Yes- I know. I was surprised too.
This change was triggered by the inheritance of a massive box of recipe cards from some friends who were moving house and asked did I want them? I most certainly did not want them but said yes automatically as I was in full clearance mode. (I have learned that one should transport as few things as possible when moving house). Never mind - the recipes would just live at our house for a few days then be passed on to someone who was likely to use them.
However, Madi discovered the box before this could happen and spent ages looking through the cards making comments like 'Ooh this looks nice' and 'I would LOVE to eat this thing here - what is it?'
I summoned the boys and got all of them to look through all the cards and put their favourite looking meals to one side. I instructed them to pass round their favourites to get a consensus of dishes they would all be willing to try.
A few evenings later, K and me sat on the sofa with wine and maltesers and proceeded to look through the dozens of cards that had been deemed 'nice' by the children. We vetoed them and discarded all the cards involving obscure expensive ingredients and anything that gave a preparation time of more than 35 minutes. (Until they invent time travel I'm not interested).
This left 30 or so recipes.
Recipes. The word still sounds rather foreign to me.
These were arranged into a rota and a shopping list was made.
Shopping list. I know- It's a whole new vernacular. Until now we've operated with a type of inventory / roll call system. Run out of beans? Replace them. Tomato sauce needs too much shaking before anything comes out? Replace that before it runs out completely and J goes into withdrawal. Tuna?... Tuna??... TU-NAH!??... Darn it, tuna's gone awol again- source more, ASAP!
Shopping list in hand, I took the 2 youngest kids to Tesco the following evening after tea. It was a most efficient exercise- we got everything on the list, suffered minimal infiltration by non-listed items and finished off with our usual free reward of browsing in the toy aisle for 10 minutes. (Note to self: Food shop on a full stomach. Always).
The kids loved it. We each chose an item, scouted off to find it, then raced back to the trolley to score it off and choose something else. We always look out for offers and own-brand stuff, but this time a whole new world opened up. We covered £/kg, £/lb and why the marketing people are sneaky and don't standardise their labelling. The whole experience lasted an hour and a half and covered aspects of numeracy, literacy and the life skill of approaching a uniformed grown up to determine the location of coconut milk.
Over the next few days I gradually realised something which I suspect is common knowledge for many normal people: the mere awareness of what you are likely to eat later on in the day takes some of the stress out of making it. Why this is I'm not sure- the measuring / chopping / browning / simmering of things still has to be done. But the mental exertion of making certain decisions has already taken place so somehow all that stuff seems more bearable (Note: bearable- not necessarily enjoyable).
While having to actually perform the measuring / chopping / browning / simmering of things I employ the following strategies to further decrease monotony...
• Approach the whole thing like a massive science experiment. Prove the hypothesis: 5x + (3mb x CM4 - π5)2 = y
• Have someone to talk to / assist (our kitchen is open plan so there's usually another human being somewhere nearby). If not...
• Have music playing. Loudly.
• Gradually introduce variables into the known formulae: 5x + (3mL x CM4 - π5)2 = y (I used lamb instead of beef there and made my very own thing- Ha!)
Clearly we are in the very early stages of some sort of breakthrough here. If indeed it is a permanent change- this may just be the Cookiemoon or some weird mid-life blip and my real domestic rebel within will resurface any day now and force us to eat baked potatoes every other night, frozen stuff in between, and in the run up to big events when work/home boundaries are compromised allow the kids to have bowls of sugar puffs and wotsits for tea.