Nearly two years ago, the Husband decided to switch to a
faddy low carb diet to see if it helped with various niggling health problems (you can read about that here if you’re interested). It did, and he’s stuck with it, but it also had the unintended consequence of driving me permanently out of the kitchen.
I used to love cooking, and I wasn’t actually that bad at it. But a decade of parenting two fussy eaters was taking its toll, and when the daily juggling act of ‘the little one won’t eat rice but the big one doesn’t want pasta’ was further complicated by ‘and their father only wants to eat steak, avocado and cauliflower’, I threw the towel in, and flounced out of the most important room in the house.
It’s a difficult thing to admit, as a mother. In the last year and a half, I’ve become aware that I’ve excluded myself from a proportion of conversations with mum-friends, because a lot of those conversations revolve around how much time mums spend planning and cooking meals. It’s what we do, mums, isn’t it? We’re primary carers, we nurture, we cook. So I feel as if I’m breaking some unwritten mothering rule, when I say, actually, I don’t.
That’s not to say my children are going hungry, or that I never put a meal in front of them. It shouldn’t need saying (but probably does) that they have another parent, whose day job takes the same number of hours as mine. As he’s spending a lot of time in the kitchen these days, steaming his avocadoes and fricaséeing his steaks (or whatever) he’s got ample opportunity to rustle up something for the children.
So in our house, Husband now does the bulk of the cooking. When I occasionally take a turn, as I have this week because he’s had a flu bug, I’m struck by just how repetitive the whole business is. I often feel like muttering: didn’t we just eat, like, four hours ago? I’ve actually lost interest in eating, as well as cooking (which might explain why I’m back in skinny jeans for the first time since the nineties). If our local supermarket sold those nutritionally balanced pouches of puréed stuff that astronauts have up on the International Space Station, seriously, I think I’d buy a batch. That way we could just glug them down occasionally whilst getting on with something more interesting, instead of spending hours slaving over a hot stove then watching my children push vegetables round their plates and bicker with each other.
I have tried, this week, while poor Mr Kirstwrites has been laid up. I got some chicken drumsticks out of the freezer and threw them in a casserole dish with some vegetables, stock, and a ton of herbs. The end result was very nice, but the stress of 6YO shrieking that these were ‘the wrong kind of chicken drumsticks because they’re all slimy!’ kind of made me wish I’d just served up plain pasta with carrot sticks and a can of tuna (this is what normally counts as ‘making dinner’ in my book). I love my kids to bits, but I’d rather be reading a story to the little one, listening to the older one rabbitting on about her favourite fan fiction, taking either of them to the theatre or for a walk where we can have a long chat. I’m done with the idea that because I’m their mum, I have to show I love them by spending hours in the kitchen.
It’s probably no coincidence that I’ve lost interest in cooking at the same time as my interest in writing was taking off. I used to expend a lot of creative energy on tweaking recipes and experimenting with different combinations of herbs, and then crash out on the sofa post-dessert, too tired to do anything but watch TV all evening. And I didn’t have anything to show for all that creativity, apart from an expanding waistline. Since I started seeing food as just an inconvenient necessity, I’ve done a copywriting course, produced a seventy thousand word first draft of a novel and even occasionally won the Six Word Story Challenge. I’m probably still a better cook than I am a writer, but I don’t care. There’s more to life than getting the right kind of chicken drumstick.