby that was too tiny to suck at the breast.

In 1910, a Boston doctor, Fritz Talbot, spent three days searching for a wet nurse. He failed. Exasperated, Talbot established a placement service, the Boston Wet Nurse Directory. Across town, Francis Parkman Denny, caring for a sick baby, asked a neighbor to hand-express her milk for him. When the infant improved after drinking just three ounces, Denny, a bacteriologist, became convinced of the “bactericidal power” of human milk. The year after Talbot started his Wet Nurse Directory, Denny opened the first human-milk bank in the United States, collecting milk from donors using a breast pump whose design was inspired by bovine milking machines. (Milking machines are still cited in breast-pump patents mechanically, Medela’s Pump In Style has much in common with DairyMaster’s Swiftflo.) Denny’s plan worked better: families who needed and could afford human milk did not generally like having poor women live with them they preferred to have the milk delivered in bottles. Talbot stopped placing wet nurses and instead began distributing their milk he renamed his agency the Directory of Mother’s Milk.

Once milk banks replaced wet nurses, human milk came to be treated, more and more, as a medicine, something to be prescribed and researched, tested and measured in flasks and beakers. Denny’s bottled, epidemiological model prevailed. Laboratory-made formulas improved, and aggressive marketing of processed infant food—not just bottles of formula but jars of mush and all manner of needless pap—grew to something between badgering and downright coercion. By the middle of the twentieth century, the majority of American women were feeding their babies formula. But, all the while, Erasmus Darwin’s rhapsodic view of the milky breast endured. “With his small head pillowed against your breast and your milk warming his insides, your baby knows a special closeness to you,” advised “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” originally published by La Leche League in 1958, just two years after the league’s first meeting. “He is gaining a firm foundation in an important area of life—he is learning about love.” In the nineteen-sixties, nursing as a mammalian love-in began making a comeback, at least among wealthier women. (A brief history of food: when the rich eat white bread and buy formula, the poor eat brown bread and breast-feed then they trade places.) In the decades since, the womanly art of breast-feeding has yielded, slowly but surely, to the medical science of human milk.

In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement on “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” declaring human milk to be “species-specific” and recommending it as the exclusive food for the first six months of a baby’s life, to be followed by a mixed diet of solid foods and human milk until at least the end of the first year. In that statement, and in a subsequent revision, the A.A.P. cited research linking breast-feeding to the reduced incidence and severity of, among other things, bacterial meningitis, diarrhea, respiratory-tract infection, ear infection, urinary-tract infection, sudden-infant-death syndrome, diabetes mellitus, lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, obesity, and asthma. The benefits of breast-feeding are unrivalled breast-feeding rates in the United States are low the combination makes for a public-health dilemma. In 2000, the Department of Health and Human Services announced its goal of increasing the proportion of mothers who breast-feed their babies “at initiation” (i.e., before they leave the hospital) from a 1998 baseline of sixty-four per cent to a 2010 target of seventy-five per cent until the age of six months, from twenty-nine per cent to fifty per cent at one year, from sixteen per cent to twenty-five per cent. (The same targets were announced in 1990 they were not reached.) Attempts to improve initiation rates have met with much, if spotty, success. The Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago, which runs a peer-counselling program called the Mother’s Milk Club, has achieved an astonishing initiation rate of ninety-five per cent nationally, the rate is not quite seventy-five per cent. More difficult has been raising the rates at six and twelve months. The C.D.C., which issues an annual Breastfeeding Report Card, has announced that for babies born in 2005 the rate of exclusive breast-feeding at six months was only twelve per cent (although the rate of some breast-feeding at six months had risen to forty-three per cent).

One big reason so many women stop breast-feeding is that more than half of mothers of infants under six months old go to work. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees only twelve weeks of (unpaid) maternity leave and, in marked contrast to established practice in other industrial nations, neither the government nor the typical employer offers much more. To follow a doctor’s orders, a woman who returns to work twelve weeks after childbirth has to find a way to feed her baby her own milk for another nine months. The nation suffers, in short, from a Human Milk Gap.

There are three ways to bridge that gap: longer maternity leaves, on-site infant child care, and pumps. Much effort has been spent implementing option No. 3, the cheap way out. Medela distributes pumps in more than ninety countries, but its biggest market, by far, is the United States, where maternity leaves are so stinting that many women—blue-, pink-, and white-collar alike—return to work just weeks after giving birth. (Breasts supply milk in response to demand if a woman is unable to put her baby to her breast regularly, she will stop producing milk regularly. Expressing not only provides milk to be stored for times when she is away it also makes it possible for a working woman to keep nursing her baby at night and on weekends.) In 1998, Congress authorized states to use food-stamp funds granted to the U.S.D.A.’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to buy or rent breast pumps for eligible mothers. Breast-feeding rates rise with maternal age, education, and income. Medela offers a Corporate Lactation Program, free advice for employers seeking to reduce absenteeism and health-insurance costs by establishing “Mother’s Rooms,” equipped, ideally, with super-duper electric pumps, because “breastpumps with double-pumping options save time and can even help increase a mother’s milk supply.” The loss of productivity, Medela promises, is slight: “If each employee uses safe, effective, autocycling breastpumps, each visit to the Mother’s Room should last no longer than 10 to 15 minutes.”

