Food for thought.

I have always been a bit obsessive mindful of DS’ eating habits, paying close attention to the food groups and making sure he had a balanced diet from the word go. Some might consider my behaviour a bit abnormal, I mean, I have been known to stand in the yoghurt aisle for a good fifteen minutes, noting each pot for it’s sugar, salt and saturated fat content.

Knowing this about me, my seven year old sister was a little anxious about staying at my house this weekend. She’s that kid you see in the TV programmes, junk food galore, shunning every vegetable in sight. My mission was to break her down, remove the crisps and replace with fruit and well balanced meals.

It wasn’t as difficult as I first anticipated. I allowed no room for discussion, outlining that her dislike for one thing or another just did not matter. Sometimes children and adults have to do things we don’t necessarily want to. It’s important to embed this young, teaching children to get over things easily, otherwise you end up with an adult who has learnt to be spoilt like me.

I made eating fun, getting DS and my sister to race against each other – who can eat the fastest, who can find the carrot first, who has the biggest chunk of salmon. If they grew tired of the games and receded back to moaning about their meals, I would not even acknowledge that either had spoken. I like to be hard but fair in my approach – speaking to children matter-of-factly seems to work well.

Some would view the spectrum above and believe the best position would be to place themselves in the middle – well balanced, a bit of everything. The stigma of mothers who stand firmly on the right end of the spectrum, is over presumptuous and gives excuses to those who wish they could have done better. Mothers who obsess over healthy eating slave away in the kitchen, they create children who are gagging for a bit of chocolate, alienated by their peers and when they are older they’ll over indulge.

It’s not true. It takes me 20 minutes tops to make DS’ lunch every time. We eat the same dinners. It is just as quick to pick up an apple as it is to grab a packet of salt ridden Walkers. Children who go without are resigned to this fact. When they are older, they will become equally as apathetic. Something went wrong for the children who do over indulge.

Hopefully my prudence will spur my sister on to eat with variety and encourage DS to continue his love for healthy foods. I don’t think I can convince her to steer away from junk food entirely – I don’t work miracles.

Truite en papillote.

I have been following Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen on BBC2 and taking inspiration from her quaint French dishes. I thought I’d try out the truite en papillote, which translates to trout in a parcel.

Ingredients:

Half a lemon

tsp of salt

ground pepper

glug of olive oil

Medium sized rainbow trout (you can ask for this to be gutted, equally you can do this yourself)

Handful of new potatoes (parboiled)

Leek (Rachel Khoo used fennel, but I decided to use leek instead. You can also use red onion if you prefer)

What’s next?

First you need to prepare the rainbow trout. You’ll need to gut it, if it hasn’t been done already, and give it a good clean. I won’t include the picture of DH gutting the fish as some might find it a bit too graphic, but here is the link to it for the brave. Once that has been done, make a large incision on the underside of the fish and place it on some foil. The foil needs to be long enough to wrap around the fish later on.

I was very happy to make use of the zester I bought last year for the next bit. For the marinade, you will need to zest half a lemon, add the salt and pepper, then mix it with a glug of olive oil. Smother it all over and inside the fish.

Now the fish has been prepared, slice the new potatoes and the leek to fit inside the fish. Stuff the fish neatly and any leftovers can be placed around the fish. When it cooks, everything in the foil will soak up the tasty marinade.

Wrap it all up in foil, squeezing both ends to secure the juicy liquids. Rachel Khoo used the traditional method of wrapping the fish up in baking paper and tying it with string, but I think foil is much simpler and you get the same result.

Once wrapped and ready to go, cook in the oven at gas mark 6/200 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Once cooked, it the fish should be a pale pink colour, flake off easily and oozing with flavour. Your truite en papillote should look something like this..

 

NomNomNom.

So I’ve decided to show my face again after a month of neglect, only to show you the amazing dinner I had the other day at my Grandma’s house. Where are your usual posts filled with criticisms of the world?, I hear you ask. Unfortunately I am drained of words and inspiration, so I’ll say my hello and goodbyes and leave you with this:

Ho fun with king prawns, chicken, fish balls, spicy fish balls, choi, mushrooms and baby corn.

Chinese cake for dessert, bought from Chinatown.

Brownie Points.

