Hey there, kids! No longer shall I be filling your heads with talk of food (although in over a year I never once wrote an actual sensible column on the subject), instead I shall be writing about my Adventures in Motherhood.
This column first appeared in Standard Issue Magazine, which recently turned into a podcast like a mythical beast springing from a glorious fanny. So, here I am, writing for you smashers instead. Just a little heads up, there will be no advice. No judgement shall be passed on your strange and unusual parenting techniques. As long as the kid is safe, happy and fed, I play fast and loose with the Gina Ford generation of do-gooders. You can take your organic quinoa and take a long walk somewhere quiet while I throw potato smiles and frozen veg (purely for show) at my daughter while she asks me what’s for pudding.
My daughter is almost 6, and in year 1. For those of us who grew up in different times before Trump was president and people wanted an end to free healthcare, she’s in the first year of primary school. She’s about this tall *points at the wall* and has zero concept of personal space. Her favourite things are fairies, unicorns and the xBox, and she would like to be a princess ballerina when she grows up. My feminist views are shunned in favour of sparkly dresses and handsome Princes, and good luck to her.
We all make it up as we go along and none of us are any better at it then anyone else
Motherhood hasn’t been the most natural journey to me. 10 years ago I thought I’d be married with 3 kids and a mortgage. But here we are, my husband, daughter and I, living on not a lot of money with no plans for more kids because they are expensive and post-natal depression kicked me into next week for her first 4 years. That’s a long time to feel rubbish, and I don’t plan to repeat the experience.
I used to presume it was just me who didn’t have it together, who found it hard to be around other parents for fear they would see through the charade of normality. 6 years later and I’m convinced we all know absolutely naff all about what we’re doing. We all make it up as we go along and none of us are any better at it then anyone else. And if anyone makes you feel that way then they aren’t the people who you need around you.
Being a parent isn’t the defining feature of ‘me’ any more. It used to be my entire baby-filled life. No job and a husband who worked away meant a very lonely start for my and my little girl. Now we’re surrounded by a huge industry of school and work and childcare and people, each element chipping away at the feeling that we are forever stranded together like 2 survivors with no instincts. We are less dependent and so more free to be ourselves. There is life beyond kids, so this column is intended to explore the balances between being a parent and having the autonomy to claw back some semblance of normality. If I can do it, anyone can. Seriously, I’m rubbish.
Food scenes in films have always existed to remind the audience that even though the people onscreen are much hotter, richer and more talented than the viewing audience, they still need a decent meal like ordinary folk from time to time.
This month I list my all time favourite food scenes while binge eating a bag of own brand peanuts. Please enjoy.
Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene:
Until I was 4 years old I didn’t really believe in love, I thought it was a dystopian ideal circulated by a corrupt government to get people to pay more taxes, but then I watched 2 dogs kiss by accident while eating Italian food and I knew love was real. I still think Lady could do better, though.
Jurassic Park jelly wobble:
This scene still makes me anxious. We learn that raptors can open doors and it still frightens me as much as when my toddler managed it for the first time and caught me plucking my ‘tash.
What We Do in the Shadows:
Regardless of a hilarious late-night chippie takeaway scene, seek this film out for its sheer hilarity. A bunch of vampires film a mockumentary about the perils of modern life, one of which is not having chips after a mental night out. I definitely could not be a vampire, you couldn’t even have garlic sauce on them.
9 ½ Weeks:
This entire film marked my transition to womanhood and gave me a lifelong interest in top of the range fridge-freezers. Bet theirs was A+ for energy conservation. Not sure about a blindfolded buffet though, I’d prefer toast and Netflix if I’m honest.
Matt Damon becomes a farmer on Mars. Stay with me, he does science stuff too and is funny with some actual jokes, but mainly he’s a space farmer. How many crops have YOU grown on Earth? EXACTLY. Impressive stuff if you like extreme farming. Which I do.
Do yourselves a favour and rewatch The Banana Boat Song scene on Youtube. I’m assuming you know what I mean, and if you don’t then I’m afraid we probably can’t be penpals any more. I once showed this to my daughter and she had nightmares about hands coming out of soup for months. She just really doesn’t like soup.
It’s a new year and the gyms are full of people blinking like newborn fawns at the flashing dials of unknown machines. Regulars sigh, knowing only the toughest will keep up their new routines. Health food shops sit back; it’s their time to shine. There is a national courgette shortage. Healthy eating adverts are everywhere. People hold their wobbly bits and sigh, knowing that if only they could have the discipline to make 5 days worth of packed lunch on a Sunday evening they would be True Adults.
Food is the cause of so much guilt during the January purge. It feels extra naughty to some people to indulge in a chippy tea or eat out somewhere posh after the extravagance of Christmas. BUT NOT TO ME. This is important, as I guide you through the January blues with a sexy calorie count and a love of my own wobbly bits.
If you find yourself adding lentils or quinoa or couscous to a meal in lieu of delicious pasta, or if you use a can of fizzy drink to make a chicken curry sauce, stop. Pasta is not the enemy here, and neither is a delicious korma. The enemy is the insane amount of marketing designed to make you feel bad about what you eat and how you look, and people are getting richer by the second while you spend your wages on stuff which tastes like the box your crimbo pressies came in. Pasta won’t kill you.