Even more intensive has been the energy directed toward legislative reform. Many states have recently passed laws about breast-feeding, having to do with option No. 3. Must companies supply employees with refrigerators to store milk expressed during the workday? Twenty-one states, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, require employers to make a “reasonable effort” to accommodate nursing mothers and their bottled milk, although these laws are, generally, toothless. As a rule, the posher the employer, the plusher the pump station. Traders at Goldman Sachs can use an online booking service to reserve time in dedicated lactation rooms, equipped with pumps and chairs baristas at Starbucks are left to line up to use the customers’ loo. In 2007, Oregon became the first state to pass a law requiring companies with more than twenty-five employees to provide “non-bathroom” lactation rooms. (A national media campaign asks, reasonably enough, if you wouldn’t make your kid a sandwich in a public rest room, why would you expect a woman to bottle her baby’s milk in one?) Virginia and Maryland recently joined twenty-three other states and the Virgin Islands in exempting women who expose their breasts while suckling infants from indecency laws. Whether pumping in public is obscene has not yet been tested—honestly, who would want to?—but, what with all these lactation rooms, maybe that won’t come up.

More rules are under consideration. Can a woman or her employer get a tax break for producing or storing milk? Maryland exempts breast pumps from its sales tax, but a congressional sub-committee is still mulling over the Breastfeeding Promotion Act. The goals of the bill are to add the word “lactation”—defined as “the feeding of a child directly from the breast or the expressing of milk from the breast”—to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and to allow a tax credit of up to ten thousand dollars per year to companies that provide their employees with pumps or pump rooms. A better title for the proposed legislation might be the Breast Pump Promotion Act.

The cynical politics of pump promotion would seem, at first, to be obvious. Breast pumps can be useful, even indispensable and, in some cases, lifesaving. But a thing doesn’t have to be underhanded to feel cold-blooded. Non-bathroom lactation rooms are such a paltry substitute for maternity leave, you might think that the craze for pumps—especially pressing them on poor women while giving tax breaks to big businesses—would be met with skepticism in some quarters. Not so. The National Organization for Women wants more pumps at work: NOW’s president, Kim Gandy, complains that “only one-third of mega-corporations provide a safe and private location for women to pump breast milk for their babies.” (When did “women’s rights” turn into “the right to work”?) The stark difference between employer-sponsored lactation programs and flesh-and-blood family life is difficult to overstate. Pumps put milk into bottles, even though many of breast-feeding’s benefits to the baby, and all of its social and emotional benefits, come not from the liquid itself but from the smiling and cuddling (stuff that people who aren’t breast-feeding can give babies, too). Breast-feeding involves cradling your baby pumping involves cupping plastic shields on your breasts and watching your nipples squirt milk down a tube. But this truth isn’t just rarely overstated it’s rarely stated at all. In 2004, when Playtex débuted a breast pump called the Embrace, no one bothered to point out that something you plug into a wall socket is a far cry from a whisper and a kiss. Rhode Island’s Physicians’ Committee for Breastfeeding gives an annual award for the most “Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace,” a merit measured, in the main, by the comforts provided in pumping rooms, like the gold-medal winner’s “soothing room,” equipped with “a sink, a lock on the door, and literature.” It appears no longer within the realm of the imaginable that, instead of running water and a stack of magazines, “breastfeeding-friendly” could mean making it possible for women and their babies to be together. Some lactation rooms even make a point of banning infants and toddlers, lest mothers smuggle them in for a quick nip. At the University of Minnesota, staff with keys can pump their milk at the Expression Connection, but the sign on the door warns: “This room is not intended for mothers who need a space to nurse their babies.”

Lately, some WIC officers have begun to worry that pump promotion might be backfiring, having “the unintended effect of discouraging breastfeeding.” But such cautions have hardly stopped the anti-formula fire and brimstone. Between 2004 and 2006, a National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign included TV ads that likened a mother feeding her baby formula to a pregnant woman riding a mechanical bull: “You’d never take risks before your baby is born. Why start after?” No one seems especially worried about women whose risk assessment looks like this: “Should I take three twenty-minute pumping ‘breaks’ during my workday, or use formula and get home to my baby an hour earlier?”

