I think it's fair to say that I'm not the world's most talented cook. I learnt to make a mean spag bol at Poly, testing the spaghetti the student way - by chucking it at the ceiling. (I can't remember if it's done when it sticks, or vice versa.) And then there were the 15 vegetarian years, when Linda McCartney was my best friend. Lentil bake? Yum. The unfortunate residual effect of my years as a veggie mean that any meat I now cook isn't allowed out of the oven until we start singing 'Jerusalem'. As proof that my talents lie elsewhere, I even have a fridge magnet which declares "I kiss better than I cook" which is probably a bit more information than is necessary here...
But what tiny amount of skill I had in the kitchen has had the heart and soul ripped out of it by the two gorgeous creatures who share my house, to the point where I now absolutely dread mealtimes. D2 has always been a fussy little horror. She will not touch anything with a sauce (which rules out said spag bol, lasagne, chilli, curry, pie of the shepherd or fish variety, meatballs, pasta bake.... the list goes on). D1, who used to eat everything on the planet except broccoli, has now declared that she's "never liked" all the things she ate as a small child, even jacket potatoes. I mean, who doesn't like jacket potatoes?
It gets worse. With chips as the only exception to the rule, everything that one daughter likes the other professes to hate. Whilst D2 is a tiny carnivore who demolishes any meat put in front of her with the fervour of a sabre tooth tiger regardless of how incinerated her mother makes it (and broccoli), D1 is a wannabe veggie, if she would only give up KFC, bacon and pepperoni pizza.
So my repertoire of meals they will both eat with no or minor variation extends to just four:
- Toad in the hole
- Chicken wrapped in bacon with pesto (omit pesto for D2)
- Roast (D1 has the meat soaked in gravy, D2 - bone dry)
Most nights I cook two options to keep everyone happy. And I rarely experiment. What's the point? I could spend an hour pottering about at the stove, a bit of this, a bit of that, and only have a 50% chance of one of them eating it. To keep my sanity, I've just introduced one night of the week where we have 'freezer surprise'. They choose, I 'cook'. You've got to love Captain Birds Eye.
If you are reading this and thinking "well, she should have been stricter when they were little" I don't blame you, I would say the same. Except I was! They ate a huge variety of foods. D2 doesn't believe me when I tell her she used to eat such outrageous things as butternut squash and sweet potato puree. They both point blank refuse to believe they ate, and liked, marmite. I've always been in the 'love it' camp, so it was only natural they should eat it too. Besides, watching your baby's face contort with a "what the **** was that???" when they try it for the first time is sweet payback for the sleepless nights. Pretty much whatever I used to spoon into their open mouths they'd love. I just wish I knew when it all changed.
But for now I have to sit back and envy friends who decide what they want to cook and prepare just one meal for the whole family. Or perhaps I should just experiment with the one area of my cooking which is always a success and guaranteed to put a smile on their faces, leaving them wanting more. Broccoli and marmite cupcakes anyone?
Footnote: D1 read this and said "I keep meaning to say, I've gone right off that bacon and chicken pesto thing".