If you’re convinced it’s the work of Satan, just put a bit less in your bowl or buy wholewheat. Likewise if you’re hell bent on a health drive, just chuck a handful of frozen veg into your sauce, you’ll feel virtuous without breaking the bank or your soul. Any veg is better than no veg.
I’ve spent January eating from the 5pm priced-down range at my local supermarket thanks to literally everyone I know having a birthday just after Christmas. Selfish…. Weird recipes involving malt loaf and 9p steak slices have formed the basis of our diets for weeks, and do I feel bad about it? Of course not. My kid has the energy for 3 after school sports clubs and I work night shifts, so we’re doing something right.
No need to spend hours soaking lentils until they transform into edible fart-nuggets, a bowl of spaghetti shapes and some tinned tomatoes keep us flying along nicely without me skimming the back pages of women’s magazines for ‘new fitness regimes’ and feeling awful about every part of my life.
So eat the chips, feed your soul and don’t let the media tell you that any time of year is a time to change. Diet if you want to, but not because you feel you should. Enjoy those carbs and use the time you’d have spent looking at calories to read a book or play outside or take up needlework. New year, same old you. You’re lovely as you are.
It’s the most wonderful time of the cold, miserable, over-priced, consumerist month. The time we buy too much food and spend money on presents for people we don’t like which they don’t need or want. And yet, I bloody love Christmas.
It’s taken me having a child to bring back its magic, and now as soon as Tesco’s start putting their selection boxes out in August I get a lovely feeling of lets-not-be-horrid-to-each-other which usually lasts until Boxing Day. Now, I know I may be in the minority here, so allow me to lay down a few contingency plans for the more Grinchy among us. It’s all going to be ok.
What to do if the dinner is a disaster: I say preparation is key here. Light a fire on Christmas eve, and if you don’t have a wood burning stove just set fire to a pile of old boxes in a shopping trolley outside. Either will do.
The warmth attracts wildlife, and inevitable something will either fall down the chimney/onto your bonfire and provide a lovely leg of venison/cat/hedgehog for your family the following day. If anyone asks, it’s smoked game.
What to do if the Christmas Pudding won’t light: This tradition is puzzling. I’m all for lighting shots of absinthe on a good hen night then having a Maccys at 3am, but why set fire to a perfectly good liquor which may otherwise numb the effects of an entire day with your family? Odd. My suggestion is to make everyone, including Grandma, down a shot of brandy before eating some profiteroles. No one actually likes Christmas Pudding.
Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.
What to do if Uncle Alan has too much to drink and gets a bit racist: If the conversation gets around to Brexit or Trump, here are my suggestions. Firstly, point to the nearest posh bit of food and explain that without the influence of European cuisine (or the actual word cuisine) we would all be sat around eating ham sandwiches or cocktail sticks with cheese and pineapple on.
Everything rich and nutritious has probably come from outside the UK. Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.
How to steer Aunty Dorothy’s dinner table conversation away from awkward personal information: You’re unmarried, and so in Dorothy’s eyes, highly abstract and possibly even ‘alternative’. You are still working in a ‘job’ job and not a ‘career’ job and have yet to put down any money towards a deposit for a house. My suggestion here is to crack open the Terry’s Chocolate Orange and explain that the baby boomers destroyed both the housing and employment market, and that it’s actually her fault that you are so overworked and depressed that no one finds you attractive any more. She’ll come round.
What to do with leftovers: Leave them in the fridge along with your best intentions. Literally no one actually makes turkey soup the next day. Just buy less next year and give the cat a day to remember with a leg or two of roast hedgehog. Your budget will thank me.
That’s it, and just remember folks, I’m not an expert.
With the return of GBBO, the nation has thrown down its floury gauntlet and challenged even the most terrible bakers to a flan-off in a marquee.
People the length of the UK have been rolling and kneading, burning and sweating, and inventing all sorts of new and interesting swear words this past couple of weeks. It’s like an episode of Last of the Summer Wine but with less casual racism and more sexy grannies.
In honour of this bonding experience, I have baked absolutely nothing. I’ve never even seen an episode, having not got a telly which plays actual programmes. I have, however, found awesome new DLC for Fallout 4, so the summer hasn’t been entirely wasted. I’ve got a go-to banana loaf which uses about 4 ingredients (one of which is optimism) so if you’re ever at a loss about what to do with a handful of browning bananas I’m your woman. It’s vegan too, so you can invite your vegan mates round if you have any. If not feel free to chuck some beef in or something, like that episode of Friends where Rachel makes a cake with mash and gravy in. It’ll give you something to laugh about for years to come.
I see some of the Pinterest wedding cakes doing the rounds and wonder who on earth manages to knock these things out
I’m not a cake person. Give me a couple of hours and you’ll have the finest roast you’ve ever tasted, but cakes are not my thing. Given that I can get a perfectly decent, ready made cheesecake for half the price of its actual components I’m happy to support my local, family-run, massive supermarket chain. Honestly, here’s £2 now gimme my cheesecake.