Pumps can be handy they’re also a handy way to avoid privately agonizing and publicly unpalatable questions: is it the mother, or her milk, that matters more to the baby? Gadgets are one of the few ways to “promote breast-feeding” while avoiding harder—and divisive and more stubborn—social and economic issues. Is milk medicine? Is suckling love? Taxonomical questions are tricky. Meanwhile, mamma ex machina. Medela’s newest models offer breakthrough “2-Phase Expression” technology: phase one “simulates the baby’s initial rapid suckling to initiate faster milk flow” phase two “simulates the baby’s slower, deeper suckling for maximum milk flow in less time.” These newest machines, the company promises, “work less like a pump and more like a baby.” More like a baby? Holy cow. We are become our own wet nurses. ♦


Chef Martin Morales’ view: ‘What took you so long?’

Britain has finally woken up to the creamy, nutty joy that is avocado. I’ve seen snap after snap of friends’ avo-toast popping up on my phone. I’ve watched avocado dishes fly out of the door of my Peruvian restaurants, Ceviche and Andina, in London. I just wonder: what took you so long?

I grew in the suburbs of Lima with an avocado tree in my garden. As a kid, I would take the rich pickings from our garden to my auntie Carmela’s house and she would show me what to do with them. I learned to use them in everything, sweet or savoury. Stuffed avocados, mashed avocados in a fried egg sandwich – actually, mashed avocado with anything. Avocado and chicken stew, avocado soup, avocado ceviche – even avocado ice-cream.


Did 1950s mums really know best? We put vintage child-rearing methods to test

My daughter Marianne, 14 months, is dressed in baby skinny jeans, while I have a sleek, newfangled buggy and follow all the latest parenting trends.

But sometimes it can feel modern life is too ­fast-paced for this ­sleep-deprived, disorganised mum.

My boisterous daughter often runs riot as I battle with ­housework and I’m running out of ideas to feed her.

But I wonder whether I might learn something from new book A 1950s Mother, which reveals child-rearing methods from the 50s including teaching ­old-fashioned manners and ­cooking everything from scratch.

Did the parents of the past have it sussed? Author Sheila Hardy says: “The 50s ­heralded a turning point in the way children were brought up. During the war, many women raised families on their own.”

Thankfully, my husband Chris is a ­brilliant, hands-on dad – but it was a ­different story 60 years ago.

“Most men did little around the house,” explains Sheila. “The idea of lying with a newborn on his bare chest so his wife could get some sleep after the birth was unthinkable for the 1950s man.”

Hmm. so far, so sexist. I’m not holding out much hope for this experiment.

So will the 50s way win out or is modern parenting best?

VINTAGE PRAM

Unlike today’s state-of-the-art compact buggies, prams of yesteryear were decidedly chunky. I decide to try out the Balmoral – a stunning vintage coach-style pram, manufactured in the UK by Silver Cross since 1877.

It’s still a bestseller, ­despite a price tag of £1,450. Celeb mum Lily ­Cooper has one for her daughters Ethel, 19 months, and Marnie, who is five months.

I feel ultra glam, proudly wheeling the classy Balmoral up the street while Marianne ­bounces around, testing out the sought-after pram’s handcrafted suspension.

There’s plenty of room for her to stretch out – ideal in the 1950s when parents were urged to give their offspring daily doses of fresh air.

Busy mums often left their babies outside in their prams, while they got on with housework indoors – something that’s ­unthinkable now.

There’s no doubt the Balmoral is ­gorgeous and a pleasure to steer once I’ve got the hang of it. But at 37kg, it weighs 28kg more than my compact, modern pushchair. I couldn’t manoeuvre myself on to the number 68 bus with this.

If I was a 50s mum, I wouldn’t have got much help pushing it around either because, as Sheila explains: “Many new fathers were reluctant to be seen ­pushing a pram.”

Although I probably wouldn’t be too keen on sharing it anyway as this pram is so beautiful.

­REUSABLE NAPPIES

Disposable nappies were yet to be invented in the 1950s.

Parents relied on terry ­towelling nappies, which needed thorough washing between uses. ­Considering ­Marianne goes through around six nappies a day, that’s a lot of washing.

“The new mother did the housework, home-cooked all meals and did the laundry as well as washing all of those nappies,” says Sheila.

Thankfully, reusable nappies have moved on.

They’re now made from soft cloth and the ones I try, by Baba+Boo, have colourful prints and poppers – not safety pins.

But the concept is the same. Once soiled, they must be washed and dried between wears.

Eek. I ­already struggle with our ­mountains of washing as it is!

Marianne seems comfy enough in the cloth nappies but they’re bulkier than disposables and hardly fit ­under her ­21st-century ­leggings. No wonder 50s tots wore bloomers.

