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Monday, September 8, 2014

Cookbook junkie I may be, Foodie I am not.

I have a confession.

I am enamored with cookbooks & the anticipation of cooking. I would love to say I am a Foodie, passionate about passion fruit, organic quinoa, farmer fresh vegetables, grass fed beef & free range chickens. Loading photo after photo on social media sites of home cooked meals made from scratch (not a jar or sachet in sight. Boasting hand made passatta & home ground almond meal) that would leave Maggie Beer in awe. But that would not be true or accurate. I love the thought of lavishly presenting our family with a feast of dishes every evening, reminiscent of any rustic Jamie Oliver three course spread. I even have three Jamie Oliver cookbooks in my collection of paperback heaven to help me fulfill this dream. But my lofty ideals fall short more often that not. I can cook, I can cook well. I just can't reach the state of perfection & full-bellied nirvana I fantasise of. While Foodie I am not, family chef I am.

The only prerequisite any cookbook that fills my shelves must meet is the recipes cannot exceed more than half a dozen steps & all ingredients can be sourced at any major grocery store. I don't have time to spend mincing prawns, combining with spices (that can only be found in a small specialized delicatessen that does not bode well for a time restrained mum with at least three little minions in tow who would love nothing more than to touch everything in the lovingly presented displays & shelves filled with exotic food stuffs.) Then spooning the delectable but fiddly prawn mix onto wanton wrappers, before they dry out & stick to my fingers making wrapping them up a task in advanced origami. Then to steam, no more than two at a time, in a bamboo steamer. Not to forget there is still two side dishes to slave through yet. At this stage in our lives we need not so much five star gourmet, but five step gourmet. 'Good food fast', 'Midweek Mains', 'Fast, fresh, simple', '30 minute meals' are just some of the tittles that match our current culinary conditions.

Cookbooks are the only books I still buy in non-digital form. It's well known that I am an avid reader, staying up until the late hours reading e-book after fictional e-book. But when it comes to recipes & food inspiration it must be on a glossy page, not a touch screen. Plus, trying to wake up the tablet touch screen with food covered hands is always an inconvenience. It's so much easier to glance at an oil splattered, flour doused, well loved cookbook. 

Every week on a Monday night I sit down with a small hoard of cookbooks & magazines to plan our dinners for the week. Don't get too carried away, I only pick two or three meals from the taste bud taunting pages, the remaining four dinners are assigned from frequent rotation meals I can cook with my eyes closed (or on the minions) & my arms occupied with a six month old baby. Lasagne's, Stir-fry's, Roasts, Pasta dishes, Meat & Veg.

With the meals decided, the shopping list written out, & the shopping ordered, my motivation & inspiration levels are high, amped up from perusing pages of delicious, mouth watering dishes. Then the lead up to dinner time arrives, coinciding with the disappearance of my motivation & time. Instead of the dukkah crusted chicken breast served on a bed of wilted greens & char-grilled vegetables I was dreaming of the earlier, plates are served up with grilled chicken breast sans dukkah. The vegetables are not so much char grilled, but steamed. & the wilted greens, they are wilted...by the end of the week at the back of the fridge, unless I remember they are there & throw them in a stir fry.

Serving up our meals on rustic wooden chopping boards or large funky hand painted platters goes out the window (the idea, not the food). Serving up from gorgeous fancy tableware only results in mine & Doug's food going cold as we spend ten minutes dishing up for the minions. Requests for more of this, less of that & none of those coming from every chair. Or if we let them serve their own dinner they are more successful in turning the table into a scene not unlike a Pro Heart inspired commercial, with less food on their plates & more food on the table. If I needed any more reasons that center piece dishes served up in the middle of our table is just not a good idea right now, the fact that every meal see's our dishwasher loaded to capacity is just another strike against banquet style platters. The less I have to wash by hand the better. So for now, while the kids are young, the serving platters remain in the cupboards & dinner is dished straight from stove top to plate to table. Fast. Simple. 

Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, I enjoy baking. There is a huge sense of satisfaction obtained from the kids claiming "These are the best cookies ever Mum!" or the feeling of fulfillment when every morsel is devoured. But at the moment, often it feels like more of a chore, lacking the sense of comfort & joy I used to get. At the end of the day with the clock ticking down, I just want to get in the kitchen, get dinner cooked & serve a meal that is nutritious, tasty & pleasant to seven individual taste buds. This goes for snacks too. Every week I plan to bake cookies & muffins, but every morning sees that planned baking time eaten up with something else that is not baking, & often not important. I've been waiting for the motivation to come back, but it needs a little nudge along.

In the event of procrastination, take action. Tomorrow, I bake! 


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