Monday, 12 July 2010

University diet

When I started this blog it was after I had found my oldest child gazing happily into a well-filled fridge on a recent visit home. She explained that until she left home for university she hadn’t realised how much shopping was needed to keep it stocked up. It’s the porridge pot principle – your world-weary teen may cast a cynical eye over most fairy tales, but once they’re buying their own food they find that their faith in the pantry’s endless bounty gets tested.

Five kids, limited budget and restricted access to supplies, coupled with a touch of sadistic control, meant that access to food was restricted when I grew up in the 1970s. We were allowed three biscuits a day, there was no eating between meals and one sweet after lunch at the weekend was a longed for treat. In addition, meals had to be eaten, even if what was on the menu wasn’t to your liking. These days I know of just two families who restrict their kids food intake between meals, and neither of them is mine. I decided it was one battle I wasn’t going to take on.

When I left home I specialised in preparing a range of quick, cheap and tasteless meals. Pasta sauces made from soup mix, a speciality. My food obsessive parents ensured that these ‘naughty’ foods appealed to me. Flavour was secondary to MSG or effort. I progressed, through poverty, to conjuring up a dish that made the most of what food was consistently left to rot in my fridge. A saggy head of celery and a pint of milk with lots of pepper, cooked down with some seasoning, made a tasty slightly nutty pasta sauce. I may revisit this recipe in time, right now I am still shuddering at the thought. Other than that it was onion sauce all the way, truly delicious with baked potatoes and other veg. Occasionally I paired it with liver, as a treat.

So, this blog was started in an effort to teach my teenage daughter to cook. It was her idea, when she was living in halls, and wanted to enjoy some tasty homemade food.

The starting point was vegetable dishes, starter cooks are mostly not ready for meat. Aside from family classics, including caramel carrots, cabbage and bacon and a coconut dhal she’s also interested in onion sauce.

Taking tips from my younger self, economy of time, money and effort are the greatest influence on the recipes tackled. I also started trying to limit the need to wash up.

Imagining she’ll be happy to have the same meal twice in a row, or may invite others to join her to eat, so the recipes are for two, or can simply be scaled down.

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