Disposable nappies are easy – pop them in a nappy sack and chuck them in the bin.

But, with ­reusable ones you have to wipe the mess into the toilet before storing the nappy in a sealed bin, then washing them in bulk.

Nappy wash day, which is twice a week, is a messy, smelly business. Now I ­understand why 50s mums were encouraged to potty-train at a ridiculously early age – some tried when their babies were a few days old!

As I load the soiled nappies into the washing machine, my kitchen pongs like the toilets at Glastonbury. Hanging 20-odd clean nappies out to dry is a pain, too. There’s none of this faff with Pampers.

There’s no denying the benefits. They’re kinder on the environment, as they don’t end up in landfill.

The soft cloth is great for Marianne’s skin – no chance of nappy rash with these.

Although each nappy costs £9.25, they can be used repeatedly, so they’re cheaper in the long run.

Despite the smelly drawbacks, I’ll carry on using them ­alongside disposables.

TRAINING A BABY

Like most inquisitive toddlers, Marianne loves grabbing things off bookshelves and breaking into the kitchen cupboards.

We’ve thoroughly babyproofed our home. But 50s experts urged parents to forget all that and train their babies instead.

“It was emphasised from the moment of birth that you had a potential monster who would rule you unless you they were trained,” explains Sheila.

The theory is simple – rather than ­shrieking, “Put that DOWN,” when Marianne lunges for the nearest breakable, I should calmly tell her not to touch it until she learns the correct way to behave.

Of course, there’s no way I’d put her in any danger. But I try out the method by leaving some ornaments on a low table. When she makes a beeline for them, I calmly say, “Those are Mother’s things.”

Of course, she ignores me and the ­ornaments are soon scattered across the table. But I keep at it and, after a few days, she seems to be responding to my calm instructions.

On day five, I catch her ­chewing her new shoes. Rather than ­grabbing them off her, I smile and say, “Take those out of your mouth, please.”

As if by magic, she puts them down. Perhaps the 50s approach does work after all.

But I don’t think I’ll chuck out the stair gates just yet.

BABY FOOD

Experts currently recommend babies are exclusively milk-fed for the first six months before being gradually introduced to solid foods.

In the 50s, parents were advised to wean their offspring at four months – on grim-sounding bone broth. It’s a far cry from today’s organic vegetable purees.

Tripe was also popular back then as it was high in iron and wasn’t rationed.

But times have changed and there’s no way I’m feeding cow’s stomach lining to my little one.

So I opt to make another 50s delicacy fish pudding, which is actually more of a fish crumble with a breadcrumb topping and creamy sauce.

Although Marianne has a healthy diet, with lots of fresh fruit and ­vegetables, I confess I’m a klutz who could probably burn a sandwich.

So I sometimes use pre-prepared baby meals.

I don’t have high hopes for fish ­pudding, which I found in a ­cookbook, but it’s easy to prepare and, amazingly, comes out of the oven looking ­mouthwatering. I can’t help feeling ever-so slightly proud of myself.

Marianne’s little eyes light up as I place some on her highchair tray. She polishes off a huge portion, followed by some good old 50s-style rice pudding.

MAKING TOYS

Forget Toys R Us and the Disney Store. In the 50s, toy factories were yet to return to pre-war ­production levels.

So parents would get out their ­knitting needles and make toys instead. Knitting a teddy sounds like a sweet idea.

The only problem? I’ve ­never knitted in my life.

Thankfully, my mum Jane is an expert knitter and tries to teach me.

We decide to knit a pink, stripy cat. I’ll be honest – my mum does the lion’s share but she lets me stuff it and sew the pieces together.

It’s love at first sight when we give Marianne her toy and she toddles around with Stripey clutched to her chest.

You simply don’t get this sort of ­satisfaction from plastic supermarket-bought toys.

THE VERDICT

The pleasure of making a home-cooked meal and making a special toy for my baby is priceless but I wouldn’t swap mod cons such as my 21st-­century buggy and stair gates for anything.

Then there’s the small ­matter of Daddy’s role. I’m ­truly grateful to live in a time, post-feminism, when my other half is happy to do his fair share of nappy changes.

What with all this washing, baking and knitting, I’ve ­become even more exhausted than I was when I started this whole experiment.


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Why Other Toddlers Seem To Eat Their Veggies, But Your Kid Doesn't

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Low-Cost Infant Warmer Can Save Countless Babies From Hypothermia Each Year

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Get Baby To Crawl With These 5 Simple Tricks

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Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Individuals usually find their own marriage partners. Arrangements for the marriage may be made by the parents of sometimes an intermediary is employed. If the parents oppose the union, often the children elope and later the parents condone the marriage. When a man asks a woman's parents for their consent, it is common practice for him to bring a gift for the woman. Wedding ceremonies are relatively simple except among wealthy families. After speeches by the parents, members of the families and guests share pickled tea. Polygyny is rare. Far more common is the practice of wealthy and powerful men having an informal second wife. Divorce is relatively common and usually involves the couple ceasing to live together and dividing their property.

