Real Life

No more schnitzel please

Kerri Sackville had mastered her dinner menu for her kids. So when one of them asked for “something different,” it really threw a spanner in the works.
No more schnitzel please

My son was very polite about it.

“Mum, is there any way you could cook something different? I just don’t think I can eat schnitzel or spaghetti bolognaise again.”

I tried to conceal my surprise. Of course, I’d noticed that he had lost interest in dinners, which was uncharacteristic because he’s seventeen and ravenous all the time. Still, I’d assumed he’d just eaten too much after school. It didn’t occur to me that he was tired of my cooking. After all, my fifteen-year-old still ate everything on her plate, and the eight-year-old happily existed on air, and neither of them had complained.

But once he mentioned it, I realised there was a problem.

I have been cooking the same few dishes for my kids since… well, forever. Schnitzel, spag bol, chops, sausages, roast chicken, crumbed fish, and the occasional burgers or home-made pizza just to spice things up.

And I was quite happy with my repertoire. I never felt the need to expand it. I mean, I enjoy great food as much as the next person, but I’m very easy to please. I’m a functional eater; I eat to satisfy my hunger, and if a gourmet meal isn’t available I will be just as happy with toasted cheese or a couple of poached eggs.

And to be perfectly honest, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. I can do it – I’ve pulled together nice meals for dinner parties – but I’d rather spend my time working or reading or interacting with my kids than hanging in the kitchen.

But I couldn’t ignore my son’s request. I suppose I could have told him to cook his own meals, but he works incredibly hard at school and at his part time job, and whilst he’s still a kid, I feel it’s my job to look after him.

And so I hit the recipe books and got to work.

In the first few days alone, I made my kids a beef and vegetable stew, a roast duck with apples, honey chicken nuggets, and corn and feta fritters served with salad. It took organisation. I had to plan my meals ahead, which I had never done before. I had to make proper shopping lists, instead of just grabbing whatever was in the fridge. And I had to start cooking early. Generally, I just wait till 6pm and throw a something under the griller, which really doesn’t work when your duck requires four hours in the oven.

Surprisingly though, it didn’t take much more effort than my usual haphazard meal prep. Being organised actually saved me time in the evenings, because much of the washing up was done before dinner was served. And I felt less stressed without the nightly panic of what to feed my kids.

Most of all, I felt a tremendous satisfaction seeing my kids enjoy my food. I didn’t expect to. I didn’t think that was important to me. I was wrong. My son ate with gusto, complimenting the meals and making appreciative noises. My big girl tucked in happily, declaring the food to be ‘delicious’. My eight-year-old still ate nothing but air, but that left more for the rest of us!

I’m not sure that I will become a Masterchef-quality cook. I am still frightened of exotic-sounding ingredients and won’t cook anything that requires more than a couple of steps. But I have discovered that there is joy beyond schnitzel and spag bol.

And my son is eating like a champion again. It is astonishing what joy that can bring to a mother’s heart.

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