Cakes are best left to people who really want to bake them. They are a luxury rather than a necessity and so if you have the time and inclination, go nuts. My best mate made me an amazing cake for me hen party. It had a mouth on the front and I’ll leave the rest of it for you to think about. It was amazing and I know I could never reproduce such brilliance without either giving up work or putting my child up for adoption, and I’ve seriously considered both. I see some of the Pinterest wedding cakes doing the rounds and wonder who on earth manages to knock these things out. They are works of art! I couldn’t even DRAW a cake that beautiful.
So, I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m terrible at baking but I think people who are good at it are maybe some sort of wizard. Blessed with an almighty glucose-based super-power, they are worth of our true respect and admiration. Unlike me, who just suggested putting beef in a banana loaf.
Empty coffee cups in films and television. One of my biggest peeves, and I get peeved fairly often.
I love films, I work in an independent cinema, I’ve been in a few, and nothing gets me more hacked off than an actor carrying an obviously empty paper cup. I LOVED the US remake of The Killing, but the rage which bubbles in my black heart when I see such fine actors as Mireille Enos and Joel Kinneman forced to mime a sip of coffee makes me want to do my very own killing.
We covered eating and drinking in the first year of drama school, even the kids in Jurassic Park nailed it with a table full of desserts and a kitchen full of velociraptors. It’s not rocket science is it, filling a cup with enough water to weight it down? If the actor can’t cope with a little sip of water now and again, then it’s perhaps time to de-Hollywood their diets.
Leonardo DiCaprio ate a bison’s heart in The Revenent and he’s a vegetarian!
I’m not advocating getting through an entire roast for each take of a scene, but surely a small mouthful of food or a small sip of water isn’t going to kill anyone. Perhaps the director is of the mind that if we are watching the liquid level in the cup then the show isn’t exciting enough, but if you’re chucking millions of pounds at sets then throw a couple of quid towards edible props. Leonardo DiCaprio ate a bison’s heart in The Revenent and he’s a vegetarian! This is an extreme (but fairly badass) example, and one which begs the question as to why several people around a dinner table can’t eat a single morsel of food. Brad Pitt got through roughly 10,000 calories in Se7en, so let’s see the cast of Doctors tucking into a Greggs pasty once in a while in between shifts.
Perhaps this could be a sponsorship opportunity worth of Simon Cowell and his everlasting Pepsi on America’s Got Talent. Let’s have the cast of X-Men heartily slurping a grande soy macchiato before looking down the camera lens with a cheeky wink, before flying off to save the world. Or maybe Finding Dory could feature her snacking on an ice-cream cone dropped by a hapless beach-goer, who delivers a killer line to camera about the damage to the earth’s coral reefs. Just a thought.
However they do it, let’s just do it. Let’s all chip in and make sure our beloved actors never have to revisit day 1 of GSCE drama and mime a plateful of food and cup of tea. A quid each should do it. Let’s get a family sized hamper of tea bags delivered to LA and get our screens (and their cups full) of decent English Breakfast, instead of the void in my heart where a lovely brew should be.
Work has taken over, and despite my best efforts to eat a balanced diet, or indeed to actually make time to eat at all, I’ve been compiling a list of food which a person can eat without offending the people you share a work space with.
My shifts are anti-social to say the least, so mealtimes are basically just times throughout the day when I put food in my face. I rarely sit down to eat without a computer keyboard catching my crumbs. I am a leading mind in the field of snack research, and I have every intention of completing my PhD very soon.
My first tip is nutritious and mysterious, both qualities I prefer in my elevenses.
The granola pot is your friend. Do not be afraid of its texture or taste. I spent 33 years in its absence and what a waste of a life that was. Imagine, if you will, hiking through the Peak District, head low, tongue dragging on the forest floor. Every piece of bark, nut, seed and deer turd sticks to your palette like bluebottles on flypaper, except it tastes a bit of yoghurt. That is a granola pot. Go nuts, eat nature. You’re welcome.
My second recommendation is slightly less rural, based instead upon the rigours of inner-city living in 2016. The mighty bagel is very cool at the moment, regularly featuring in the fashion mags in the hands of Class A celebs.
My secret tip is chocolate spread. I don’t even care, judge me like your Grandma would, but there it is. Get the Nutella out and get your blood sugar working for you. Your metabolism and carb-lust will thank me, I promise. If you’re worried about nutritional content then this might not be the column for you. In fact this probably isn’t the column for anyone who enjoys food.
My last tip (yeah whatever, I only have 3, I’m not Willy Wonka) is beetroot. Honestly, anything that turns your wee pink is fine by me. It’s healthy, unusual in colour and taste, and a great talking point if you are ever saddled with a boring colleague by your side. No one wants to discuss beetroot. They WILL leave. It doesn’t smell so no one gets offended, and if you work late into the evening like me you’ll have a ready supply of lip stain and blusher should yours have worn off. I can’t fault beetroot. Apparently you can bake cakes with it too, but if you ask me you should probably just buy a normal cake and get over yourself.
And so concludes my nutritionally and culturally rich column. I feel we’ve all learned something important. Thanks for being with me on this journey.