On food and feeding

Margot enjoying crepes with nutella and strawberries



In my last post I set up the challenge of Veganuary. We successfully completed this challenge, with a couple of days ‘off’ largely in order not to inconvenience ourselves or others. So what was the outcome?

Veganuary served its primary purpose for me, which was to get us out of the food rut we’d fallen into since having the twins.

It has also made us reflect (a lot) on our use of animal products and seek to make alternate choices where it’s simple to do so (margarine v butter, or veganaise v mayo). One of the areas we’ve not really made progress is breakfast. I am a keen lover of the egg. Patrick is a master of all egg based meals. The tofu scramble, while good doesn’t quite hit the spot – but perhaps in time this too will shift.

Where we have made a real change is that we’ve stopped buying meat for the house. We’ve had the occasional fish, but overall we are now basically vegetarian. My great friend Brenna has an essay in the Reducetarian book – and over (many) dinners with this published bio-archaeologist I feel like I’m starting to rationalise my approach to food; but basically it just gives a name to my lack of commitment.

I am conscious that all of this fretting that I do about food is a privilege. I’m able to worry about where my calories are coming from precisely because I have so many that I need to choose between them.

Relationships with food can be complicated. So as I try and raise two kids who have a healthy image of food and a healthy relationship with the pleasures of the table I am clearly brought back to my own childhood in Texas, where my Dad did most of the cooking and meat was the centre of our meals. I remember one day at the age of 13 announcing to my father that I was going to become a vegetarian. He smiled quietly, went out and bought steaks, and then proceeded to grill them outside my bedroom window. In a show of support for my life choices he made a salad… clearly I ate the steak.

My mother’s side of the family is renowned for their food – and because that side travelled all over the world we always had new and interesting things to try. My grandmother’s chicken curry (which she would serve with myriad little dishes of coconut, raisins, and chutneys) was amazing. I’ll never forget when Granddad brought back a little package of spices from Ethiopia and made us Ethiopian Watt while he told us about his travels and the people he met there.

And yet … I think it’s actually the Mennonite heritage of my mother’s side that has brought me to the Reducetarian way of thinking. My two most well used cookbooks are: More with Less and Extending the Table. Both books explore the importance of having ‘enough’ food and nutrients and that by reducing the extraneous calories and protein (Americans and Brits eat WAY more than is necessary) you can live a fuller and more generous life.

I wonder what food stories the twins will have – currently they have a great fondness for:

Eggs (mainly scrambled), porridge, baked beans, buttered bread, olives (green or black), oranges, blueberries, pasta, digestive biscuits, and of course the banana.

Yesterday morning as we made breakfast for all four of us I suddenly felt like we were a family of four. Not just two adults and these small babies that were somehow cohabiting with us. But a real family. And that, I suppose, is the real power of sharing a meal.


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