It was when I started crying over a cookery book in Waterstones that I realised I needed to try harder with my children’s meals. I was trying to choose between two fine “family food” tomes by Fay Ripley (of Cold Feet fame) when I was suddenly overwhelmed by my old pals, Inadequacy and Remorse. I walked away from the books and went home, rather gung ho and hopeful, as you sometimes are after a little sob. I cooked spaghetti bolognaise, of sorts, made with mince a day out of date (bought optimistically in my weekly delivery), a jar and a stock cube. Of course, I expect they eat bolognaise all day long at school, quite happily, and indeed as babies they both used to wolf it. But this is mummy bolognaise, and this is now.
My mouth was dry and my heart was pounding as I called them in for tea. It was like waiting for GCSE results. I was torn about how to present the unfamiliar dish. Flourish: “Look at this delicious new pasta we’re going to have, you’ll love it!”; beg: “Mummy’s made you some special tea, please try and try some”; or act nonchalant and put it on the table without a word?
I opted for the latter. My oldest child clapped his hand over his mouth. The middle one started crying. “Not that pasta, mummy!” he wailed. I cursed myself for not only dabbling with the sauce, but choosing a different type of pasta to the normal fusilli. Have I not learnt one single thing about child-rearing?
They both ran away from the table. I didn’t know whether to go after them straight away, cook them the other kind of pasta and coax the sauce into them that way or just let them go hungry (a non-option as it means whiny night-waking). I was at a spaghetti junction.
Luckily, the choice was taken out of my hands. My dear young nephew, who’d been staying with us all weekend, was just saying good bye from the arms of my sister-in-law, when he suddenly produced an absolute fanfare of vomit. We’d barely had a moment to react when he went again, with an impossible-to-believe even greater volume of effluent.
It’s no exaggeration to say my floor was awash with sick. I had the pleasure only last month of writing about puke – oh ho, if only I’d waited. That incident was but the rustle of wind in the trees that heralds a hurricane. From my vantage point, on the floor, scooping, I couldn’t reach the shores of the mess with my outstretched arms. It was up the radiator, on the wall, on and under the kitchen cupboard, all down my sister-in-law’s neck and into her bra (she said later), and, of course, on my feet. Which were clad in Crocs – the hideous, handy shoe, with holes in. I think I will just take to wearing wellies at all times, my feet are so vulnerable to gastric splatterings. The clean-up job took a good 15 minutes.
But here is the surprise. Amongst all the hubbub, my children came back to the table of their own accord, and ate the hitherto-unknown food on their plates. Not only a little bit – there were two clear plates. I’ve noted before that other people being sick perversely gives me one heck of an appetite, but there you have it: empirical evidence.
I feel inspired to introduce more new recipes now. Creating a diversion seems to be the way forward. But I think in future, I’d prefer Chuggington to Chuckington.