Monday, December 15, 2008

Missing: kitchen kudos

If writers get writers' block when they can't think of something to write, then what happens to chefs when they can't come up with a new recipe? I ask because I used to think myself fairly handy in the kitchen. I'd count a quick post work game of Ready Steady Cook using the dregs of the weekly vegetable box and our kitchen cupboard as relaxation. Back in Tbilisi, I even used to fancy myself as a bit of a Nigella mark two: true, her  cookery column was for Vogue while mine appeared in  the Georgian Times but I saw that as a mere detail. 

That, however, was all B.L. I refer, of course, to the time before I had Louis. The days when my brain was my own and I took having two hands at my disposal for granted. Becoming a Mom has done something funny to my culinary imagination, turning my mind to Jello when I try to think of anything to cook. And I don't mean funny ha-ha. I see now why pregnancy books tell you to stock your freezers full of homemade meals before the baby turns up: post-partum you will struggle to think of anything to eat bar hummus and crackers. Sorry, I mean chips and dip. 

I now find planning meals up there with planning a wedding in the stressful stakes. And as for completing a supermarket shop in one go, forget it. Sometimes I go back to the store three times in a single day. And even then we can be out of milk come morning. Occasionally I imagine I have re-found smidgeons of my previous kitchen kudos. I made a passably good stuffed aubergine dish when Mum came, and I can knock up a decent stir fry. But then I'll go and do something truly awful, like the butternut squash and spinach lasagne I invented the other night when John invited a couple of work friends. Why? (As an aside, I'm convinced US butternut squashes are way sweeter than their UK counterparts, like everything here, but that's an entry for another time.)

There is one flip side of having Louis though. Now that he's started solids, I've found a level of cooking I can cope with. Steaming and whizzing a batch of carrots was strangely satisfying the other night. And judging by Louis' face after he'd finished eating, it hit the spot for him too. It's no picnic though, preparing baby food. I realise now why it took one friend the best part of her Sundays to prepare her son's weekly meals. At the time, I thought she must have exaggerated how long it took to mash up a few veggies, but I take it all back. It's time consuming stuff. If you don't believe me, try shoving four giant sweet potatoes through a sieve. (Daddy J pleaded sweet potato elbow after just five minutes of helping me.) What I'll do when Louis gets on to needing more sophisticated combinations I'm not sure. I can already imagine turning to the very Annabel Karmel baby recipes I seem to recall scoffing at back in the days B.L. 

Not breakfast in bed but Louis in his makeshift Boston hotel room highchair...

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