I must admit that I have some values that can be regarded as variously fuddy-duddy or Middle Class. I accepted the fuddy-duddy when I realised I owned several cardigans (see yesterday’s post), while I accepted we’d finally “achieved” middle class the day my wife texted me while I was on the train home to complain that we were out of Creme Fraiche However my strongest held belief of all of these is that, whenever possible, meals should be taken together as a family and at the table.
During the week this is not possible as I am still coming home from work. Mrs Slightlysuburban feeds the children or rather she put food in front of them which Boy eats and Baby treats as a cross between nourishment and a missile. We eat when they’re in bed. On odd Saturdays the football also gets in the way of meals. Luckily there is Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon I cook and on Sunday afternoon I make The Family Meal That We Shall Eat Together. 99% of the time this is a roast and 100% of the time everything is from scratch. This goes against every common sense instinct I have, not because I don’t know what I’m doing but because the children join in.
Boy can be some help especially if there are Yorkshire Puddings to be made for, with a bit of help, he’s an excellent batter maker. Baby, however, hinders. She will open the pan drawer you just closed and close the vegetable draw you just opened. She has a habit of coming in and demanding to be picked up which is difficult when one of my hands is holding a sharp knife and the other has just been inside a chicken (odd as we’re having beef). But to NOT pick her up invites a 220 decibel shriek so I wash my hands and pick her up and she looks at the knife as if to say “I can’t WAIT till you show me how to use that”.
Another trait is to run round the kitchen in ever increasing circles each time coming slightly nearer to the oven than the last. So you put everything down and she stops and makes a beeline for the knife you put down in order to move her. She is also just the right height to adjust the oven temperature and fiddle with the timer buttons, greatly increasing the risk of burned potatoes and chicken sashimi. There is only one thing left to do and that is to strap her in to her high chair. It’s true that no-one puts Baby in the corner but in our house, eventually someone will put Baby in the high chair.
Once prepped and cooked we sit down to eat and a whole other ritual ensues. Boy will only eat his carrots if I have cut them up but insists on trying to cut up his own meat with a blunt 2-year-old’s Mickey Mouse knife. If I make the schoolboy error of putting Baby’s plate on the table when the food is too hot she will want it NOW but if I leave it till it’s cooled she will just play with it. Whatever you think she will start on, food group wise she will pick the opposite. For a while we thought she was vegetarian, which is hardly in character, but the other week I made shoulder of lamb and she attacked it like a prop forward who’d been nil by mouth for a week.
And as you all know far more ends up on the floor than in tiny bellies. The floor,has been cleaned up more times than Olly Murs’ voice and yet still it has a vague hue of carrot, gravy and yoghurt. Along with the high chair it forms slightlysuburbandad’s first law of directly inverse proportion. The longer they take to clean in minutes is exactly the number of minutes you can knock off Baby’s sleep before she wakes up demanding milk. Or rare steak.
So next time Masterchef is on and Gregg says ‘cooking doesn’t get tougher than this’ I’m going to have to disagree. Forget making nitro ice cream in a 3 star kitchen or feeding Jay Rayner. If you want to give ’em a really tough test they should do the invention test while holding a grouchy, oven-changing toddler and answering the question ‘why are carrots carrot-shaped?’..