The First Meal

Elsa had her first meal of solid food a couple of days ago! Luise made her potato mash with a splash of oil and water. It was a big day for her and also for us, now we can start to make her our own all-good baby food. Although it seems like everybody have their own opinion on what kind of food is good for babies and children.

– Surely you will give Elsa normal food, a friend recently asked me. And with normal she meant meat, dairy products, gluten and sugar. She is not the only one. Another comment that we heard a lot of lately is that children doesn’t like vegetables but love meatballs and hot-dogs, so we would have a lot of trouble raising her without eating meat. I have just recently realized that most people actually believe that the way they eat is The Right Way. And our way – not eating meat, focusing on whole foods with a low intake on dairy products, gluten and sugar – represent some kind of diet that is good for you for a while, but not in the long run. Well, we believe that the way we eat is all-good for our bodies and that everybody probably would feel better cutting down on meat as the centre piece of the dinner and focus a little bit more on whole foods and vegetables.

With that said, it would make us feel very strange not giving Elsa the kind of food that we believe is best for her. Call me naive but I believe parents who complain that their kids won’t eat whole foods or vegetables have a lot to blame on their own eating habits. But if we fail I promise that I will be the first to admit it. And if Elsa some day decides that she wants to try a hamburger with her friends, we will be totally fine with that.

Maybe this could be mistaken for a convert-to-our-way-of-eating speech, it’s not. We have no problems with other people eating meat or not giving their kids vegetables, everybody must live after their own beliefs. Just as we do.

This soup is not for Elsa, not yet anyway. We were inspired by the Tuscan bean and bread soup Ribollita, and wanted to make our own version of it, replacing the bread with barley and the cannellini beans with these beautiful borlotti beans. When the soup was done we had changed so much that we decided not to call it Ribollita. But it is just as good, and more nutritious. Scroll down for the recipe.

Barley & Bean Soup
Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
2 spring onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 small carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 bay leaves (can be replaced with sage)
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 glass white wine
8 cups vegetable stock
1 cup pearled barley
1 zucchini, cut in quarters
10 cherry tomatoes, divided in half
2 cups fresh green beans
1 cup fresh borlotti beans, removed from pods and preboiled for 20 min.

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and add onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, rosemary, bay leaves, lemon juice and white wine and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add vegetable stock and let it cook for 30 minutes. Add barley, zucchini, tomatoes and let it cook for another 25 min. Then add green beans and borlotti beans and let it simmer for 10 more min. Remove the bay leaves and add salt and pepper. The soup is done when the barley and the beans are done. Serve with olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs.