So DH made a request for some kind of pudding to be purchased on my food shop on Friday, and I decided to do one better and make a chocolate brownie. Yes, from scratch.

I have blogged about various cooking/baking ventures in the past and I can confidently say I am not a big fan of dessert. I much prefer to rustle up a meal, as ingredients tend to give or take. There is no forgiveness with a cake.

I decided to follow the Hummingbird Bakery‘s recipe (see link for full ingredients and instructions). This was my second attempt at baking something from this book, after I had a go at chocolate cupcakes.

Melt the dark chocolate with the butter in a heat proof bowl over simmering water, making sure that the bowl does not touch the water.

Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Add the sugar and mix, then add the flour and mix. Finally, crack the three eggs and stir until thick and smooth. Pour the mixture into a cake tin lined with grease proof paper; you might want to spread it over two, like I have, to make a thinner brownie.

The book says to cook for 35 minutes at 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3, however mine was in there for an hour despite my efforts to make the brownie thinner.

All in all I think it was pretty successful. Maybe next time I’ll choose a shallow cake tin to make sure the centre of the brownie isn’t too gooey. Despite this, it set perfectly fine and tasted absolutely delicious with vanilla ice-cream. Yum.

Not for all the tea in China..

Cultural clashes are a daily norm for me. It doesn’t happen in a major way; it’s not like I whip out the chopsticks in preparation for a three course meal. It is the tiny trivial things which stands out the most to me, which causes my paranoia that others misinterpret my actions as rude or hostile.

Take the ol’ tea and biscuits scenario for example. No matter where I am, be it in a work place, family gathering or anywhere that involves a kettle, my auto response when offered a drink is “no I’m fine thank you”. I forget making tea is an ice breaker and a British norm, so I will nearly always decline out of politeness of not putting the other person out. This often results in an awkward situation where I have opted out, ignoring my dehydrated brain signalling that I am dying of thirst, to five minutes later decide to fetch myself the drink.

When I do get over myself and remember social etiquette, I allow others to make me a drink, or even food, to which I try my hardest to finish it all. To me, scoffing my food in no way resembles the class hierarchy that is very much alive today; we pass judgment on the poor who presumably lick their plate clean, but the very wealthy tend toy with their food, making sure a standard amount is left over on their plate. I do not clean the plate because I am starved and poor, I just simply disagree with trivially leaving waste. From my perspective, someone has taken the time and effort to make that food, so you better show gratitude by eating it.

I am not sure whether this is inherent from only my family or if there is a bigger cultural picture, whereby most Chinese people behave in this way. I do hope it is the latter.

Please, Sir, I STILL Want Some More.

Since my last nursery post on the 9th September, I am saddened to say nothing much has changed. DS is still coming home hungry despite my incessant complaints to the nursery. Wednesday 21st September sets a fine example of how his nursery fails to address DS’ needs.

Needless to say, my boy came home starving that day. DS has been eating two full Weetabixs since forever, yet somehow, he had only managed half of one on Wednesday. Following breakfast, he had a pathetic minimal snack which he obviously ate all of. He most probably did not reject lunch, but was neglected and left to fend for himself. I can only imagine the worst because there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. DS has always been a hungry boy, to the point that he tries to lick the bowl clean, failing that, he puts his face in the bowl instead.

This incident does not stand alone, as illustrated in my previous post, this is a regular occurrence. The food DS eats with me is not a one-off, I place him before myself and always ensure he has the best meals filled with nutritious goodness. Today he ate a whole bowl of porridge for breakfast, followed by three quarters of an apple and a cracker for his snack. For lunch he devoured a bowl of smoked haddock, spring greens, spinach, carrots and leek with cous cous. He is currently eating half a banana after he gobbled up whole croissant for a snack. For dinner he will share our roast beef with potatoes, carrots and whatever else I throw in the mix. It is incredible how little he eats at nursery in comparison to at home.

