It's interesting how, as a parent, feeding the family can so quickly become an exercise awash with guilt. I feel guilty that I am serving up the same old things to our children all the time and that Ben frequently has to scrabble something together from random fridge detritus*. I feel guilty when we reach for Mr Deliveroo, or if I haven't cooked each item on the plate from scratch. In some respects, the guilt is probably as old as families. The instinct to nourish your offspring is hard-wired. If something gets in the way of that, guilt ensues. But I do think that Modern Feeding Guilt is a particularly heaving, complex beast.
Fall down on any of these and the guilt might get you.
There have always been peaks and troughs in my enthusiasm for cooking, but it's really feeling like a grind at the moment, and it's paired with those sharp spikes of MFG. I know I am not alone in experiencing this guilt, but how and when did it become such a frilly, multi-stranded, ugly-mawed thing? Where does the pressure come from? If I, a middle class, affluent white person in a first world capital city can succumb to it, it must be pervasive.
I have no real excuses: I don't have it hard. I'm not a single or working parent. I don't have a tight budget. I have wonderful ingredients from the world's larder on my doorstep. But it's just not happening for me, at the moment.
The reality is, Oscar is not a fussy eater. Spike is, but he is happy with meat-and-two-veg, fish, pizza. I do, however, cook two separate meals a lot of the time. I know this is a terrible state of affairs, but as Spike has the more limited repertoire, if I cooked to please him all the time, Oscar's diet would be unnecessarily limited. On the flip side, if I cooked to please Oscar, Spike would, at times, just not eat**. So, two meals it is, usually. After that, I have generally run out of steam, so fingers crossed there are leftovers in the fridge for Ben and me(!)
While my subconscious is troubled, on the face of it, I'm not that concerned. I can keep things in proportion. I know I'll rediscover a bit of zeal again, eventually. I probably just need to thumb a few recipe books.
In the meantime, I try to reconcile myself that it is ok to find family cooking a grind. I am not naturally gifted at meal planning. Baking aside, cooking is not a particular hobby of mine. I am a terrible grocery shopper. So I'm not going to knock it out of the park every night. I might even suck for weeks at a time. I also know that the food my family eats is fine. We hit the major food groups. Processed food is not the norm. Oscar's favourite food is sushi. Spike eats a greater breadth of foods than ever before (there are even two raw vegetables on his "yes" list!). Ben is also a great cook, so we get some relief from my drab offerings at the weekend.
Just to add texture to my MFG, though, I occasionally, wonder (and worry) "Am I making good food memories?". A trivial thought, of course. But food memories are the best! Chief among mine is my paternal grandmother's "bread and if it". If you're not familiar with this expression, it essentially means bread and "if it's in the kitchen you can have it", and it looks like high tea. Crusty slices of white bread, jam, pork pies, cheese, ham, cake. Lovely. Another favourite, was my mum's fusilli pasta with chopped cherry tomatoes, cucumber and pesto which, now I come to think of it, we should have called "salad pasta". What else? School dinner vanilla sponge with pink custard! Choosing cheese crackers from my maternal grandparent's grand, silver stag-betopped biscuit box. Candy floss at the stock car racing. The scalding hot garlicky butter flooding from a chicken Kiev.
Our somewhat recherché version of "bread and if it" is a plate loaded with mozzarella 'cherries', a splodge of hummus, some bread sticks, rounds of cucumber and slices of red pepper, salami and a few dried strawberries***. Perhaps a handful of crisps (always cheese and onion). It's my "oh-no-I-haven't-shopped-or-planned-dinner" assemblage. Oscar adores it and calls it "bips and bobs". Oh dear - it's probably going to be a food memory, isn't it?
* If this sounds shockingly anti-feminist, please bear in mind that this Rockwellian division of labour works for us for various pragmatic reasons.
** For anyone who might want to suggest that Spike will eat something non-preferred if he was hungry - you're wrong.
*** Ingredients are subject to market availability, and may change without prior notice.
Want to read more? Fried chicken heaven and heated toilet seats.