Tonight, it was just my son and I for dinner.
He is four, and has sophisticated but inconsistent tastes. He likes gorgonzola and olives and expensive fruits but refuses basic things like green beans. He will not eat potato in any form apart from chips. This is so strange to me, because I love potato in every conceivable form and I grew him in my body.
Tonight I am ‘cooking’ tomato soup that is pre-prepared by Woolworths. I try hard to cook things from scratch and use fresh ingredients but sometimes I say ‘bugger it’ and we happily heat some frozen fish or some baked beans. The parenting police do not come to my door. Four years into this gig, and I think I have finally realised…Guys, there are NO parenting police.
Even if there were, tomato soup would be the least of their worries. Same goes for screen time.
I also had some ripper chicken wings that Mum got a recipe for on MasterChef. Chicken wings are bloody annoying to eat but these were very moreish, cooked in a marinade of pomegranate molasses, olive oil and chilli flakes. My son declined to try them. We also ate lettuce, just in case.
It’s already the afternoon and I am fast running out of time to prepare the slow-cooked something or other I planned while lying in bed this morning. That is as far as I got, slow-cooked. I think what I’m actually saying is that I want a stew, but that is such a horrible word. And colour, usually.
We are now in our single month of winter here in Brisbane, and it confuses us all terribly. We don’t know how to behave. Hence the stew – I’m not even sure if I like stew. Probably, I haven’t eaten it by choice in my adult life, so I don’t know why I feel compelled to begin now. But, if Maggie Beer cooked it, I’m sure it would elevate it from prison gruel. Maggie is like that. I have beef in the fridge so I Google ‘Maggie Beer beef’ and secretly hope to come across her in a fight with a waif on a red carpet somewhere. Instead, I find this delicious recipe.
Maggie is renowned for putting verjuice and vino cotto, her own products, in every single thing she cooks. She probably has Weetbix with verjuice. The recipe calls for vino cotto but I resist the system (can’t afford it) and use a strange slurry of balsamic and red wine instead. I also added mushrooms, because I had them. Against the odds, it tastes amazing. Stew is great, people. Go eat stew.
We currently have a marble jar in operation, to try and induce the four-year-old to try new foods. He gets a marble when he has three bites of a new food. I don’t want to force him to eat anything, and we usually go by the ‘adults provide, children decide’ philosophy with his eating. Meaning, I cook something I’m 80% sure he will eat, and decline to provide an alternative if he doesn’t. I feel like if I get into the trap of offering other foods all the time, I will never get out of the kitchen, and I’ll lose even the faint semblance of power I have over his diet at the moment. Which is pretty good, all things considered. He eats almost an entire capsicum every day. Is that good or bad?
Like all children, sugar is his crack, and he has a particular fondness for tomato sauce. So, I make a pie with lots of sneaky vegetables in it, tell him he can have a bit of tomato sauce with it, and presto! We have a new food in his repertoire. I feel very smug. Less so when I realise he has eaten only the pastry and sauce. I used a store-bought base, rosemary, vegetable stock and the miscellaneous veg from the bottom of the fridge, with a bit of flour to thicken the sauce. I didn’t have any other pastry to top it, so I used sliced potato, which is inadvisable. If I was a better person (and had colder hands), I would have cooked Stephanie Alexander’s sour cream pastry, as seen here.
I did not cook today, and while I enjoy cooking, it is lovely not to cook, sometimes. We had takeaway curries from the local Indian restaurant, which is very good for a restaurant in a block of shops with only a real estate, hairdresser and chemist, smack bang in the middle of the suburbs. My son had saagwalla, which we just call ‘green sauce’ and he has no idea it is spinach that makes it green. Someone suggested to him that it is probably the Incredible Hulk’s food of choice, accounting for his radioactive green glow. I suspect that is why my son eats it so willingly, imagining his tiny body bursting out of his dinosaur t-shirt and shorts into a muscular behemoth with each spoonful.
Sometimes, I think I would like to freeze time and keep him at exactly this age, he is perfect just as he is, with little shoulder blades like wings and his small, neat hands that are always covered in pen and hummus and dirt and glue and his mop of hair that makes him look like an undersized Beatle. He laughs so much. He is the most beautiful pain in the butt.
My husband made his best cheese and tomato toasties for lunch, although he is not as generous as I am with the cheese. Hot tip: Sufficient salt and pepper revolutionise simple toasties. Camembert is also an excellent addition. To anything.
The next food I’m working on introducing is prawns. I don’t cook prawns very often, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because the shells are fiddly and I am lazy? That could be it. Also, the poo chute. I’m going to cook them with pasta, because we are big fans of pasta in this house, and it’s been DAYS since we last ate it. I’ve got some leftover parsley from the Maggie Beer stew and I’m going to throw in some garlic to ward off vampires. And colds, I guess. I’m using packet pasta (appears to be a theme) because I have a life, and I’m going rogue without a recipe.
It’s hard to go wrong with butter, garlic, prawns, parsley and pasta. Or is it? It may be tempting fate to say so. I’m also going to make a big green salad, with some feta if it hasn’t gone mouldy. We try not to drink booze during the week because of all the adulting we need to do, which is unfortunate because I’d really like a glass of wine with this dinner.
If I did use a recipe, it would be something like this but better and more abundant looking, and my son would still delicately pick the flecks of parsley off it to isolate the strands of buttery pasta, and leave the prawns at the side of the plate, little pink curls in a pile.