Yesterday I made Shepherd’s pie for dinner. I’d like to say that it’s one of those dishes that we all enjoy as a family but the reality is Eddy won’t eat it because it’s full of ‘wiggly worms’, Molly won’t eat it because it doesn’t contain pizza or a chicken nugget and I resent wasting two hours of my life peeling, chopping, frying and boiling ten different ingredients that result in a dish that takes no longer than seven minutes to eat, has me hungry again within an hour and leaves my hair and clothes smelling like a marathon runner’s sweaty armpit.
Pud likes it though, so it’s not entirely a wasted effort.
I read somewhere that when it comes to mealtimes, on average a family cooks from a range of just ten different dishes and I found this really surprising. With so much choice available to us nowadays and so many delicious, exciting flavours, how can we possibly be limiting ourselves to such a narrow repertoire of dishes? I was confident though, that we don’t fall into this taste bud limiting rut at the Pud residence – heck we’re so cosmopolitan, some days we even have pesto – surely we must be pushing nearer to the twenty if not thirty meal mark? So I sat down and worked out the number of dishes that all of us will eat when we sit down together as a family and I’m ashamed to tell you that I struggled to even make it up to ten.
So maybe there was some truth in the article after all. I decided to put it to the test and find out from my friends what gourmet delights my family is missing out on due to a combination of a fussy eater, a meat and two veg man, time constraints and, more often than not after several years of this meal planning lark, a complete lack of imagination and enthusiasm on my part. It was reassuring to hear that quite a few of my friends with families find themselves with a similar struggle. I honestly thought that everyone else sits around their table with their taste-adventurous kids, tucking into exotic delicacies that my kids would never touch in a million years, but the reality doesn’t seem to be the case.
And further evidence can be found when Molly or Eddy have a friend round for tea. When I ask their parents what their child likes to eat, more often than not I’m told something along the lines of:
‘Oh they’re not fussy, they’ll eat anything. Except potatoes maybe – they’re not too keen on them. Or meat. Or anything cheesy apart from pizza. Oh, and they don’t really like vegetables or baked beans. Other than that, anything really.’
Now, given that potatoes are the one staple in our house that I can guarantee everyone will eat in almost any shape or form, I’ve had to really wrestle with my conscience to welcome into our home any child who goes against our strong potato beliefs. I usually try to convert them by slipping a spud or two onto their plate when they’re not looking but it’s to no avail. These kids are not for turning.
I’d love to be able to cook a new dish every night of the week for a whole month and for my family to enjoy everything I put in front of them but that’s not going to happen any time soon. The best I can hope for is to introduce a new dish from time to time, be prepared for the indignant backlash that will follow and hope that somebody enjoys it enough for it to become a permanent menu fixture.
I’m ending this post with a handful of the dinners that we all eat as a family. Even with this woeful selection of bog-standard meals, there’s usually a side serving of variation accompanying each and every one. I hope though that if, like me, your meal times are a constant source of embarrassment and frustration, then this will reassure you that you’re not alone…
- Spaghetti Bolognese
Getting round the ‘wiggly worm’ issue by substituting the mince with non-wiggly veggie-mince, we’ll all eat this. Oh, except Molly won’t eat the bolognese sauce, she just has a plate of spaghetti with cheese on.
- Curry and rice
Another firm family favourite. Except Molly and Eddy won’t eat the curry, preferring instead a plateful of carb-loaded rice, naan bread, popadoms and maybe a homemade chicken nugget or two if I feel like spoiling them.
- Sausage and mash
You can’t go wrong with this one. Except that I’m not a massive fan of mash. I can eat it but it would always be my last potato choice. Ahem.
- Chicken pie, roast potatoes and vegetables
This is a good one – Molly won’t have creamy sauce in her filling so has just bone dry chicken, Ed will have sauce but no vegetables in his filling, Pud will have sauce and peas and I’ll have sauce, peas, sweetcorn and any other foodstuff I can shove into that bad boy. Four separate pasties with our initials violently stabbed into the top of each one, God help me if I get these mixed up in the oven!
Yes, yes and thrice yes! But it’s only recently that Molly has converted. And it’s not even a ‘dish’ and not particularly good for you, so I’m not really sure that it even counts anyway.
- Sunday roast
We finally have a winner! Everyone will eat everything on this plateful of hearty goodness. Oh, except Pud, who won’t eat his namesake, the humble Yorkshire pudding. Oh well….all the more for us then!