Changes at the Dinner Table

As you know I like to cook. For the past twenty-two years I have been a family cook. I've cooked an evening meal nearly everyday of those twenty-two years, I've provided homemade packed lunches for three children throughout their school careers and one for my husband every working day. I've kept the cake tins and biscuit tins full, I've filled jar after jar with jams and jellies and I've baked at least three loaves of bread every week. I've bought in bulk, huge sacks of rice and potatoes, I've frozen gluts of fruit, made pastry and bread for the freezer. I've well and truly stocked up. It's been hugely rewarding and I've loved every minute, but now a lot of those things seem redundant.

Nothing stays the same. The three children are no longer children. One of them, George, has left home, for the time being at least, while he studies at university. Tom is still living with us but is rarely here for meals either eating at work or out with friends. Katie plans to go away to university in the autumn of next year, Tom has plans to move out in the next year or two. It won't be long before I'm cooking for two again. As it is, more often than not I find myself cooking for three.

I see these changes as A Good Thing. I embrace the opportunity to change the way I cook. For too long I have seen myself as an enhanced version of a school cook dishing up wholesome but hearty fare bolstered by plenty of home baking. Now I need to be a different kind of cook, one who provides lighter, smaller meals for two or three people. Meals without the additional calories ravenous teenage boys need. A fillet of sea bass, a few little potatoes roasted in their skins and a heap of green leaves lightly dressed, a marinated chicken breast baked on a tray of roasted vegetables. A warmly spiced stew of chickpeas, peppers and apricots, pasta with a simple sauce of olives, tomatoes and herbs, and vegetables, lots of vegetables. This the food I want to eat. Puddings are not wanted except on occasion, cake is not needed except for birthdays, the freezer does not need to be stuffed, I do not need to stock my cupboards as if for a siege and nobody eats the jam I make. It's time to cook the kind of food that will be kind to me.

photos from my archives
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