Photos by: Johanna Frenkel


  • Sarah
    Hi, Just do it your own way ! That's the best way. You are eating just the way we eat. Our daughter is 11 month and is doing just fine with all the good and healthy food :o) If you are interested, there's a book called "They are what you feed them". Very interesting on some points. xxx Sarah
    • Thank you Sarah, we will look up that book! Elsa is now 9 months old and so far she has loved all the fruit, grains and vegetables that we have put in front of her. We are so happy/lucky! Let us just hope that she stays like this. /David
  • Elsa is a cutie pie! I understand this post. I eat organic food and people always say : "but... and when...".
  • I have recently stopped eating meat and have faced the same barrage of comments from my family about my kids and their diet. It ticks me off a little since I take nutrition pretty seriously and know that all our vitamin and mineral needs can be met through a variety of other non meat sources. They needn't worry anyway. My hubby occasionally has meat in his dinner, so my kids will have a meat based meal with him. That being said, my hubby and I eat very healthy and we still have fussy children. Comments that the parents must have something to do with it are pretty funny considering we always sit down together as a family and we always have a truck load of vegies on our plates. They are pretty good with many things, but a normal dinner with chunky vegetables? Forget about it. This mummy has to get very creative with hiding vegies so I know they're getting some goodness into them!
  • Emma's Kid
    First of all, I have you thank you for your gorgeous blog. My friend sent me a link to one of your posts, and I've been coming back regularly ever since. I recently made your gluten-free muesli and am in heaven! And I must echo the other comments on how beautiful your daughter is; I remember how fun it was to introduce my (now) 10 month old to foods for the first time, her little tongue feeling it's way around a mouthful of food just like Elsa's! Like you, I prefer to feed our daughter MY way, and find that I face constant questions of these methods in addition to endless opinions. As our daughter is now going through a phase of refusing to eat much of anything, I can tell you I understand completely how some parents end up giving in and feeding their children the mass-produced junk that is out there. I never could grasp how parents ended up with so-called picky eaters, relying on highly processed sugary "meals" to sustain their kids. I think it comes from being worried that your child isn't eating and trying to find something, ANYTHING they'll eat with vigor. The organic quinoa/lentil/veggie/turkey burgers that were gobbled up ravenously last week are this week's cannon fodder. All I can say is sit back, take a deep breath and let it ride. :)
  • Barley and beans. Wow. Doesn't get much more hearty and yummy and that. Seriously two of my favorite ingredients. I made my own version of ribolita as well. It was very different but still delicious! Check it out!
  • This looks fantastic! Can't wait to make! Thanks for sharing ( :
  • Thanks so much for your post. It's so beautiful! I love your story and relate to you in many points. I also try really hard to be a good role model to my girls. My Grandma did start me at a young age and took me grocery shopping with her. I had more trouble eating meat than vegetables and grains growing up.
    • Thank you for your comment Adelina! It seems like your grand mother was a good role model for you as well. /David
  • Alisa
    What silly things people say..... We are not gluten free, or vegan, but our daughter LOVES many vegetables and legumes, while she dislikes most meat. I eat a lot of veggie friendly food, so this wasn't a big deal. I tried to impress my diverse tastes upon my daughter, but this can be difficult. She'll eat lentils till the sun goes down, but she won't try new things very willingly. Feeding can be a hair raising tale of toddler willfulness. We try to go with the flow and know that she won't starve of she skips a meal here and there....
  • Every time I hear an adult complaining about their children being picky or not eating vegetables, I know right away that the parents have something to do with it. I am happy to hear that you are strong enough to maintain your eating habits and raise your daughter with the same ones, even in the face of naysayers. I think that says a lot about the kind of parents you are :) Way to go!
  • Gorgeous photos! This is my kind of meal!
  • We are also starting with the solids now and what an adventure it has been! Looking forward to more posts on the goodness you are feeding Elsa (she is so lovely!). I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination but I do want to feed my daughter healthy, fresh, homemade, and wholesome food! You know best what is good for your little one...nothing brings out "well-meaning advice" more than a baby I think ;)
  • Your blog is incredibly beautiful!! Adding you to my blogroll =)
  • your elsa is the cutest...and the soup is perfect. xo.
  • So delicious! And the meal looks good too :) I love your website, keep it up! And if you ever come to Paris, I will give you all the best veggie spots! (yes they DO exist here!!)
  • Kira
    I was raised a vegetarian and have been my entire life. My parents received many of the worried comments you are receiving when she was raising us kids in the 1980s. All I have to say is that I do not believe meat is a necessity as long as your diet is well balanced and nutritious. My brother is a healthy 6'-5" man and we both have been healthy and happy adults. Raise your children as you see fit!
  • While I am not vegetarian, I could not agree with you more about feeding children healthy, wholesome foods. I am a firm believer in introducing babies to vegetables and fruits early on, and on limiting sugars. I love that babies are so amenable to new foods (at least mine were), and though over time, they sometimes grow a dislike towards certain foods, I just feel that you have to keep on trying. My children readily ate their greens, etc., but they go through phases now where they renounce their past favorites as babies. And sometimes...they try again and realize how much they love it. It's an interesting food journey for sure, and Elsa is lucky to have talented cooks for parents to help her on her way!
  • I couldn't agree more and Im proud of you two for feeding beautiful Elsa what you feel is best. I have recently suffered some ridicule for transitioning to a more vegan/raw diet however I have huge support from close friends and family who are happy that I am feeling good and healthy.
  • Jennifer L.
    "But she won't fit in with her peers!" I often here that. Or how about, "If you pack *that" in her lunch she'll trade it for "real" food." Our wee one is not even three and I am already hearing about how she won't fit in because of her diet which is gluten free, mostly jar-box-can free, meat free and dairy free. One day we were at a picnic and my daughter as eating zucchini noodles with almond pesto, cherry tomatoes and snap peas and a friend noted, "At least it looks like normal food." Like the person above said, we too are hopeful that our little one will remain such a happy and healthy eater. Another question we get often is "Are you *ever* going to wean her? Probably not until high school. :-) I think kids who rebel the least around food have parents with clear and confident ideas about how to nourish their own bodies. If it's about nourishing your heart and soul, as well as your body, kids will pick up on that and carry it with them where ever they go, even in the face of their peers. Elsa will be fine one her "weird" diet :-). Normal isn't very exciting usually.
