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FEEDING FRENZY

HOW TO GET BABY FOOD INSIDE A BABYIN 25 EASY STEPS More indispensable survival tips culled from Dr. Dad's Baby-Owner's Manual ($24.95; Meetda Press).

1. Accept the grim fact that all babies will eat dirt, rug lint and old bug carcasses and like it, yet very often the little animals will want nothing to do with the nutritious, scientifically formulated baby foods you try to force down their gullets. This conflict will remain essentially unchanged for the first fifteen or twenty years of your child's life.

2. Before proceeding with your plan to feed Baby, ask yourself: Is this really necessary? Is there any way I can manipulate someone else into doing it for me? Is intravenous feeding completely out of the question? If your answers are "yes," "no" and "yes," respectively, curse the gods and advance to Step Three.

3. To ensure a neat and tidy mealtime, gently tie a soft cotton bib around Baby's neck. Then haul the kid to a remote, unpopulated area; strap him/her to a tree; and deck yourself in one of those heavy-duty rain slickers used by grizzled sea captains during hurricane season.

4. As you uncap the baby food, describe the contents in mouth-watering terms an infant can appreciate. Example: "Mmmmm! This strained asparagus with tapioca looks even yummier than dirt, rug lint and old bug carcasses!"

5. Dig out a heaping spoonful and put it to the child's mouth. If Baby's yap opens wide (good luck), apologize to the gods and leap to Step Eighteen. However, if the target orifice remains as impenetrable as a Brinks vault, say, "Aw, c'mon, Iddy Biddy Sweedy Pumpkins. Time for dinny-din!"

6. Drop the baby talk. You're irritating the child.
7. Try playing Open the Hangar, Here Comes the Airplane!
8. Try playing Open the Barn, Here Comes the Horse!

9. Try playing Open the Iraqi Baby Milk Factory, Here Comes Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf!

10. Perhaps Baby thinks you're trying to poison him/her. In full view of the kid, taste the food yourself and wait seven or eight hours until he/she is convinced you're suffering no major ill effects.

11. If Baby remains suspicious, ask a certified toxicologist to drop by your house and test the food. If the results are negative, proceed to Step Twelve. If they're positive, you have already cracked under the stress of baby feeding and are in no way fit to continue. Ask the toxicologist to finish the job.

12. If he/she refuses and Baby still won't cooperate, enlighten the child with an astounding true-life fact, like "Say! Did you know that the South American newt consumes six times its weight in strained asparagus with tapioca every day?" When Baby's jaw drops in awe, insert spoon. Quickly.

13. Okay, okay. Some babies are hard to impress. Maybe he/she doesn't like strained asparagus with tapioca. Employ the old, reliable "bait and switch" sales technique by waving dirt, rug lint or old bug carcasses under the kid's nose. Once Baby enters fully gaped crud-intake mode, you're home free.

14. Then again, maybe not. Try hollering, "EEEEK! There's a rabid wharf rat in your mouth! Let it out or you're dead meat!"

15. No go, huh? Okay. Let's exploit Baby's most primal fear. Dress up like a clown, sneak up on the kid and scream, "Hi! My name is Gabbo!" Then honk a bicycle horn, fall down a couple of times and hit yourself with a shaving-cream pie. The ensuing yowls should give you a wide-open shot at success.

16. Are you sure intravenous feeding is out of the question?
17. Hey! The kid is yawning! Start shoveling!
18. Phew. You just made it. Now remove the spoon with a gentle upward sweep, using Baby's upper lip and gums to "catch" the food.

19. Duck!
20. Oops. Too late. Tell Baby it's not nice to spit food. Then shower and change.

21. Upon your return, and when you're done screaming over the incredible mess Baby has made in your absence, explain to your beloved the difference between food and finger paints.

22. Explain the difference between food and hair conditioner.
23. Explain the difference between food and full-body mud packs.
24. Mix baby food with dirt, rug lint and old bug carcasses, dump the whole mess on the floor of Baby's favorite play area, and let the monster loose. As you leave to shower and change, wish him/her bon appetit.

25. Repeat Steps 1-24 at next scheduled feeding, which is right about now.

Mix baby food with dirt, rug lint and old bug carcasses and dump the whole mess on the floor of Baby's favorite play area.

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Michael Burkett