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How (Not) To Cook

For the most part, I don’t mind keeping Ned Stark as a husband. He’s earnest, genuine and mildly amusing company but at least once a week we have this conversation. A conversation which makes me want to harm him with kitchen tongs.

Me: What shall we have for dinner tonight?

Ned: Food….

Me: Well, what food…

Ned: Any food…

#FFS. Really? Cheers for the input. How about one of these, you wazzock.

Alas, food. Sodding food. So, you can read some of my thoughts on food/foodies here. In a nutshell, you can keep your kale and give me some spaghetti hoops but today’s blog is about me being one of the world’s most uninspired cooks. It’s inspired by a girl who I used to go school with, who is now the foodie star du jour. She’s got a new TV show, a café, a book…the whole shebang. I saw her cooking on Monday night, skipping around her loft kitchen extolling the virtues of coconut oil, looking modelly and vibrant. It made me realise how I am not her. At all.

In fact, that evening, I retreated into my kitchen; my kitchen which is falling apart and propped up by towers of washing up, 50% of which are made up of plastic IKEA cups and plates. I then scraped the remains of that night’s dinner into the dog’s bowl. Another failed pasta concoction rejected by the children. The furry fucker looked at that pasta curiously. You know they say dogs eat anything. Well, these dogs obviously haven't tried my cooking yet.

When you become a mother, you undertake many roles: unlicensed taxi driver, referee, picker-upper of Lego, night nurse etc, but read the small print carefully, because somewhere down the line you also become a chef: a chef to very little people who are constantly hungry and are the fussiest customers anyone will have to deal with, ever. Your day suddenly revolves around food. Where’s my breakfast? What’s for dinner? Can I have a snack? I’m hungry.

The Hound: I’m sooooo hungry. Can I have a biscuit?

Me: We’re having dinner soon.

The Hound: But I’m hungry…

Me: Then have an apple…

The Hound: I don’t want an apple…

Me: Then you can’t be that hungry…

The Hound: I hate you…

You know when your baby used to cry because it was so hungry. Yeah, that noise doesn’t go away. I’ve been stuck with it for ten years now. Because these are growing little people and they want their food, all the food. I can’t tell you how much food these kids get through. It’s like the farmers of this land grow potatoes simply to keep my kids in crisps. Boxes of cereal can disappear in one breakfast sitting. They laugh in the face of a single pack of Jaffa Cakes: full moon, half moon, five seconds later, total fucking eclipse.

And your day revolves around the shopping, the feeding, the gentle/firm coaxing into getting them to eat something/anything, the washing up, the blind panic you feel when you remember you forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer, the constant need to have milk in the house. Gallons of milk. Do you know someone who’s recently had a baby? Yeah, don’t buy them clothes/toys/baby tat, buy them a cow. A real milk-bearing cow. Tell them it was from me and that they’re most welcome.

And it’s tiring, almost boring knowing how to feed children. You have to do it, everyday. And as a result, any enjoyment you once had for cooking completely disappears. I’m not Nigella, Delia, Mary or Jamie…I’m just like other mums out there, I hope?

I see what’s in the fridge, I throw stuff together, I sometimes reach for oven chips, I burn stuff. I try. And if it all goes wrong, I throw in a stock cube. Right? It won’t win any Michelin stars but it keeps people alive and as Ned once said, ‘is completely serviceable.’ Yeah, thanks. I think.

But then mum cooking is also a science that involves the varying moods, likes and preferences of little people. For as much as they do eat, my kids also have their strange little food quirks. They’re allowed them (I hate rocket, who doesn’t?) but I don’t have the time or inclination to pander to them. For example, Arya won’t eat anything with a tomato. And so that means she has trouble with pizza, baked beans, spaghetti hoops, 95% of pasta sauces and ketchup. The Hound is currently having trouble with mince. Or ‘the brown stuff’ as he likes to call it. Mince and tomatoes…that’s half my cooking repertoire here, people! So you can imagine their little faces when I cook a classic spag bol. The last time I served it, there was mutiny.

This has tomato!

No, it doesn’t.

Is this mince?

Of course not.

I hate mushrooms.

Then don’t fucking eat them.

You said fuck….

The rest of the meal then consisted of The Hound using tremendous levels of dexterity to eat around the mince, Jon Snow picking out the mushrooms and sneaking them onto Daenerys' plate and Arya refusing to eat which in return allowed me to drag out the age old ‘starving kids in Africa’ spiel and lose my shit in a spectacular nuclear style.

Then don’t eat! No pudding! I don’t do fussy children! You’re all ungrateful! The next time you eat will be breakfast! A recipe if anything for classic indigestion.

But then it varies with the weather. It’s a completely unpredictable game, one I’d challenge any spiruliser-wielding cook to partake in. Sometimes they don’t question it, they eat my spag bol and lick the bowls clean. Sometimes Arya will eat pizza simply because the mood strikes and I feel, to spite me. Sometimes the Hound will sit and glare at me for having had the gall to cut up his sausages. Sometimes my risotto will look like vomit but they’ll eat it anyway. And then sometimes, when the moon is high, the unexpected happens and a child thanks you for one of your dinners. For one small moment, you think you’ve cracked it. Look at this child! My child! Appreciating home-cooked fare that isn’t chicken nuggets! And with excellent manners to boot!

Jon Snow: That was yummy, thank you…

Me (shocked): Thank you…

Jon Snow: I like chicken....

Me: It wasn’t chicken…

Jon Snow: Oh, what was it?

Me: Fish

Jon Snow: Oh…are you supposed to cook fish like that?

(*dog in corner, laughs.)

One of my many culinary fans...stunned into a light slumber by my cooking skills...

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