Archives for posts with tag: leftovers


Tonight I cooked dinner pretty much how I always do but took the weekly gamble on cooking for three instead if two.

When it works we all sit down to dinner and share a meal.

When it does not work we all sit down to dinner and I throw half the food away.

It is a bit of a gamble because the boys have hot school dinners.
I am occasionally asked for packed lunches, mainly so Prole2 can have cake every day and so Prole1 can take it with him to chess club.
Chess club is a big deal for Prole1. For Christmas he only got one present, a wooden games compendium which he places in his ‘special’ drawer.
He likes the moves, he likes the strategy and he likes talking about it.
Every Friday he plays chess in his class at lunch time and hot dinners means he is often late.

Prole1: I think I should have packed lunch because if I am going to be an athlete and represent the school at chess I need all the practice I can.

Me: I agree but an athlete needs a balanced diet as well, to be in tip top shape.

Prole1: I suppose so.

I don’t know how long that one will last but it has not come back on me yet.

The thing is, in my house I don’t force the boys to finish their dinner.
When they say they are finished they can leave the table.
It does not matter if they have not eaten a mouthful, if they say they are finished then they can leave the table.

I can pin point the moment I decided to do this.
1977, at the dinner table. We were all sitting round the table and my younger sister was being told off for not finishing her dinner.
My father said ‘If she won’t eat, let her starve’.
Naturally enough the attempts to get her to eat continued but I quietly thought this was the most sensible thing he ever said.
It made perfect sense.
My sister would be happy because she would not be forced to eat anything,
My other sister and I would be happy because there would be no more shouting.
My parents would be happy because they could eat their dinner.

After all, she might be right, she might be full.
Also, if she was hungry at the next meal, my sister would want to eat more.
Aged seven I decided that should I ever have children this is what I would do.

The Proles are never asked to finish their dinner.

There is a ‘but’.
The rule in my house is that if you say you are finished then there is no more food until the next scheduled meal/snack time.

 It goes against the grain but as long as you hold steady and weather the first storms the passage gets much smoother.

Prole1 has not eaten his dinner at all on one occasion.
It was a difficult night but I did not let him have anything except water until the next morning.
Breakfast was unusually early that day and he has never done it since.
Prole2 tried it twice.

Since then we have not had many arguments at dinner, at least about food.

The only thing I have actually FORCED the boys to try was Sugar Puffs.
I insisted Prole1 try one on the grounds that he liked all the constituent ingredients and therefore MUST stop being obtuse and didactic and try one.
After 25minutes he gave in, ate one, said it was very nice and NEVER ATE ONE AGAIN.

I feel awful about that.

Every system has flaws.
The way I deal with meal times throws up as many problems as it solves but it sort of works.
The Proles are a bit skinny though.

Tonight I cooked pork sausages for me and Prole2 and vegetarian sausages for Prole1.

As I was cooking I kept thinking I had done something wrong.
That feeling that I had forgotten something.
Just a little, you know, odd feeling that I had missed something.

I even dished everything up.
Put it on the plates.
Mash, peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, and sausages. Gravy on the side.

Prole2: Good one Dad. Food.

Me: Thank you. That means a lot.

Prole2: I love food.

Me: Good. Glad I can make you happy. What did you have for lunch?

Prole2: Roast. Roast potatoes, roast vegetables and meat.

Me: Good.

This is not good however, roast is a popular meal with the Proles and this means they probably would not eat all their dinner.
This is the downside to not forcing them to consume every scrap of food I create.
I end up eating it all as bubble and squeak at 11o’clock at night.

Me: How about you, the same?

Prole1: Yep. vegetarian roast of course.

Me: Of course….

Then I remembered that I had cooked the sausages all in one dish.

Prole1 was already tucking in to his vegetarian sausages, which for the first time had been cooked in pork fat.

I sort of watched him.

Prole1: What?

Me: Nothing. dinner ok?

Prole1: Fine. Nice. Very nice thank you very much for asking.

Me: Ok…good…fine.

That’s right.
I decided not to tell.
In the full and certain knowledge that at some point I will have to confess this to him and he will rack it up with Sugar Puffs as one of the great psychologically damaging food issues he will have to deal with for the rest of his life, I let my vegetarian son, a child who under his own moral judgement has been a vegetarian for 4 years now, Prole1, offspring of a militant vegan, eat those sausages.

And we finished dinner and the Proles ate the lot.

I did not even say the word ‘pesto’ out loud until I was in my mid twenties.
As far as I know it did not exist in Britain until then.
I had never heard of it.

Mind you I still remember visiting the chemist with my mother to buy olive oil because before 1984 in Britain olive oil was something you put in your ear not your salad.

I also remember, years ago, going out into London to track down the mysterious ‘Chorizo’ sausage, only available in two specialist Spanish delicatessen. We needed it for a show where it was eaten in big chunks. Half way through the run we found we had bought out both shops. London suffered a chorizo famine. We substituted an orange looking salami but it was not the same. Nowadays you are tripping over the stuff.

The Proles love pesto.
They could and do eat buckets of pasta and pesto.

Prole1: Do you like green pesto or red pesto?

Prole2: Green.

Prole1: I like red.

Prole2: I like green and red.

Prole1: They are primary colours. You could mix them together and get brown pesto.

Prole2: Brown pesto?

Prole1: Yes. But I think pesto is more like ink than light so you would have to mix magenta pesto with yellow pesto to get red pesto and then mix that with green pesto. Then you could get brown pesto.

Prole2: Dad, can we have BROWN PESTO?

Me: You want brown pesto?

Prole2: Yep. You mix it. From others. I bet it’s double yummy.

Prole1: Yes, two times the pesto, twice the….

His eyes glazed over for a moment and he went still.

Prole1(as if from a long way away): ….yum.

Me: Ummm, maybe next week.

I think I got off lightly in not being asked for magenta pesto.

Once of a day I used to feel it had some kind of mystique, this romantic and foreign pesto.

I used to make my own and would even make a vegan version for Loz. We used to buy fresh herbs and garlic every other week.
We had a tiny blender that she had won in a vegan recipe competition. She took first prize for her ‘vegan shreddies surprise bake’, a dish that as far as I know has never ever been cooked by anyone, not even Loz who dreamt the whole thing up in a bout of insomnia.
I can’t imagine the judges could have made it. Not without working out the truth.
Still, she got the blender and somewhere out there is her recipe, waiting…waiting…

In the last few years pasta and pesto has become the default “I really cannot be bothered to cook” meal and comes from a jar.
The blender is at the back of the cupboard.
Where as once of a day beans on toast was the culinary admission that you had run out of energy and imagination, pasta and pesto has now taken that crown.

I try to salve my conscience by finely chopping broccoli and adding that with half a can of sweet corn to the mix but I am hardly fooling myself with that one.

The honest truth is that I don’t cook much any more.
I used to cook a full evening meal for me and the boys every night but no matter how finely I judged the portions we always seemed to throw most of theirs away.
As a parent I could not bear spending so much money each week and then throwing it in the bin.
I was offended and depressed by the waste in the house so I started eating the left overs.
That winter I put on three quarters of a stone. I did not fit into any of my trousers any more and had to wear big jumpers.
In the end I gave in. I stopped cooking for us all.
Now most nights I cook a meal for them and sit at the table with them whilst they eat. When they finish I clear their plates, eat what is left and if I am still hungry I make a snack later. A couple of times a week I make a stir fry after they go to bed.

I look forward to those special meals where we can all sit down together and share because leftovers four nights a week are dull.

Pasta pesto leftovers are the worst.

I am not looking forward to brown pesto week either.