Saturday, 22 March 2014

Meal or memory?


I've been trying to think about recipes and which ones are important to our family. There are quite a few - the tomato sauce recipe that I use in all sorts of things, important as it saves me time, it's cheap, versatile and the kids like it...a lot; the coveted family Victoria Sponge recipe which only my lovely Nannie has managed to perfect, she always has one on the table when we visit, and we always bring home the leftovers. I've never been able to make it like hers; the Devil's Food Cake recipe (a Nigella one I think) that Mini adores and will regularly ask for especially on special occasions. He also enjoys helping and licking the bowl; or my American Style Pancakes - always requested on lazy Sunday mornings, for pancake day, or sometimes a treat dinner. Always served with maple  AND golden syrup, lots of berries, chocolate spread, whipped butter, slices of banana, and squirty cream and far superior to daddy's 'normal' pancakes which both Mini and Dollop refuse to eat.

There are more too - special because of the occasion we were celebrating, or because of the fun had making it, some are important because they are a regular feature in our diet, or sometimes because of the exact opposite - a treat, something special that we all enjoy occasionally.

I think what's important to me is not necessarily the recipe itself - which is just as well as I have a tendency to...tweak, but the feelings that are evoked by food. Food memories are strong - how many of you remember that special holiday because of the paella you ate in that little back street restaurant? Or perhaps it was your first date with your partner and the bottle of wine you had with the pasta? Maybe you were always made to eat your cauliflower and it put you off for life? Granny's apple pie?
For me, I have strong food memories associated with visits to my nannie - there were always dairylea triangles and sliced beetroot at the buffet style lunches, oh, and the cucumber (grown by granddad) had the skin removed, there was always lemon meringue for pudding and a block of icecream with wafers, then we'd have the legendary Victoria Sponge for tea later...the way the table was laid was important, with proper cake forks, and even now, no-one else is allowed to sit in 'my chair' at the table!

I hope that through food I can make those kind of memories for my children - it's not just the taste of that tangy tomato sauce, but the smell of tomatoes bubbling away, mingled with the freshly crushed garlic and herbs, then later the fun of grating some fresh parmesan, snow-like, over their pasta that I want them to remember.
And with the chocolate cake - it's not all about eating a rich, indulgent, naughty treat, but about the tradition of the cheeky piece of chocolate that Mini always sneaks into his mouth as he helps break up the bars, and about how much he laughs when he turns the hand mixer on too fast and we get splattered in cocoa and flour, and how I always 'accidentally' manage to get icing on my fingers when I cut a slice...so have to lick my fingers.

For many of our children they've not had the pleasure of good food, for some they've not even had access to the bare minimum to keep them safe, healthy and developing. Mini, despite his sometimes inappropriate diet at times in his past, has always been fed, and has never gone hungry. I don't want him to become complacent about where his food comes from, but I do want him and Dollop to enjoy their food and realise that it's not all about sustenance.

I'm linking this post up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out at The Adoption Social.
The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Things We Do: The car box

This is a fairly new introduction to our toolbox, but so far *touches wood* it's having the desired effect.

So what is it? Well, it's a box that lives in the car that is full of things the children can do whilst we're travelling. Increasingly Mini is struggling with journeys of more than the 5 minute drive to school, which means even a quick trip into town can cause anxiety and stress for him, and anxiety, stress and a headache for whoever is driving.

Dollop has always enjoyed taking a toy in the car with her - and she's content with a teddy, a doll or even a handbag with a few random pre-school fascinators in it. Mini has never been bothered, until recently - maybe the last 6-8 months - and now HAS to have something in the car too. If Dollop doesn't bother, than Mini doesn't either, but to ensure absolute and even fairness (in Mini's eyes) when she does, then he does.
However, we know how much he struggles with decisions don't we?
This means that whilst Dollop has an idea of exactly what she wants, Mini doesn't and generally can't decide between even 2 things. Put a time limit on it, and all that means is that a bomb will explode at the end of that time limit. Choose something for him and it'll be wrong...the bomb will still explode. The possibility of choosing the wrong thing provokes such strong feelings, that it's just too difficult to risk making the wrong or right choice.

So the car box lives in the car. It's full of things to do - 2 clipboards with paper, 2 dot to dot books, 2 pencil cases packed for colouring in, 2 pairs of binoculars and a describing game (which Mini's proving to be very good at already). It removes all decisions about what to take in the car. It provides interest and activity. There's a mix of solitary activities and family games. It's proving a hit (except for my lack of forethought when I'd only bought one pair of binoculars, that's now been rectified!).

I could, of course, have done what many families do - bought an in-car or portable dvd player, but there are still decisions about what to watch aren't there? And I'd rather at 3 and 7, the children didn't have any more screen time than they already do. So the box it is, if you have any ideas of travel games or activities that we could include, please do let me know.