In a bid to exercise my domestic goddess muscles, I decided to bake a batch of baby cup cakes. It was a trial run in anticipation of Baby-Bel’s forthcoming landmark inaugural birthday. Trial runs are under-rated – in instances like this one. Following the recipe of the doyenne of baby nutritionists, the pre-eminent Annabel Karmel, I spent the good part of an hour grating (carrots), weighing, measuring, stirring, beating – generally making a pigsty of our kitchen.
In an inspired moment of irreverence straight from the Jamie Oliver school of cooking, I decided to omit the food colouring, icing and sugar – the aim being to invent a healthier cake (an oxymoron if ever there was one). The sugar was one step too far I suspect, as BabyBel spat out her trial cake in disgust; her expression conveying, with the undisguised honesty of a child’s prerogative, that it was on a par with eating a slightly soggy bath sponge – which had been festering in week-old scum. Another bite anyone?
Actually, I did a taste test (of the remaining batch) and they were really not too awful – edible in a puritanical sort of way. The wheatgrass shot of cakes if you will. Anyhow, I’ve learnt my lesson not to tamper with the sacred art of baking.
I have come to conclude that Baby-Bel’s palate has become a little too discerning for my liking and who can blame her? Yesterday she sampled the delights of a strawberry flavoured fromage frais – but not any ordinary strawberry fromage frais – it was subtly infused with chamomile (the peach version is fragranced with sweet fennel and the raspberry one has under notes of rosehip). Baby-Bel is not alone with her sophisticated taste in sustenance; the intensity of peer pressure for parents to ‘go organic’ rivals that of teenagers with alcohol. It would seem that the infant penchant for costly culinary delights has bypassed the crushing laws of the credit crunch. I have a confession to make though – I am wont to sneaking the odd non-organic item into my shopping basket then praying I don’t bump into another mum while doing the dastardly deed.
There was a year many moons ago when I subscribed to a weekly delivery of an organic seasonal veg and fruit box. I gave it up when I grew tired of throwing out unused rhubarb (what is one meant to do with rhubarb?) and washing out dead bugs from salad leaves. And though I don’t dispute taste (over aesthetics) is paramount, I draw the line when it takes the form of deformed apples the size of plums with skins covered in lesions. Had I not given it up then, I most certainly would have by now; if not as a casualty of tightening the purse strings, then the recent rumoured reports of organic farmers asking for a relaxation of guidelines defining ‘organic’ in order to improve cost-effectiveness would have definitely hammered the final nail in that particular coffin.
Totting up my monthly supermarket spend (an arduous task), it has become apparent that the cost per head of feeding the smallest stomach in this household is well in excess of the proportion appropriate.
So now I am wondering whether I have made a rod for my own back. Am I destined to fill the foreseeable future years of school lunchboxes with a selection of sashimi, caviar and artisan truffles? Will there be contemptuous disdain for my oft pedestrian concoctions in the kitchen for myself and Mr A – which in comparison to her gourmet baby foodstuff standards might come across as bordering on peasant food? To pre-empt and prevent any noses being turned up going forward, I feel I should consider correcting the error of my ways and begin the conversion to food heathenism sooner rather than later.
Where to begin? Where better than with some great British staple stodge – the stomach-filling, cost-conscious rice pudding. I endeavoured to prepare a pot this afternoon and proudly proffered it to an unsuspecting Baby-Bel after her afternoon nap. Her eager ingestion of the initial mouthful was misleading – she promptly proceeded to gag. Masterchef accolade I wasn’t expecting but still, not entirely the reception I’d anticipated.
So it’s back to the fine food for now then. Perhaps Madam might care for a bite of fois gras for supper?