Once upon a time, I used to love cooking. I collected the Women’s Weekly recipes from when I was a teenager and experimented with recipes on my parents and sister. I also cooked ordinary home food nearly every day. Recipes that my mum taught me to help out in our busy household from quite a young age, as both my parents worked until 5 pm, I had a much younger sister and the way my parents were brought up, older siblings helped around the house, rather than being spoiled teenagers.
When I left home I continued cooking from Women’s Weekly cookbooks, as well as my Cookery the Australian Way book that we used in Home Economics in Year 10. On our trip to Poland in the 90s, I bought myself the Polish Kitchen, in Polish, so that I’d have my own copy and didn’t have to rely on my mum’s tattered old version.
And then I had kids. That in itself didn’t turn me off cooking, because initially, they breastfed and later ate mush, but by the time they grew into pre-schoolers, the fussiness started. Now, the recipes that had become our household standards were no longer welcome by the youngest members of my family and I really resented them for not enjoying my cooking and instead living on a steady diet of spaghetti bolognaise (with hidden vegetables).
My cooking repertoire became severely limited to what the kids would eat. Instead of using all my cookbooks to try new things, I started to use the Baby and Toddler Meals book to find things that my boys would eat. I still loved cooking for the few parties we would have because I could spread my wings and try new things, but that became very rare.
The kids’ (and our) diet was very bland and repetitive for many years.
When I became a single mum and went back to full-time work, meals that were quick and easy, or could be frozen, became my regular go tos. There was no room for experimentation or enjoying cooking. Cooking was an unwelcome chore that I tried to spend as little time as possible on.
You’ve no idea how relieved I was the first time my kids asked for tacos. I had not had Mexican food in over a decade and I love Mexican food!
They asked for tacos and they ate them – minus the lettuce and tomatoes.
And then I made a curry. And they ate it! After making a few curries they got sick of them, but still, I know they will eat it if I make it.
It seems that teenagedom does have some benefits. Not only can the kids do more chores around the house, but their palates also become more adventurous.
Then I tried making a stir fry. I was a bit worried they would baulk at all the veggies in it, but to my amazement, they ate them all! I even put bean sprouts in a stir fry occasionally and those get eaten, too. Ok, one child won’t eat broccoli or cauliflower, but he will eat just about anything else.
They will eat chilli con carne, without the chilli powder (recipe to come), some of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and just about anything from Hello Fresh. I think it probably was Hello Fresh that really opened them up to eating different meals, but I didn’t even try ordering from them before my few initial successes with curries and stir-fries. This post isn’t sponsored by Hello Fresh, but I find that their recipes are so easy to follow (even though extremely labour intensive) that my kids actually enjoy making them.
I’m not completely wild and free with my cooking just yet and I have to say that I still don’t enjoy it, but I do like trying new recipes these days, or resurrecting some old ones I used to make. There are still some things I’m not game to try, like adding pineapple to a stir fry or making something like lemon chicken. I think some flavour combinations might still be beyond my kids’ palates. (And maybe best left behind in the 90s.)
I find that taking photos of my cooking also adds to my enjoyment of it. In fact, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a food blog, aimed at families with fussy teenagers, or at least adding some recipes to this blog.
“Playing” at food blogger sounds kind of fun and while I certainly am not creative enough to make up my own recipes, I am pretty good at making small adaptations to the recipes of others and I’d like to share with you some of my Polish cooking.
What do you think?
Shall I experiment?