Food. Of all the things that I didn’t think to worry about before I had kids food topped the list. I figured that we’d just whizz up whatever we were having (minus the salt) and the kids would just delightedly lap it up. I’ve always been obsessed with food, from baking brownies at 9 to learning how to make increasingly exotic culinary delights as an adult (hello my tagine obsession of 2011). But food has flummoxed me.
My naïve vision of ‘baby led weaning’ was somewhat interrupted by the hard fact that I went back to work when they were 6 months old (and exclusively breastfed), leaving the actual introduction of solids to my husband. The whole ‘let them play with adult food’ approach doesn’t really work unless you’re giving them milk four times a day so they’re still getting their nutrients. With my return to work, Isaac flatly refused to take a bottle, and Margot flatly refused to eat ‘real food’. So we needed a mixed approach to starting them on solids. But after a month or so Margot got her head around eating from a spoon and got into it.
So far so good. For several months Patrick and I would make giant vats of vegetable purees with added beans or tofu for protein, along with vats of pureed fruit to be served with Greek yogurt (yet more protein). But then as they got older, we got lazier. We discovered that they like tortellini. We further discovered that tortellini is relatively clean, compared to the other options.
And so when they started nursery in September we fell into a rut.
6:30 Porridge for breakfast (cooked to the point where it’s basically a finger food) along with a banana and possibly a biscuit depending on how much placation is required
8:30 Second breakfast at nursery – also porridge or wheetabix
10 morning snack such as cheese and crackers or fruit
12:30ish Lunch, things like pasta, stews, cottage pie which apparently, they eat all of most days
3 tea usually something like beans on toast
4:30 afternoon snack like fruit or carrot sticks etc
6 dinner at home – the inevitable tortellini
This works pretty well on days when they’re actually at nursery. However with the week long holiday over Christmas / New Year it occurred to us that we needed to up our baby feeding game. The idea that they can just have whatever you had the night before works to a certain extent. I had an incredible success with a cauliflower and chickpea curry with rice. But it means that you need to actually be feeding yourself. This is something that I have become pretty bad at.
Before I had the babies I would think about dinners for the week and do extensive menu planning. It started when we were first out of college and had very little money to live on, so this was an effort to be super frugal and really plan out my spending to the last £. But since becoming older and more affluent it became a way of planning out my week – looking at my schedule and seeing what nights we’d be out, and then what nights I’d be cooking and thinking about new recipes to try. Great fun.
Even during maternity leave I had a lot of head space to do that kind of planning. I even managed to make banana bread (more than once!) during baby nap times.
But after I returned to work, and particularly after Patrick returned to work in September I’ve struggled to have any kind of head space to do forward planning. So quite often dinner will be a tin of black beans served over rice, or Quorn ‘chicken nuggets’ with oven chips, or pizza. This is not really something you can serve to the twins the next day…. Hence the tortellini.
This is why in January Patrick and I have determined to have a bit of a shock to the system and undertake Veganuary. Where we adopt a plant-based diet for the month of January (letting ourselves off the hook for his 40th birthday midmonth). We’re not vegetarians, though eat vegetarian more often than not these days. We do, however, consume an appalling number of eggs, along with mountains of cheese, and the babies have lakes of milk in their porridge etc.
We’re undertaking this challenge both as a means of trying out a more compassionate diet, but also as a way of forcing a bit more creativity and home cooking. I’ve got several vegan friends who’ve stepped up with ideas and recommendations for cook books, as well as sources of the all-important B12, so I feel fairly confident that we can do this so that the food we eat weighs less heavily on our conscience and waistlines.