Cupboard Love and the Cooking Challenge

Among the goals I set for myself in January was one regarding cooking.  I set myself the challenge to cook at least one new recipe per week.  I was tired of cooking the same couple of dozen meals over and over just to try and appease my kids and quell the meal time whines and rebellions.  I operate an “eat it or starve” policy and tell my kids that I am no short order chef prepared to cook to their requests.  But regardless the griping and groaning can become quite grating.  After school hours are frenetic and frazzling as I oversee four kids doing homework while making the evening meal so to place said meal in front of kids and find a proportion of them protesting it is pretty dispiriting.  As such, I had fallen into the trap of not challenging them too much with food.  I was cooking from a repertoire of meals that satisfied the majority, knowing not all four would be satisfied each meal time.  I enjoy cooking.  I enjoy eating even more.  I wanted more variety.  The solution to my stuck-in-a-rut boredom was the challenge.

So far, with the exception of a couple of far too busy weeks, I have fulfilled the challenge.  Most weeks I have tried and tested two new recipes.  I pick friend’s brains, flick through recipe books, pin interesting looking options on Pinterest and pluck two possibilities (three if I have time to bake something sweet) to try out on my pack of little taste testers.

I am not going to lie about my rate of success.  Many of my attempts have bombed with the kids.  Meals Mr Pict and I have found delicious, the kids have complained about.  There have been a few melodramatic gagging performances and a smattering of going to bed hungry but mainly just moaning.  If more than 50% of the kids declare the meal to be horrid then those meals do not make it into my recipe file.  I dust myself off and try a different recipe the following week.  There have also been recipes I have tried that even I found too mediocre to be palatable.  Some I have adapted to give them a stronger flavour punch and others have just been deleted from my memory.  However, there have been enough comments along the lines of “You can make this again” to encourage me to keep trying and month on month my recipe file is getting chunkier.  A few recipes – and not just the sweet ones – have become family favourites.

A side benefit is that the kids have become a little more sensitive to my feelings when responding to the new recipes.  Dialogue about the success and failings of new recipes, suggestions as to how they might be tweaked to be improved, discussion as to precisely what makes them enjoy or reject a meal, has led to less yelps of “Why are you making us eat food this gross?” to the much more respectful and tolerable “I don’t think you should make this again” and “I would eat this again if it had more spice” and such like.  Meal times, as a result, are generally becoming gradually more pleasant affairs.  I still have to say “eat it or starve” too much for my liking but I accept it is all a process.  I will keep ploughing onwards with my recipe testing challenge.

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