Domestic Unit. A newly married couple may live with the parents of one partner (often the parents of the wife) but soon establish their own household. The nuclear family is the primary domestic unit, but it may include extended family members such as unmarried siblings, widowed parents, or more distant unmarried or widowed relatives. The husband is nominally the head of the household, but the wife has considerable authority. Women are responsible for most domestic chores.

Inheritance. Property generally is divided equally among the children after the parents die.

Kin Groups. Descent is reckoned bilaterally. Traditionally, there were no family names.


First published at www.johnberardi.com, Sept 5 2003.

Despite their widespread praise by nutritionists and bodybuilders alike, oats have a humble origin. They were the last of the major cereal grains to be domesticated, around 3,000 years ago in Europe, and apparently originated as weeds that grew within cultivated fields of various other crops.

Part of the reason why people were slow to embrace oats is because they go rancid very quickly, due to the presence of natural fats and a fat dissolving enzyme present in the grain. As a result, they have to be processed immediately after harvesting. The fats in oats are relatively healthy, with a lipid breakdown of 21% saturated, 37% monounsaturated, and 43% polyunsaturated.

Greeks and Romans considered oats to be nothing more than a diseased version of wheat. Oats were a lowly horse food for the Romans, who scoffed at the "oat-eating barbarians", or those pesky Germanic tribes who eventually toppled the West Roman Empire. Come to think of it, the Romans were never able to conquer the Scots. Big oat eaters, those Scots. Oats 2, Romans 0.

Even today, less than 5% of the oats now grown commercially are for human consumption. The chief value of oats remains as a pasturage and hay crop, especially for horses. Thousands of years and several empires later, most people still haven&rsquot caught-on.

Oats, What&rsquos So Good About Them?

Oats contain more soluble fiber than any other grain. Soluble fiber is the kind that dissolves in water, so the body turns it into a kind of thick, viscous gel, which moves very slowly through your body. One of the benefits is that your stomach stays fuller longer, providing satiety. Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of glucose into the body, which means you&aposre going to avoid those nasty sugar highs and lows. Last but not least, it inhibits the re-absorption of bile into the system, forcing your liver to get its cholesterol fix from your blood. This serves to lower your blood-serum cholesterol. See what the Romans were missing?

Oats also have anti-inflammatory properties, and have been clinically shown to help heal dry, itchy skin. Oats are also highly absorptive, hypoallergenic, and help to soften skin, if you&rsquore into that kind of thing. They have the best amino acid balance of all the cereal grains, and thus can be used as water-binding agents in skin care products. Oat grains and straw appear in shampoos, dusting powders, moisturizers, cleansing bars, breast implants, and astronaut suits. OK, maybe those last two are figments of my imagination.

Varieties of Oats

From least to most processed:

Oat groats, or whole oats: These are minimally processed, only by removing the outer hull. They are very nutritious, but need to be cooked and/or soaked for a long period of time to so you don&rsquot break your teeth on them.

Oat bran: This is the outer casing that is removed from the groats. The bran is particularly high in soluble fiber. Oat bran is very versatile, and can be used with groats or alone, and as an addition to baking recipes, or even raw in shakes.

Steel-cut oats, or Irish oats: These are groats that have been chopped into small pieces. They have a firmer texture than rolled oats, and people in the know often prefer them for hot oatmeal cereals and muesli. A tip on purchasing steel-cut oats: some of the name brand varieties are prohibitively expensive, so search for them in bulk, where you can fill an entire tub of protein powder (empty it first!) for $5 US.

Rolled oats, or old-fashioned oats: These are oat groats that are steamed and flattened with huge rollers so that they cook quicker, in about 5 to 15 minutes.

Quick oats: These are groats that have been cut into several pieces before being steamed and rolled into thinner flakes, thus reducing the cooking time to 3-5 minutes. While they cook quicker, any oat aficionado will tell you that they lack the hearty texture and nutty flavor of the less-processed varieties.

Instant oats: These are made by chopping groats into tiny pieces, precooking them, drying them, then smashing them with a big roller. They need only be mixed with a hot liquid. They usually have flavorings and salt added. All of this processing removes all traces of the original texture and rich flavor of the groats.

Oat flour: Oat flour is made from groats that have been ground into a powder, and contains no gluten so it does not rise like wheat flour. It can also be made at home by grinding rolled oats into a powder in a blender.

