They say the best place to start is the place closest to you, and for me that means starting with a family full of big personalities, strange rituals, and eclectic foods. My house, my kids, my family.
With three kids, a husband who works long hours, and a job that requires me to work shift-work, life in our family can be pretty hectic at times. Add to that the fact that I am a chronic “joiner” who likes to volunteer for various causes, and the general social obligations of family life, and we often find that having a relaxed family meal is close to impossible!
Joe. My husband and often the chef in our household. I like to cook, but I generally prefer to cook vegetarian food and desserts, and Joe cannot live on veg alone. He makes a great spag bol, bakes bread, and is an expert with the Weber- few can resist his honey carrots!
Rissa. That’s me! Often the one forced to prepare the mundane food, I am a professional veg smuggler. I possibly spend more time than is required trying to find new ways to hide vegetables in foods that have no business containing them – cake with zucchini and sweet potato, anyone?
Phoebe. Six years old, loud, energetic, outspoken. Hates fruit, loves carrot. In desperate times is quite content with a tin of tomato soup and a piece of toast.
Daniel. Three years old, fruit-a-holic. This kid has eaten fruit salad for breakfast AND lunch on more occasions than I care to admit. Would probably live on fruit salad, sausages and “bum beans” (baked beans) if I let him.
Jared. Not yet one. Our tiniest member. His chunky thighs and round little face are testament to the fact that he loves food. Often any food. He was never fond of actual baby food, so has generally eaten with the family since 6 months old.
I was going to post about a fancy meal, something impressive that made me sound like some sort of super-hero parent and chef. Sadly though, I am neither of those things. And quite frankly I rarely have the time to try and become those things. So instead I’m going to post about a stock-standard meal, bursting with hidden veg, and completely meat free because it was cooked by me. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Lentil Sloppy Joes on toast. Get excited!
It’s quick to cook, easy for little ones to eat, and packed full of healthy stuff at the same time- clearly it’s a winner! So I plate it up on our classy plastic Tupperware plates, call the troops, and we sit down to eat. It’s adapted from this recipe, however I manage to squeeze a few extra veg in there for the small people in my family.
I generally eat while simultaneously feeding Jared, so I rarely get to eat my meal hot. Sometimes I just give up and don’t finish eating it at all. So the kids and Joe tuck in, and I shove spoonfuls at Jared. He thankfully is enthusiastically gobbling it up, however he complains whenever the spoon to mouth movement is not done at lightning speed. Man this kid loves this! Maybe I am supermum!
“Want water! Want water!” Daniel has left his water bottle in the other room. I tell him to go and grab it. “No! I want different water! I want big boy water!” I roll my eyes, and instruct Phoebe to go and get each of them water in a cup. Because it tastes different in a cup, right?
Jared slows his pace, allowing me the chance to grab a few mouthfuls of my food. It’s a pretty delicious concoction of lentils, grated veg, and tomato based sauce. I comment to Joe that I did pretty good with dinner this time. He is less enthusiastic than me. “It’s not bad,” he says while staring at the mound of legumes in front of him “I guess it’s OK for a plate of LENTILS.” High praise from a supportive man, right there.
I turn to Phoebe to see how she is going. “Mum, is this healthy food?” A recent visit from the famous Healthy Harold has left my daughter obsessed with the nutrient value of all things that she puts in her mouth. “It is pretty healthy Pheebs,” I say, “It’s full of good things.” Phoebe is smeared with sauce and has a lentil stuck to her cheek. “Mum, I like it! I LOVE it!” Fantastic!
Daniel has tipped the lentils off the top of his toast, and is sucking the sauce out of a slice of bread. “I don’t want healthy food, I want BUM BEANS!” he cries. “But you were eating it before, Dan- just keep going.” I say. “Just eat your lentils Daniel.” I guess Joe figures that if he has to suffer through it, the kids do too. “But I want bum beans!” Daniel looks at me and gives me his sweet saucy smile, “Mummy, I love you. Can I have bum beans now?” “Sorry mate, no bum beans today. Just lentils.” He’s not impressed, and his sweet face becomes a sticky scowl. Resentfully he nibbles a few tiny mouthfuls. I give him the rest of my toast and eat the lentils off my purple plate.
Dinner is over. I wipe the kids over with half a packet of baby wipes, mentally cursing at my decision to give them a bath in the afternoon. At the time it seemed like a time-effective way to occupy three bored kids who were covered in dirt from their mud-pie making session in the backyard. Now it seems like a wasted effort, and I consider never washing the kids again. Phoebe and Daniel clear the table of plates, and Joe starts to stack the dishwasher.
I grab all three kids a tub of yoghurt. We all sit together on the couch, Jared on my lap and the other two fighting for the seat that is allegedly “the closest” spot to me. I cannot move my arms as they are pinned to my sides by small people. I get Phoebe to grab her home reader and sight words, and we all listen to her read the riveting story about a frog that thinks he owns the pond. I look at my watch and begin a mental countdown until bedtime.
Joe, starved of animal products for a whole meal, walks into the living room with two sausages from last night’s meal. His carnivorous appetite is sated, the homework is done, and we bribe the kids with bedtime stories to get them into bed. It’s 8pm. I grab my plate of now congealed lentils and no toast out of the fridge. Nearly 2 hours after I began eating my dinner, I finally finish it.