  • Elsa is gorgeous! We're not vegetarians, but when our little daughter (now 1 year 5 months) started eating solids after 6 months of breast milk only, then we tried to follow the "baby-led weaning" path. She's got very little pureéd food and in general we don't spoon-feed her. In the beginning we gave her steamed broccoli florets, raw cucumber sticks, tiny meat pieces etc that she picked and nibbled on. She eats on her own now, some things with a little fork or spoon, many things with her fingers. She also seems to enjoy all foods, be it plain buckwheat porridge, a rye crisp, raw salad leaves and herbs from our garden, vegetables, chicken soup or tiny meatballs.We're hopeful that she remains such a happy and healthy eater :)
  • First, I want to welcome Elsa to the wonderful world of whole foods! I don't have children yet, but when I do I'll be in the exact same boat as you guys on how to feed them. I love real, whole foods and only wish I could have grown up with parents that had my same enthusiasm. For the most part I think children will eat what they see you eat and if they want to experiment with other food options later in life, I'll be fine with that too, I just know I won't be the one to cook it for them! Lovely soup too!
  • I have no doubt that you're going to do very well feeding your baby. Great looking soup, it's got me in the mood for something like it tonight.
  • FC
    We eat little meat. Have always served plenty of veges and healthy options to our children. Despite this, they avoid veges if they can. One prefers meat, the other pasta, rice and bread. It drives me insane but I know that I have done all I can to encourage good eating habits and healthy food. It's a children thing. Many go through it and there is little one, as a parent, can do. I have accepted it's a phase and am continuing with all the measures I have always taken in the knowledge that one day (hopefully soon) they will get over their aversions and preferences and embrace all the food that I love. You can try and try but sometimes you just have to accept that your children are individuals, not extensions of you and that this makes the whole family thing all the more interesting in the long run!
    • Hi FC! Thanks for your comment, it was really interesting to read it and I realize that I might have been a little bit unfair. I understand that you've done all you can to get them to eat properly. I loved what you wrote about them being individuals and not extensions of you. I believe that if you keep showing them what you think is good for them they will still have this with them as they grow older. And as I wrote, if Elsa will be a meat-eating vegetable-refusing young darling, I will be the first to admit it.
      • Karin
        Happened the same to me: kids refusing veggies even though we eat lots and do all our cooking. I believed the same before having kids: lead by example and it will do the trick, well not always, so it s taken me years to get them to eat veggies and enjoy a few and I m still at it, so perseverance pays but it's not just a matter of leading by example!
  • I love making baby food. i just wrote a whole post on my blog about cooking for my son and now for my baby daughter. I think they deserve the best ingredients and if you can afford it both cash and time wise you're golden and so will she be.
  • We don't have kids yet but people *already* ask if I will raise our kids vegetarian like me. Kids managed just fine before the invention of chicken nuggets. A favorite point I read once was that there didn't used to be adult food and kid food, just food. But that soup looks amazing, and I'm not even a fan of broth-based soups. Mmm...
  • I got this very question yesterday from my own friends and family (many of whom are not being well served by their normal foods). Why is it so surprising that children do eat fresh, gorgeous vegetables and might not like thrice-processed, breaded and fried "chicken"? I having super-cute, super-strong, super-big, super-smart 2 year old proof that fresh dill & tomatoes are more alluring than neon colored frozen Popsicles. I guess normal is only a state of mind... by the looks of it, your Elsa is getting an incredible and loving dose of normal at every meal. Lovely work and stunning photos... ma certo!
    • Hi Zom G! Congrats to your super-cute, super-strong 2-year old vegetable eater. I cross my finger that Elsa will be just that. /David
  • Gorgeous colors in that soup! I usually find whenever I attempt something like that it just all looks a bit brown. Not you! On the topic of diets and kids, first let me say how gorgeous Elsa is. Nicely done! I know you have read my thoughts on feeding my kids a vegetarian diet. Just last night we were at a 4th of July party and someone asked me if the boys ever ask for meat and the truth is they don't. They know they are vegetarian and they don't question it. There are about a million things I could say here (I realize it's time for another post on this issue...), but in the end, you decide what is best for you children and your family. People will question it but those very same people probably wonder how you can not eat meat. Whenever someone asks me if I think it is healthy to not feed my children meat, I point to my 3 year old who is in the 90th percentile for height and 95th for weight, and who never gets sick, and say, "Why yes it is."
    • Thank you Dana! We preboiled the borlotti beans in a separate pot just to avoid them to color the soup brown. It is true that we have read your post about raising vegetarian kids – more than once actually – and we totally agree with you and hope that Elsa will have the same view upon eating as your kids as she grows up.
  • Agreed! Children like the food that they were raised on and are accustomed to. So if Elsa grows up eating lots of vegetarian goodness, her palate will be formed to like that type of food and not hot-dogs and meatballs. It's all in the way you raise them :) Beautiful photos as always!
    • Caroline
      Cannot agree more. I've seen and experienced this fact time and time again :). Excellent soup btw! Had some guests over and they also appreciated it. I love using the beautiful vegetables that are in season at the moment.
  • Agree with you 100% - why would you feed your kids something different from what you eat? Makes no sense. That goes both ways though - I will never understand parents who gorge on junk food yet expects their children to eat veggies and then can't understand why they won't. Soup looks amazing - will convert any meat-eater!
  • i am afraid, we will be faced with the same comments on how we feed our baby in the future! we are also vegetarians and try to eat as wholesome as possible - and we plan to raise our baby the same way. when he is old enough to make his own food, he can have whatever he wants. (i hope with giving a good example we can avoid the worst eating habits :-)

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