After much upset, DH wrote a response:

This is not new information to them; when he started nursery we made them very aware of our angst. DS started at twenty months old in an aged two to three room, with children who were capable of feeding themselves without aid, spoke clearly and were able to communicate their needs. DS can string a few words together and can demand things like a car and a ball. He would not demand food, water or a nappy change though – those things are not fun. He needs to be sat down and fed, given water accordingly and changed regularly without being asked. Adults often speak to children as though they should control themselves and have their own answers, however I believe children of all ages should be told, not asked; especially not rhetorically. I have witnessed one or two nursery workers who ask the children if they would like food and the conversation always goes along the lines of, “are you going to eat that?” .. “no” .. “fine I will take it away”. What kind of ‘looking after’ is that?

If it was a matter of survival then yes, I will hand it to them, they are doing a brilliant job. However, I am paying extortionate fees for my boy to be well looked after and I expect a certain level of standard. I do not scrimp and save, work my arse off all week, just to come home to an unhappy boy who has been neglected by people who are meant to be his carers. The staff are meant to bond with the children, engage them in learning activities, encourage them to read, and above all, energise them with nutritious foods. I do not see this happening, or at least, I am not hearing about it. Their 2010 Ofsted report states they should improve to ‘further develop the regular, two way flow of information with parents to maintain and support communication with parents and users of the service‘; a year on, a shabby school book they ordered especially for us because other parents receive feedback verbally does not constitute as a ‘regular, two way flow of information‘ I’m afraid.

GUEST POST: Putting up with the Jones’.

I am very happy to be writing a guest post – thank you!

This story begins just a few days ago, at about tea-time. For context though I’ll tell you something about the day in question – I mean this whole post relies on a mood being set and set right from the start.

So Thursday was my first day off mid-week with DS for over a month; I had a dentist appointment and afterwards picked him up from nursery to spend some real quality time. I’ve just started to work for a company in central London, where my hours are long enough to mean that some days I wake before DS, but get home when he’s asleep. It breaks my F. heart; I used to be at-home-dad! Without sounding too corny – I mean, I am pretty loose with masculinity to be honest – but anyway, without being too corny, I preferred being a ‘male mum’.

So there it is, it’s Thursday, and this previously lovely next door neighbour decides to cause a scene. I am in the kitchen and I’ve just finished feeding DS. DS is still in the high chair watching CBeebies. Patricia steps into her garden and I haven’t seen her because I’m facing the other way. Patricia’s usual bubbly tone is absent, she doesn’t flinch, but her lips purse just enough to mumble out a rogue wave.

Is DS all right?

Hello?

I didn’t hear her and I’m still happy, besides DS has eaten well. A parents mood usually mirrors their child’s diet; the more buoyant the tummy, the more buoyant the behaviour. Patricia decides to repeat herself. I can see now that a thick layer of rhetorical positioning was being employed here. Setting yourself up for a volley was never deemed skillful on the playground at school and I don’t have much time for it these days either. I didn’t know it right then, but she was about to hit the volley quite square and quite firm at just about head height.

Is DS all right?

Oh hiya! Yes, he’s a bit moany, but he’s fine.

He’s been crying for one and a half hours…

Well, he’s going through his terrible twos stage, trying to show me who is boss, and a few other things going on too.

Yeah but don’t you give him a hug or anything?

Excuse me?

Don’t you give him a hug?

What the F.? This sweet old person has turned out to be an interfering lady-dog. I feel red in the temples, not the cheeks, and it burns too; somehow my blood is simmering when it reaches head height. I don’t know how to respond to someone I have spoken to like a ‘nice old person’ for two months while living here. I mean, now that I’ve had time to think, I remember that there are only two types of old people: cute and humble, or grumpy and rude. I need to tell her to F. off, but I love the moral high ground too much to let her ruin my composure. I’m not embarrassed by her accusation, I’m embarrassed for her.

Actually I don’t appreciate this line of conversation, Patricia.

Well I live next door and I hear him crying all the time.

I know, but when he is being difficult I ‘do’ the ‘parenting’.

Well are you? Because..

Patricia, I don’t have to stand here and… actually, I don’t have stand here. Goodbye Patricia.

I close the door and Patricia shouts something that is made incoherent by the pane (window pane that is). I’m not used to this, being young and rather innocent – I mean, in the sense that I don’t ever see aggression coming. I expect people to be pleasant by default. It’s a downfall of mine that makes me vote left and respect old people. One of those tendencies is under review – ever since the Lib Dems created a Tory coalition that is.

C.B.