Prep time: An hour spent on Ocado, trying to type in ‘beans’ whilst being dragged away by two demanding children desperate for you to play space ball* with them RIGHT NOW.
Cook time: Hours upon hours making a healthy, delicious meal and then 15 minutes heating up some beige shit in the oven.
Difficulty: Hard. Super fucking hard. Vinnie Jones hard. Three times a bollocking day.
Serves: 2 children, 2 knackered parents, the floor, the table and a badly treated stuffed bear called ‘Beanface.’
For stage 1:
- Fresh, vibrant vegetables
- Complex carbohydrates
- A delicious sauce, a vehicle for the vegetables
- Love and patience
For stage 2:
- Beige food. ALL the beige food
- A shitload of beans
- A separate plate for discarding anything that is suspected to resemble items from stage 1
- A couple of well used baking trays
- Peel, chop, dice vegetables and dry fry.
- Make a roux using flour and organic vegetable stock.
- Add some protein (of your choice, meat or veggie).
- Add tins of chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, mixed herbs and tomato puree.
- Simmer for twenty minutes.
- Stir at regular intervals whilst saying calmly “Don’t play space ball in the kitchen sweetie” and using a leg to provide a physical barrier between children and a hot stove.
- Prepare potatoes two ways, mash for the older one as it’s his favourite and Charlotte potatoes for the little one as she likes ’em small.
- Plate up carefully on requested plates, after 5 minutes deliberation and 7 minutes arguing over the purple one.
- Let food cool to appropriate temperature whilst prompting children to go to the toilet and wash hands.
- Deliver plates to table with a flourish.
- Observe children sit down, look immediately disappointed and ask “what’s this?”
- Explain food groups and why they are important.
- Explain space ball is not allowed at the table.
- Gently encourage both to try some of the food on the plate.
- Point out that two kinds of potatoes have been made and they can at least eat those.
- Change tactic and threaten no pudding if food isn’t at least tried.
- Refuse to discuss pudding as in reality, you haven’t thought that far.
- Regret ever bringing up pudding.
- Distract from pudding questioning by dancing around to ‘Beat It’ and hilariously singing ‘Eat It’ in the hope it subliminally makes them put some of the bloody food in their mouths.
- Reheat as food is now not the optimum temperature
- Deliver plates again and be told they’re now too hot.
- Dance around to ‘Canned Heat’ changing the words to ‘Can Eat’ again in the hope of tricking into eating through performance.
- Try playing aeroplanes, counting and making it a game with tonnes of praise.
- Throw pudding back on the table (not literally, although the urge to throw some food is growing).
- Ask do you want some… ice cream? (Internally panic that Daddy has eaten all the ice cream again).
- 30 minutes have passed and no food has been consumed.
- Face the fact that they’ve won.
- Return to the kitchen, defeated.
- Heat the oven.
- Find the baking trays.
- Whack in some beige bland shit.
- Transfer the shunned meals onto adult plates and wash the prefered plastic plates ready for re-use, to avoid a further meltdown.
- Eat the cold ignored food over the sink.
- Heat beans.
- Serve beige and beans to h’angry children.
- Watch them devour the lot before asking for ice cream.
- Remind them that space ball cannot be played when eating ice cream.
- Be emotionally conflicted that they didn’t eat the good stuff and so am defeated, but they did eat and so might sleep which is (let’s face it) key to all of our freaking happiness.
Keep trying. Keep serving it up. Don’t lose heart. The above ‘recipe’ happened to me over and over again. Until recently, some broccoli, a meal component that has been served and ignored for years, made its way into a 4 year old’s tummy. With no bribery, cajoling or distraction dancing. Protein is gradually being acknowledged. Carrots are no longer merely a prop to pretend to be walruses. We’re getting there. So will you.
*Space ball is a terrifying game where balloons are thrown in the air and not allowed to touch the floor. By kids. Who can’t throw. Or catch. Indoors.