Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday 14 May

 Blog Every Day in May - Food

Yes, I failed! I should have posted yesterday but I Was.So.Tired.
We had spent the weekend in Holland for a family party (and I had scheduled the weekend's posts), but I didn't want to take the children out of school so we travelled on the overnight ferry on Friday night, slept in a hotel on Saturday night and returned to the UK on the overnight ferry on Sunday night. Add a late-ish night on Saturday after a broken night on Friday due to 11yo not having fully recovered from tummy bug that both children came down with on Thursday, and by yesterday I was wiped out. I dragged myself through the day, 11yo fell asleep in the car on the way to 14yo's ballet lesson, he was in bed by 8, I was in bed just after 9, slept through till just after 6 - and I'm still not fully recovered. So, there was no way I had the wherewithall yesterday to come up with a post about going green. I think I'll return to the subject in the future sometime as it is an interesting one - the Dutch being more clued up about recycling than the UK, although we're rapidly catching up.

Right, on to today's subject, which is food.

Fried eggs for breakfast for hungry teenage boys

I love cooking. When I was growing up, my mum used to love cooking. Quite often it would be meat, potatoes and a vegetable, but she is a very good cook who loved French cuisine and enjoyed experimenting. I'm sure I didn't always appreciate it, I remember well the first time she cooked bolognese sauce and me hating the celery in it, and having to finish a bowl of rice pudding which I couldn't stomach (mum, if you're reading this, it really hasn't scarred me for life - I love rice pudding now!). She often did cookery courses and I felt very grown up when I was about 13 and allowed to do an evening baking class with her. 

Strawberry pavlova, one of my favourite desserts

I am sure it is my mum who inspired my love of cooking. In my teens I started cooking meals from time to time. I did a lot of baking in my aupair years - four growing boys always appreciated cake and biscuits! Then when I returned to the Netherlands for my degree, I lived at home with just mum who was working fulltime, so I did quite a bit of cooking because I spent more time at home. Cooking and food took a bit of a back seat in the early years of my marriage, as J. has a problem with lots of food. I did cook but cooking just for yourself isn't as much as fun as sharing it with someone, and I haven't got many food memories of that time. I did very much enjoy weaning the children and felt very proud of never giving them a jar of baby food, but cooking all their meals myself. We always ate with the children, not having separate meals, and 11yo in particular was eating mashed-up family meals from a very early age.


And then I met B. who loves food possibly even more than I do. Our first date was in a pub where he ate his own food and promptly polished off my plate which I couldn't finish because of nerves. Our second date was outside at a riverside pub where he pinched all the salad onions off my plate. After a few more dates I asked him to cook for me. He made a gigantic paella for the whole family and I knew I had met someone with whom I could share my love of food. I was a vegetarian when I met him, but out of principle rather than not liking meat, and it didn't take long for my willpower to crumble when he started cooking fantastic English breakfasts at the weekend. My range of ingredients had already expanded since joining WeightWatchers, but he introduced me to many dishes I had sometimes not even heard of. He started taking me out to restaurants which was something I'd not done for years. But most of all, in him I suddenly had someone I could cook for and who really enjoyed what I made for him. Although he is a very good cook himself, he doesn't often allow himself time to make a meal, so one of the things I enjoy during the weekend is pottering about in the kitchen for hours cooking us lavish dishes.

Homemade quince jelly

What it has taught me, is that food and eating is something very sociable. I spend quite a few evenings on my own, and more often than not I don't bother cooking something elaborate. I nearly always make a nice lunch but my evening meal often is just a sandwich and a cupasoup, or leftovers from a meal earlier in the week. But when there are two of you or at a family gathering, food becomes something that binds you together.
This weekend was proof of that too. We travelled to Holland for a family party - my aunt and uncle had turned 65 and 70 last year and wanted to celebrate with a family meal on Saturday and a brunch and exhibition of their paintings on Sunday. As a present, I had collected several locally produced food items, such as coffee, tea, flour, cider, even sausages and bacon. My other aunt turned up with a tray full of little glass jar which she'd filled with the more unusual herbs and spices used in Yotam Ottolenghi's books (yes, a love of cooking runs in the family!). On Saturday night we had a lovely meal with three sisters, their partners, children, grandchildren and various partners. On Sunday we ate a fantastic brunch with family and friends. My uncle's speech touched on enjoying good food and enjoying it with others. The weekend was lovely, and the food was definitely a contributory factor.

Homegrown tomatoes (no, not my own)

Some of my happiest memories and even not so happy memories are linked to food. I vividly remember the first meal I had in Britain with my aupair family, outside in their garden in the sunshine. The bread the mum of the family used to make. The wine we used to drink (in fact, this weekend I drank a wine which took me straight back to those times). The memorable meals I have with B., the fish pie I cooked for him one of the first times he came to my house, followed by banoffee pie and feeling so full I had tummy-ache. The meals at the Japanese restaurant in the little town near to his house, now sadly closed. And even the meals in the cafe at the hospital where mum spent so much time a few years ago, I still remember those.

 B. enjoying the sauce from the mussels

There is no doubt my life would be very much emptier without this love for food.

 A romantic gesture from B. on a lemon cake