Enough rambling-on about fallen empires and baby-soft skin, it&rsquos time for the lowdown on how to cook these little miracle grains. I&rsquom always baffled when I hear people say how much they despise oats. Maybe they&rsquore not so good if you use the quick oats, plain, cooked in the microwave, with dishwater, while being whipped by giant fish heads. I&rsquove never met a person who wasn&rsquot impressed with the taste of my blueberry oatmeal. And I&rsquove introduced it to a lot of people. Roommates, parents, friends, friends of friends, girlfriends, roommate&rsquos girlfriends, family and friends of girlfriends nary an unsatisfied consumer, yet.

By the way, all of these recipes are compatible with John Berardi&rsquos dietary advice outlined in his Massive Eating and Don&rsquot Diet plans. In other words, protein is included with every meal, and large amounts of carbs and fat are avoided in the same meal. In case you weren&rsquot paying attention earlier, the oat is a grain, thus making it a carbohydrate source. So all of the following recipes are for P+C meals.

Blueberry Oatmeal

Here it is, the breakfast that fulfills your every nutritional want and desire. A little warning: once you go steel-cut, there&rsquos no going back. This recipe makes a large bowl of oatmeal, which I usually eat during Massive Eating phases. You can reduce the ingredients if you want fewer carbs and overall k/cals during dieting phases.

1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/3 cup oat bran
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1.5 scoops chocolate whey protein powder
Water, as directed
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of cinnamon (big dash)
Dash of Splenda (big dash)

Add steel cut oats into 3 to 4 cups of water at night before you go to bed. Bring to a boil, simmer a couple of minutes, then remove from heat, cover the pot, and hit the hay. The longer you simmer and/or the more water you use, the larger the bowl of oatmeal, as the oats tend to soak up water like a sponge.

In the AM, bring the oats to a simmer once again on medium-low heat, adding the salt, cinnamon, and raw oat bran. Continue stirring and simmering for 5 minutes, or until you get the desired thickness (you may have to simmer for longer to boil-off some of the water). Turn off the heat, then add the frozen blueberries and some Splenda.

Stir until the blueberries are melted, thus cooling the oatmeal and allowing the protein powder to be added. The consistency should be fairly thick, especially after the oat bran has been added and cooked a bit. You might need to add some water in the AM, depending on how much was boiled-off the night before.

k/cal: 699
Fat (g): 13 (2.5s, 4.7m, 4.6p)
Carbs: 111 (20 fiber)
Protein: 54

Strawberry-Banana Oatmeal

Given that you will probably never tire of the blueberry oatmeal, you might be tempted to neglect this recipe. But give it a try variety is good!

1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/3 cup oat bran
3/4 cup frozen or fresh strawberries
1 medium banana, sliced
1.5 scoops strawberry or vanilla whey protein powder
Water, as directed
¼ teaspoon salt
Dash of cinnamon (big dash)

In the evening, prepare the oats in the same manner as the Blueberry Oatmeal recipe. Again in the morning, bring the oats to a simmer and add the banana, salt, cinnamon, and oat bran. Keep stirring and simmer until you have the desired consistency (10 minutes or so), remove from heat, and stir-in the strawberries and protein powder.

k/cal: 696
Fat (g): 11 (2.3s, 3.9m, 3.7p)
Carbs: 116 (19 fiber)
Protein: 50

Baked Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal

If you&rsquore in the mood for a hearty meal to feed that insatiable P+C demon inside of you, this one might just appease the beast.

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup oat bran
1 large apple, chopped (I prefer Macintosh)
4 scoops vanilla or strawberry protein powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
4 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. In a separate container combine water and vanilla. Combine all ingredients, stirring gently. Pour into 8" x 8" baking dish, coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the oatmeal is tender. Over baking will result in dry oatmeal.

If you really want to make it special, put it in a bowl and pour a little milk over it. The two go hand in hand.

Macronutrient Profile, per serving:

k/cal: 520
Fat (g): 9 (2s, 3m, 4p)
Carbs: 85 (15 fiber)
Protein: 35

Apple Cobbler Protein Bars

I took great pains to create a P+C protein bar that is not as dry and chewy as Fido&rsquos rubber bone. These bars provide a multi-layer gooey goodness that appeases even the most finicky of eaters. Just leave out the &ldquoprotein bars&rdquo in the title if you&rsquore feeding them to a disbeliever.

Ingredients:
1 cup oat flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
6 scoops strawberry or vanilla whey protein powder
2/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 jumbo egg white
1 cup oat bran
1 cup granulated Splenda
1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
2 tbsp honey
1 large apple, chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

Combine these in a large bowl: oat flour, whole wheat flour, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and most of the Splenda, leaving a couple of tablespoons for later. Stir these dry ingredients together.

Put the yogurt, egg white, vanilla extract, and olive oil in a blender, and turn it on low. Add the protein powder 1 scoop at a time, until thoroughly blended. Pour this mixture into the bowl, and stir together until it has the consistency of dough.

