Sunday 17 December 2017

Smug Married: Broadening boring old staples is a recipe for disaster

Hungry for new and adventurous meals, Aine O'Connor soon has her fill of crushing, if accurate, comments

Aine O'Connor

Three of us were sitting in a pub, having a quiet few on a Saturday night to catch up on too long. We were in school together, so it's a friendship that has endured homework cogging, detentions, romances, distances, childlessness, childfulness, trim gravity-defying wrinklelessness and the alternatives that have assaulted us all.

We were discussing politics, drugs, people we know and cooking. We argued over what constituted a pie -- I only put a top on, but he blind bakes a shortcrust base before filling it and adding a puff-pastry top. Who are we? Cooking is one of those love-hate things. Or quite like-hate. I quite like cooking for an event, but I almost hate the daily grind of having to think up another day's meal, the routine of casting about in your brain and your fridge for one of the boring old staples you end up alternating every nine, seven, five days.

Number One was an incredibly picky eater as a small child. There were 10 things he would eat and that was it. Nothing else. It improved a bit as he got older, or was in someone else's house -- my sister-in-law would report on his demolition of lamb or pork and potatoes and carrots, but at home he ate little.

It was perhaps related to the dyspraxia with which he was diagnosed much later, and he will eat much more broadly now.

His sister was very different and will eat, or try, pretty much anything. They differ too in that Number One has never been that excited about food, whereas Number Two greets the answer to "what's for dinner?" with full-on joy.

The worst of the pickiness is behind us, but I realise I have slid into a small selection of staples which get rolled out all too often by virtue of their ease, familiarity and relative healthiness.

This is boring for everyone, so I went on one of my occasional notions to broaden our palates and my range, to try new things and be more adventurous. Cue a visit to an Asian market, where I recognised or knew how to use about two per cent of the food. So I bought those and some stuff I didn't recognise, thinking I'd work it out somehow.

Turns out the "claw" they were chasing each other round the kitchen with was ginger, which they don't like anyway. Soya products failed the test years ago, but as wheat is second only to saccharin in proximity to the devil according to some schools of thought, I bought rice pasta. Nope. The rice pasta isn't bad but the ordinary stuff is too much loved and they aren't keen to change. The resistance was more exhausting than gawping in the fridge every 6pm.

My piece de resistance was Aduki beans, a wonder food which, like wheatgrass and broccoli, cures diseases and makes you a genius. So I cooked them up with wine and stock and chorizo and a squillion veg -- flavoursome and extra full of goodness. They smelled good but on the plate looked like, as one recipient described, "the result of a hangover".

There were a few manful attempts at eating them and some waaaaaay too enthusiastic professions of their loveliness with "but I'm just a bit full now" tacked on. There were a lot of leftovers but even the dog, who would eat anything, looked askance at them.

We're having spag bol tomorrow night.

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