BC (before children) I considered myself an accomplished, confident cook. I enjoyed cooking and could turn my hand to most things. Food was (and is) an important part of middleagedad and my relationship. We ate out a lot and often had (and still do) have friends over for casual dinners . Middleagedad is indifferent to food (therefore thin) and BM (before marriage) survived mainly on Weetabix, fish fingers and boil in the bag cod in sauce (does that still exist?) A popular urban myth in our house is that, MAD had never eaten a mushroom till he met me. Not sure if its true, but growing up in Yorkshire as one of four kids, and a working mum, he isn't the most adventurous when it comes to food. But nonetheless food was an enjoyable part of our lives.
Cooking took on a whole new meaning when the children came along and became more of a necessity than a pleasure especially when weaning babies and feeding toddlers. Hours and hours spent peeling, straining mushing and spooning into small mouths either leaves you feeling smug and a little bit Annabel Carmel, or inadequate and worried your little one will be taken into care due to malnourishment. Great care is taken to ensure a balanced diet and that they try a variety of tastes. CM's (competitive mothers) love to gush about the different foods their little ones will eat. 'Oh Rory was fabulous is France this year, he loved mussels and snails and keeps asking for them now that we're back home.' Well bully for you, 'little Jake only ate chips and ice cream, washed down with the occasional swig of his Dad's beer'
As they get older, children either relish food and eat everything on offer, or develop the tastes of a Presbyterian minister from the Isle of sky. Plain plain plain and more plain. If I could transport my son back to the 1960's meals of my childhood, he would be more than happy. No nasty vegetables spoiling the meat and potatoes and puddings that would make any school cook proud. Of course they all love the staple diet of any self respecting modern day child, pasta. Pasta with tuna, pesto pasta, pasta with ragu. I can honestly say I hate pasta with a vengeance and would be happy if I never encountered another fusilli, tagliatelle or rigatoni ever in my life.
My recent week off from motherhood made me realize how stressful I find cooking for the family. The liberation from not having to think what to cook four people with opposing tastes was almost euphoric. Give MAD his dues he will eat more or less anything (as long as its not too fancy) but teenage son only really eats meat (the rarer the better) and teenage daughter is a vegetarian. I love food and trying new things, but rarely get to experiment, as I know it will be met with suspicion and a degree of irritation. 'What do you mean Stroganoff, what is stoganoff?' This usually ends in tears (mine) and general stomping off (me) and an argument between MAD and me. 'Why do you never back me up, I am trying to get them to try new things?' To which he answers 'To be honest I'm not that keen on stroganoff either!' At which point, I wonder how many years in prison I would get for manslaughter (with extreme provocation)
So I decided to turn over a new leaf, no more Mrs Nice Mum. In my day you ate what was on you plate unless you had an allergic reaction (and even that was pointless as my mum didn't believe in allergies) So after a weekend of indulgence (as the food on the school trip had been so bad) I turned from the proprietor of a small luxury boutique hotel into the commendant of a boot camp. No more getting breakfast for them (for fear of them going out of the house with an empty stomach; how would they learn anything?) oh no, help yourself or starve. No more indulgent packed lunches, it was all going to be on my terms from now on. All was going well and the troops didn't seem to be rebelling, that is until it came to dinner time, when horror of horrors, I put goats cheese on the pasta! Goats cheese are you insane!!!
Teenage son was almost in tears, 'goats cheese, but why?' Teen daughter was just angry, which ofcourse made me livid and a row ensued. Enough was enough (and I had PMT) I needed a new strategy. So I calmed down and wrote them a letter. I stated I would no longer be going to the supermarket, cooking or making packed lunches. From now on I was on strike and as the next day was pancake day, I would be having pancakes and they could eat what they liked, as long as they cooked it themsleves. Ofcourse no-one was happy and the evening continued in virtual silence, with me more determined than ever to stick to my plan. No more cooking for me.
Then fate played a strange and lucky card, I woke up the next morning and I couldn't move, at all, not a bit. My neck had gone into spasm and I was in agony. I was ordered by the doctor to spend the rest of the week lying down and had to be waited on hand and foot.
Boy, did I enjoy sending dishes back, asking for things to be cooked in a specific way, making comments like ' oh not a baked potato, I really don't feel like a baked potato!' By day four, teenage son was getting irritable and teen daughter had taken on the air of a downtrodden 1950's housewife.
I think everyone learned a lesson, but it'll be a while before I try the goats cheese again !