Coat a 8X12 inch baking pan with cooking spray, then pour the mixture into the pan, flattening it up to the edges.

Next, mix the applesauce, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, chopped apple, and honey together, and pour over the top of the dough mixture in the pan, spreading evenly.

Sprinkle the oat bran over the top, until thoroughly and evenly covered, then sprinkle the remaining Splenda over the top.

Bake for 15 minutes at 350-degrees F, and then switch to broil for 3-4 minutes, just until top is slightly browned. Be careful not to overcook.

Macronutrient Profile (each serving)

K/cal: 183
Fat: 3 g (1s, 1m, 1p)
Carbs: 27g (4 fiber)
Protein: 16 g

Cranberry Oat Brownies

These are simple, quick, and delicious, combining nutritious ingredients that all compliment one another.

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups rolled oats, ground into a powder in a food processor
1 cup whole wheat flour
5 scoops chocolate protein powder
1 cup granulated Splenda
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/3 cup applesauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, mixing briefly. Add the yogurt, applesauce, and oil to a food processor, and mix on low.

Add the protein powder into this mixture, while blending, one scoop at a time, until thoroughly blended.

Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, add the honey, and stir together until everything is mixed well.

Pour the dough into a 8X12 inch cooking dish, and bake at 350-degrees F for 10-12 minutes (don&rsquot cook it too long or it will lose it&rsquos chewy texture and moisture).

Macronutrient Profile, per brownie:
k/cal: 253
Fat (g): 4 (0.8s, 2.2m, 0.9p)
Carbs: 37 (4 fiber)
Protein: 18

Cranberry-Orange Whole Grain Loaf

If you want to surprise your family with a tasty side dish at Thanksgiving, throw one of these on the table. Or make a loaf any other time of the year to fulfill those macronutrient requirements.

Ingredients:
1.5 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
4 scoops strawberry or vanilla whey protein powder (for the love of God, don&rsquot use chocolate, ech!)
0.5 cups water
Juice from 1 orange
Grated peel from 1 orange (don&rsquot go overboard on the peel, or it gets bitter)
½ cup applesauce
½ tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp baking powder
Dash of ground nutmeg (small dash)
½ tsp salt
¾ cup dried cranberries
2 teaspoons whole flax seeds*
½ cup granulated Splenda

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and mix with a large wooden spoon.

Add the water, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Using a fine grater, shave the outer skin from an orange, until obtaining about 2 tablespoons of grated peel. Add the grated peel, and squeeze the orange into the mix, removing any seeds.

Divide the mixture into two loaf pans, coated with cooking spray. Cook for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

*Whole flax seeds are not digested, unless you spend 20 minutes chewing every bite. They are added to this recipe more for texture, so don&rsquot worry about the chewing thing. For the nutritional information, half of the given seeds were included in the macronutrient profile, which is based on the assumption that half of the seeds will pass straight through you.

Macronutrient Profile, per 1/3 loaf:

k/cal: 327
Fat (g): 5 (1s, 2m, 2p)
Carbs: 53 (7 fiber)
Protein: 22

Ginger Apricot Scones

Well, well&helliparen&rsquot we fancy with our homemade scones? Don&rsquot worry, if the guys in the gym ask you what you&rsquore eating, you can just call them &ldquoprotein pucks&rdquo.

1 cup whole-wheat flour, plus ½ cup of wheat flour, set aside
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup oat flour
6 scoops strawberry whey protein powder
¾ cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup applesauce
2-inch cube of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
¼ cup granulated Splenda
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup nonfat dry milk powder
½ cup water
½ tbsp canola or olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl (except the ½ cup whole wheat flour). To make the oat flour, process 1 cup of rolled oats in a blender on high, until transformed into a fine powder.

Add the applesauce and water, and mix until a soft dough is formed. Spoon-out 1/3 of the dough and place on a floured surface. Sprinkle flour over the top of the pile, and flatten into a 3/4 &ndashinch thick circular patty. Cut the circle into four wedges (twice crosswise). Place each wedge on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Repeat for the remaining 3rds of the dough.

Cook for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Macronutrient Profile, per scone:

k/cal: 189
Fat (g): 3 (0.5s, 1.5m, 1p)
Carbs: 27 (4 fiber)
Protein: 14

Savory Oatmeal Recipes

All right, there are enough recipes above to satisfy the sweet tooth of your average Krispy Kreme junkie. But don&rsquot be fooled into thinking that oats are synonymous with the adjectives &ldquofruity&rdquo or &ldquosugary&rdquo. The versatility of oats is endless, and the following savory recipes will put to rest any misperceptions of some schmaltzy sucrose addict feverishly devouring a tray of oat brownies. Here are some recipes that hark back to the time of the &ldquooat-eating barbarians&rdquo.

