By children, I mean the Boy, mainly. The Girl has yet to cotton on to this whole speaking thing. She’s still a huge fan of the gallic shrug, and its related God-You’re-Stupid glare, but her linguistic skills are limited. To her already meagre repertoire of “wow” and “thiiiissss”, she has – 5 months on – added: “yes”, “apple-juice” and “no” (actually “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnO!”). We have most fun with yes - “yeth!” – which she says with so much glee and positivity, in response to anything you ask her, no matter how mundane (“Did you sleep well?” “YETH!”; “Would you like some apple juice?” “YETH!! APPELJOOOOS!”; “Do you despair at having me as your parent?” “YETH!”).
The Boy tho’ – a whole different kettle of fish. Seriously, the stuff that comes out of him. I blame nursery and children with older siblings. (And, perhaps – perhaps - myself.)
So, sh*t he’s said in the past few days, which have caused me to pause and blink:
“Oh Mummy, why are you so narky?”
“Nobody cares about me, bloody bloody hell.”
“What are you doing Mummy?” (I gave him a look generally reserved for the Man, assuming it was obvious to anyone but a blind man – one with no sense of smell - that I was changing the Girl’s nappy.) Pause. “Are you just doing your best?”
“Do I have a girlfriend?”
“Daddy has bigger boobs than you Mummy.” [I’m not sure who was more upset at that remark, the Man or me.]
[Unable to open his seat-belt] “Oh for Chrissake.”
“Man? MAN! Why your dog has such a silly face?” [To a dog-owning stranger in the park. He had a point however; the mutt was no Lassie.]
“Mummy, why do girls and ladies and mummies have fu-ginas and boys and men and daddies don’t?”
And possibly the worst – to my ears anyway: “I want to eat MEAT.”
In fairness this last one wasn’t entirely apropos nothing; the Man was eating a sandwich with meat in it, and the Boy was grazing. “Why can’t I have the bit in the middle?” “Because there’s meat in it.” “Give it to me.” “No. You don’t eat meat. “I WANT IT!” “No.” “I WANT TO EAT MEAT.”
When he was born
I decided we agreed that he could choose to eat meat if he wanted to when he was 4. Back then, with his plucked-chicken limbs and wobbly head, he was never ever going to be a sturdy four year old. But suddenly it isn’t that far off, so I’ve exercised my entirely unreasonable prerogative and declared that he can choose at 7. (My reasoning is, I suspect, based on the philosophy of the Jesuits: Give me a child until he’s 7 and I’ll give you the man.) But now he’s gone and beaten me to it! What to do?
Hardcore indoctrination, obviously.
The ensuing conversation went as follows:
“Well you can eat meat if you want, but I don’t think you should.”
“Because it’s animals that have been killed and chopped up and then people gobble up all the bits. Which is awful because there are lots of other things we can eat instead.”
“Why do people gobble them all up?”
(Before I could answer the Man interjected: “Because they taste FANTASTIC!”)
“Yes Mummy, they taste ANFASTIC!”
“Yes, but still it’s an animal which has been killed, just so you can eat it. Which isn’t nice. And there’s no reason to eat meat, because we can eat lots and lots of other things.”
“What other things?”
“Well... Pasta and cheese and risotto and fish* and...” - sensing that he wasn’t entirely convinced – “...sweets and chocolate and crisps.”
To which both children replied in unison: “YETH!” and were duly rewarded with certain of the aforementioned foodstuffs in reward for their staunchly held non-meat-eating principles.
Another minor victory this week was getting – with no persuasion whatsoever - the Boy to eat soup. But not just any soup – this soup, nabbed from Hugh FW’s "Veg Everyday" book. It’s a thing of sublime beauty. And it’s not just me who thinks so. (“Oooh Mummy, this is de-lish-us. Please can I have another bowl?” Enough said.)
Curried Sweet Potato Soup (adapted, slightly, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Who really should rename it - “Curried Sweet Potato” just sounds so... blah, doesn’t it? It doesn’t do the soup justice at all, which would be more accurately described as tangy coconut-y citrus-y soup. With sweet potato.)
You need (for a big pot, at least 6 bowls):
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- A lump of ginger as big as your thumb, chopped fairly finely
- A quarter of a red chilli chopped (Actually, HFW calls for 1-2 red chillies. If I was making this for adults only, I’d use between half and one red chilli. For kids, I think err on the low side, but a teeny bit gives it a nice lift. Of course if hot spice is your thing, then adjust accordingly.
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 3 large / 5-6 small sweet potatoes (about 700g), peeled and cut into 1 inch dice. (If you don’t have enough sweet potatoes, make up the difference with carrots.)
- 1 litre veg stock
- A handful of coriander, chopped
- Juice of at least 1 lime (I find 2 gives it the zing I like)
- 400ml tin of coconut milk
Glug some cooking oil in a pan and when hot add the chopped onions, leaving to cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally and turn the heat down if they start to brown – you want them soft, not crisp.
When soft, add the spices, ginger, garlic and chilli. Leave for another few minutes, before adding the sweet potatoes. Stir well to cover in the spice mixture, then add the hot stock. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer.
When the sweet potatoes are soft – about 15 mins – add the chopped coriander, then liquidise the soup with whatever liquidising instrument you have, until smooth. Add the tin of coconut milk, and the juice of one lime and stir well. Taste, and add more lime juice and salt and pepper, as suits you.
Serve with anything. As long as it’s not meat.
(*Fish don’t count... [I know, I know....])