Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Cooking with the kids?

I am more tired than I can possibly describe, having been to the pub last night and consumed significantly more wine than I was intending. It used to be that the 4th bottle might have been pushing it. Now it seems, in my state of advancing decrepitude (is that a word?) that the 4th glass is. Not then, the best day for Blue to be let loose in the kitchen to cook tea.

“What!” I hear – “Help in the kitchen? Marvellous.” No it’s not. Whatever impression you might have formed about me, let me just get one thing straight. It’s my kitchen. If it’s going to be messy, it needs to be MY mess. And if the food is going to taste dodgy/be burned or otherwise be a failure, it will be MY dodgy, burned and failed food. Are you scared yet? Forget any thought that I am some relaxed Earth mother, calmly and enthusiastically encouraging my children to express themselves through the chopping of onions – or whatever. The truth is that I am a horrible control freak, especially when it comes down to food – and, let’s be honest here, any food that I am going to be eating.
Recently, Blue has been clamouring for more independence, and the Husband and I are faced daily with small manifestations of this. The biggest issue so far has been whether he can walk to school on his own, and after some trial runs, where I followed a short distance behind him (but far enough behind for him to forget I was there) he does now walk to school on his own. I have my heart in my mouth every morning, particularly when I then walk Pink up to school and witness some potential hazard – twice this week I have observed smeared piles of dog dirt on the pavement and have then prayed fervently that it was not Blue who walked straight through it and on up to school, none the wiser, for he is a dreamer, and not streetwise or particularly aware.

Another area where he has been demanding more responsibility is in his own personal food admin. The other week, he decided to make his own sandwiches for his packed lunch. Now, preparing the packed lunches is one of the trials of my life. I never manage (as I intend) to get them sorted the night before, so spend 20 minutes or so every morning clutching a mug of tea and staring into the fridge trying to work out what to feed them. Sometimes, the beautiful lunchbox championed by Mr F-W will almost happen – like when I have things like pasties in the freezer, or soup – but more often than not, it’s cheese and chutney sandwiches (or, in Pink’s case, cold pasta). That doesn’t necessarily mean that I want anyone else to do it though, particularly not first thing in the morning, and certainly not on a day when the Husband had left the milk in the boot of the car, and left the car in the pub car park – so I didn’t even have my cup of tea. Anyway, that particular morning, I sliced the bread for him, assembled the more appropriate contents of the fridge on the table and tried to back off. I was doing really well until he got to the cheese. I could have wept as he hacked up the rather expensive and very delicious block of local famer’s market sourced cheddar type cheese and used nearly all of it in one sandwich. I couldn’t help myself, and just had to dive in and redistribute.
We had more success at the weekend, though. Blue does spend a lot of time thinking about food and what he is going to eat, and had been talking for some time about inventing a new snack with chocolate and oats and fruit. I had been fairly evasive as to the possibility of actually doing something about this, but then he came home with homework on Friday which required him to write instructions of some kind. My immediate thought was recipe (why make things difficult) and i must have had a rush of blood o the head because the next thing I know, I am suggesting that we make his snack and he can write his instructions about that. In the end, we consulted a couple of Rocky Road recipes (Nigella’s – Express and Domestic Goddess) and came up with a variation involving oats, glace cherries and dried cranberries. Rather tasty it was too, and I managed not to get too het up about other people being in my kitchen.

And so to today. Another of Blue’s enthusiasms – to cook tea. He made spag bol at Cubs last week and was keen to recreate the Dolmio experience for us at home. When I ventured that he could make bolognaise the proper way (chopped onions, garlic, can of tomatoes) etc he was very put out. It was Cubs way or no way. I resisted the urge to say that it was MY way or no way. “He’s got to start somewhere” pointed out the Husband, very reasonably. Grrr.
So I dutifully purchased mince and bottled sauce. Perhaps the fact that I was practically weeping for my bed at that stage actually helped. That and the fact that, prejudices aside, making spag bol using a pound of mince and a jar of sauce is just so easy. Blue’s seriousness and concentration was totally adorable, and I managed to mostly resist the urge to dive in and take over. He did lose the plot a couple of times and get distracted, but in the main, he did a great job of browning mince and simmering sauce. He also weighed out the pasta. Pink helped by grating some cheese and putting the garlic bread (frozen from the shop) into the oven.  I managed to keep myself from interfering too much by distracting myself with Dan’s ‘One a Day’ cookies – using spelt flour, oats and toasted sesame and pumpkin seed, these could almost be health food. So easy – and so delicious. And so, in the end was the bolognaise. Not that I would ever suggest that sauce from a jar is better than homemade – oh no never, but perhaps the next time I’m feeling tired and emotional, I might just be tempted – and by managing to let Blue cook it this time, I’ll have someone else to cook it for me.

Now, about the washing up...

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