You won&rsquot find many Levantines eating a sugary bowl of cereal for breakfast. Shakshuka, a seasoned mixture of tomatoes and eggs, is a common breakfast in the Eastern Mediterranean. Here is a version with the added goodness of oats.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup steel-cut oats
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large egg, whole
¾ cup raw egg whites
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the oats, tomatoes, and tomato paste to a boil in 2 cups of water. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 25 minutes.

Sauté the onion and garlic in a skillet coated with cooking spray and add these to the pot when the oats have finished cooking. The consistency should be thick, but a little soupy. More water may need to be added at this point to achieve the desired consistency.

Spread the whole egg and egg whites over the surface, stirring gently to break the yolk. Cover and simmer for an additional 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve it up.

k/cal: 516
Fat (g): 10 (2.3s, 3.2m, 2.5p)
Carbs: 71 (13 fiber)
Protein: 40

Oat-Chicken Salad

This recipe is light and refreshing, for those hot August days when a steaming bowl of oats is the last thing on your mind.

Ingredients:
Chicken breast, 6 oz cooked
½ cup steel-cut oats
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large cucumber, chopped
2 scallions, diced
1/3 cup fresh mint and/or parsley, chopped
Juice from 1 fresh lemon
Dash of salt
2 large romaine leaves

I usually grill a few pounds of chicken breasts and store them in Ziploc bags in the fridge for a quick protein fix. Slice one of these chicken breasts and put aside for later.

Place the oats in a pot and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, then drain. When well drained and slightly cooled, mix the oats with the tomato, cucumber, scallions, mint/parsley, lemon juice and salt. Cover and refrigerate until cool.

Serve over the romaine leaves and top with the sliced chicken breast.

k/cal: 700
Fat (g): 13 (2.9s, 3.9m, 3.7p)
Carbs: 77 (15 fiber)
Protein: 72

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Here is a hearty recipe that combines the goodness of oats, good quality protein, and plenty of antioxidants from the veggies and spices.

12 oz ground turkey breast (98% lean)
1 cup whole groats, or steel-cut oats
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 whole green bell peppers
1 tsp ground cumin
1 dash dried red chili pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups chicken broth, from bouillon

Preheat oven to 325-degrees F.

Sauté the oats and garlic in a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, until they start to brown. Begin adding the chicken broth to the skillet ½ cup at a time, until 2 cups of broth have been absorbed. Set the oats aside in a large bowl.

In the same skillet, stir-fry the ground turkey with the onions until the turkey is cooked throughout, and then add the chopped tomatoes, cumin, ground chili pepper, and salt/pepper. Add this turkey mixture to the oats, and stir together.

Cut the top off each bell pepper and scoop out the seeds and membrane, being careful not to break the peppers. Fill each pepper with the ground turkey-oat mixture and place in a baking dish. Add the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth to the baking dish, and cover first with plastic wrap and then tin foil (the plastic wrap will not allow the tin foil to stick to the peppers). Bake the stuffed chili peppers for 30 minutes at 325 degrees.

Macronutrient Profile, per serving:

k/cal: 709
Fat (g): 11 (2.3s, 2.9m, 3.8p)
Carbs: 95 (18 fiber)
Protein: 61

Tex-Mex Chicken-Vegetable-Grain Medley

If you&rsquore short on time and need a quick fix, this one&rsquos easy to prepare and is tasty to boot. If you really want to decrease your cooking time, you can make the oats in bulk at the beginning of the week.

Ingredients:
Chicken breast, grilled, 6 oz. cooked weight, cubed
Whole groats or steel-cut oats, ½ cup dry
Frozen vegetable mix (corn, peas, and carrots), ½ cup
1 stalk celery, chopped
Red bell pepper, ½ medium, chopped
2 tbsp barbecue sauce

Instructions:
Boil the oats in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed. When the oats are cooked, it&rsquos very simple: just stir all of the ingredients together in a pot on medium-low heat, until everything is warm. It can also be nuked.

Macronutrient Profile:
k/cal: 770
Fat (g): 13 (2.3s, 4m, 3.5p)
Carbs: 91 (14 fiber)
Protein: 71

These recipes should provide plenty of opportunities to turn those oats into something much more than a mushy, tasteless breakfast. Now it&rsquos time to go out and buy enough of these grains to fill all of the empty protein powder tubs that litter your house. Bon appetite!

John Williams is an archaeologist by training but his free time is occupied with eating well, training hard, and learning more about fitness and nutrition. John can be contacted at [email protected] .

Article written by John K Williams

John Williams is an archaeologist by training but his free time is occupied with eating well, training hard, and learning more about fitness and nutrition.


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