Before this week’s reflections on the art of successful parenting (those who know me, feel free to laugh) I’d like to say thank you to everyone who read, shared, and responded to last week’s ramble. More than 320 people have seen the post, which is HUGE for me. I’m glad I shared it, and didn’t delete the draft despite my doubts.
Normal service can resume….
Stroganoffgate and other stories
Once upon a time, I was a brand new mum and wanted to do everything right, which of course included weaning. I cooked stuff and pureed it: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, all mushed through a sieve with baby milk. I followed Annabel Karmel’s tips. I froze things in ice cube trays. I bought organic when I bought readymade food. I didn’t add salt to anything. It became yet another thing to beat myself up about: Thing One didn’t like the pureed veg. She liked – mostly – to eat the Radio Times. Her first birthday photos show her with a face covered in soil from one of the pots in the garden. She would wolf down Heinz baby cauliflower cheese one week, then decide I was trying to poison her the next.
So, with Thing Two I didn’t bother with the pureed veg and went straight to the jars, and she ate pretty much everything. She was an adventurous eater and her favourite food was always someone else’s – she is that child peering beadily at you in a restaurant, always wanting to try your food. She took to Chinese and Indian far quicker than the other two, and her favourite condiment is sweet chilli sauce which, she tells me, goes with everything. How times change: she has now decided she doesn’t like jacket potatoes or sausages, unless it’s a battered one from the chip shop.
By the time Thing Three turned up I’d had enough, and he pretty much ate what we did.
Because of my beloved’s shift pattern we’d got into a habit where I fed the kids early. We’d eat when he got home, which meant I was doing two different meals several nights a week: working full time as well meant this got quite wearing.
It was high time, I declared, that we all ate the same thing. I could cook it early and then the kids could have theirs and we could eat later! There would be no alternative meals,! My children would eat what was put in front of them or they would go hungry!
Man (or woman) makes plans and god laughs, as some wise person once said.
I decided (wrongly, as it turned out) that this would be an excellent time to try some delicious new recipes, starting with a pork stroganoff. I left out the mustard, I made sure it wasn’t spicy, and I carefully picked the mushrooms out of the kids’ portions. It was delicious. You would have thought that I’d put a plate of live snails in front of them: Thing One went to bed rather than eat anything on her plate. Thing Two ate the rice but wouldn’t eat the stroganoff or any rice that had sauce on. Thing Three – once his sisters stopped making a fuss – ate the lot. I gave up on new recipes as it was just too stressful.
You’d think that over the years things would have got easier, and they’d try more things. To be fair, they are improving: this week we have had two new meals. These Indian koftas were a resounding success, and the sesame broccoli from this recipe was a revelation. They’ll definitely be on the rotation from now on, and I’ll be trying some more new things out on them too.
So, here are my top tips for feeding your kids of any age:
- Invest in a couple of metres of wipe-clean tablecloth fabric to go under the high chair. It’s amazing how far a spoonful of peas can travel. Don’t even talk to me about rice.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t got time to cook from scratch everyday. Fish fingers were invented for a reason. So were baby food jars.
- Get one of those bibs that go on like a straitjacket. You’ll thank me when you’re not trying to get tomato based foods out of the elbows of the babygro. Get one for yourself too.
- Mr Tumble Dryer is your friend during weaning and potty training.
- Disguising food is fine. My mum grated liver in the mouli-grater for years and put it in the gravy. Last week I grated mushrooms into the spag bol and none of them noticed.
- Lying is also fine: “No, Thing One, of course I took your bit out before I added the spices to the chilli.” My mum fed London sister boiled bacon while the rest of us had gammon, and ‘long-eared rodent stew’ was quite popular despite the fact that we had a pet rabbit.
- Ignore the people who say their child eats everything. One day they won’t. Try not to snigger till they’re out of earshot.
- Apparently it can take up to twenty tries to get a child to eat something new. Maybe spread those tastes out a bit and don’t try it all at once.
- Bananas stain more than you think they would. Trust me.
- ‘Green eggs and ham’ is a great story but won’t help you convince your kids to eat anything.
Back on your heads, lads
This week I have been back in the office twice, and it’s been bliss: the tubes in haven’t been too busy and I have half the foot of the second sock done thanks to the commute. I’m still swatching for Tunisian crochet – the pattern calls for 3.5mm and so far I’ve tried 3.5, 4, 4.5 and 5mm hooks and they’ve all come up too small. 5.5mm is looking good though, so I live in hope.
I’m able at last to share the latest instalment in the year of handmade gifts: a cross stitch I designed and made for my line manager. The lockdown birthday culture at the museum is lovely! This is one of her frequent sayings, worked up in DMC variegated threads on 14 count black aida.
Yesterday my beloved and I sorted through his collection of Royal Mail stamp cards, which rather than get rid of we’re going to use – especially the Christmas ones. There are some lovely artworks here – my favourites are the springtime ones by Andy Goldsworthy. and the wintertime hare.
I couldn’t resist this one, either – any excuse for a Monty Python reference! I’m not even sorry….
So that’s been my week: cooking, crochet, cross stitch, commuting! This week’s cover image is the snow moon seen from North Weald Common early on Friday morning. Spring is on the way – the song thrushes are singing their little heads off, the doves are beating each other up on the lawn and the male blackbirds are running off their rivals.
Next week is week 50 – it seems pretty unbelievable that we’ve been in various phases of lockdown for almost a year! Hopefully the kids will be back at school next week (well, I’m hoping so at least!) and the ‘roadmap’ back to normal is realistic. Fingers crossed!
What I’ve been reading:
Inspector Hobbes and the Gold Diggers/Inspector Hobbes and the Bones – Wilkie Martin
A Capitol Death (Flavia Albia) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)