My wildest fantasies are about perfect mealtimes, with rosy cheeked children wolfing down a healthy, home-made fare, while displaying reasonable table manners and above average conversational skills.
The reality is rather different: two boys who are like chalk and cheese, two different suppers, peas being flicked at each other, food smothered in ketchup and "What's for pudding?" trilled before they are even half way through. Tough mummies out there would scoff, doubtless, and make them sit at the table for days until they have cleared their plates. I live in the real world and need to get them in to bed so that I don't have to drag them out of it exhausted the following morning. I also need time to write, wash up, do the laundry and maybe, just maybe,
sit down for five minutes at the end of the day with the person I married, before I forget his name.
Food is such an emotive issue. We need it to survive, it binds families together. Some people even enjoy cooking. They are usually blokes who haven't had the soul destroying experience of cooking for ungrateful children for the last ten years. Yes, my cakes are legendary for all the wrong reasons. I once overheard my youngest telling Daddy that "he only ate it, because he felt sorry for Mummy." Oh dear.
I did get my own back once. I was asked by a well-known national newspaper to eat like Gwyneth Paltrow for a week and inflict it on my kids too. Sadly, the article ended up on the spike but I still have the memories. Could I convert my boys from Krispy Kreme to kale? The answer was no and the overall experience was, as Gywneth once proclaimed after running out of herbs de Provence salt, a nightmare!
The overall cost was £150 on top of my weekly shopping bill for expensive "healthy" ingredients and I spent a lot of time whizzing up bags of kale to make super green juice. As I downed my fifth smoothie of the week, I began to realise why Chris Martin had to consciously uncouple from such a dull diet.
My eldest boy, then eight, wailed:
"Please Mummy, don't make me eat like a celebrity!"
...and promised to tidy his room. There were more tears than Gwyneth's Oscar acceptance speech as I tried to get them to eat kale, black bean and sweet potato skillet, whatever the hell that was. Later that evening, exhausted, I tried one of her lentil meatballs. I wanted to say to my husband that it was a bit bland but was prevented from doing so by the meatball sticking to the roof of my mouth. He made his excuses and left for the pub. Later that evening, he smelled suspiciously like a steak and ale pie.
So, post Gwyneth, we settled on home made pancakes for breakfast most days, which I do feel is over-achieving slightly. It involves me wearing an apron, which counts as "proper" cooking and I can smirk smugly when I compare with other mothers, who dole out the cereal of a morning.
Just don't mention the kale smoothies... Ever.