Prosciutto wrapped chicken stuffed with herbs, courgette and tomato gratin, baby roast potatoes. Sound good? It bloomin’ well better, it took at least an hour to come up with.
Only the in-laws coming to stay, but my fingers are increasingly worn by thumbing a mousepad or recipe books in preparation. Finding a tasty meal I haven’t cooked for them a million times before that has no rice, no pasta, no couscous, no spice or heat, no fish, no vegetarian… Phew – what’s left? Red meat or chicken with pastry, potato or bread. Crikey. I’m bored just writing it let alone eating it for a lifetime.
I remember the first time they came for supper at our flat in London. Mr H told me to keep it simple. So I wracked my Jamie Oliver-addled brain and came up with mozzarella and tomato salad to start with, some kind of chicken with roast vegetables for main and who knows what for dessert. Turns out that was the first ever taste of mozzarella for my now father-in-law. Lucky for me he loved it and apparently it became a firm favourite. Bless them for keeping schtum for fear of offending their number one son’s new laydee.
Time has resulted in more honesty, or at least, more obvious signals. I guess that’s good. I don’t want them dreading coming to stay for fear of what I might put in front of them. I did contemplate a chicken tagine this morning, wondering for a moment if cous cous might past muster. Thankfully I saw sense. Using up my bounty of potatoes from the allotment will be far more satisfying anyway. I am insisting on putting courgette and potato soup onto them, though, which I’m pretty sure won’t become a favourite. But we have marrows bigger than our kids’ legs to use up – I’ll risk unfinished bowls for getting the damn things off the kitchen windowsill.
How on earth can people survive with so much delicious food off the menu? What on earth do they eat?! Traditional simple British food – that oft maligned creature, dare I say it, with good reason. It’s not that I don’t love the old classics, but I just can’t imagine not eating anything else. Love the in-laws as I do, I find their food habits, well, a bit boring. I probably have to ‘fess up to being a bit of a crazy one myself, loving rabbit food for breakfast, and generally salivating over health food shops and stupidly priced, funkily packaged ‘health foods’. I’m obsessed with coffee and cake. For a gal who shouldn’t eat wheat, I sure eat a lot of cake. And cookies. Gotta love the cookies.
Crazy how differently Mr H and I ate growing up and yet here we are, sharing a life, feeding our kids balsamic vinegar and vine-ripened tomatoes, curries and stir fries, pasta and parmesan. Their idea of simple is home made pizza or fish fingers with home made potato wedges and carrots from the garden. Not a white bread chip butty in sight.
What will they think of our eating habits when they become adults? Will they look at us and shake their heads? Will Jamie Oliver’s job be done in a generation’s time, or is that a middle class view of the world, where making meals fresh from scratch is the norm and ready meals a guilty secret? I’d like to think so. But the spread of obesity doesn’t suggest things are getting better. Health scares seem to suggest virtually anything you eat will be bad for you in the end. So what’s best? Maybe it is about eating food you enjoy, enjoying the food you eat. Within moderation of course. Or if not, then with exercise – you can’t beat the old energy in = energy out, however much I might try to sometimes.
And as for the kids, hopefully if we continue to give them tasty, varied fresh food without being militant about chips and chocolate, they will grow up to love the taste of food, enjoy trying new food, and even better to enjoy cooking for themselves and others. We will see. Time to go salt the marrows.