If there’s one thing that sits at the centre of our family’s life, it’s food.
I like my food. A quick glance at my ever-expanding waistline will confirm as much. Heather and I have booked a day off next month specifically to go to Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for our sort-of-annual lunch there. And one of my regular weaknesses is a tendency to pop into Waitrose to buy a couple of pints of milk and a loaf of bread and emerge with £70 of random ingredients that happened to catch my eye. (Sometimes I even remember to actually buy the milk and bread.)
Our children have inherited some of our foodie habits too. They all like to bake. They turn their noses up at regular jelly beans – they will settle for nothing less than authentic Jelly Bellys. They agonise for ages at the local bakery on a Saturday morning over selecting their weekend treat, even though Isaac will always have a Belgian bun, Kara a marshmallow cone and Toby something chocolatey. And no trip out is complete without a stop at a coffee shop for a sneaky babyccino. (Costa is the preferred destination, as they serve marshmallows with theirs.)
In addition to our usual weekend food adventures – Costa, tick; bakery, tick; expensive side trip to Waitrose requiring a second mortgage, tick – the last few days have also seen the completion of our new kitchen. It’s amazing how something as simple as a built-in ice dispenser can become an object of intense excitement – the boys used it constantly all weekend, generating enough ice to replenish the polar ice caps.
It’s rare for all five of us to sit down to eat together but we do manage a few breakfasts, lunches and dinners each week. They’re increasingly lively affairs with rapid-fire discussions and various word games firing around the table in all directions. We’re in the middle of a lovely golden period where Kara is old enough to fully participate in conversations and the boys are still happy to sit and talk with us. It won’t be long until they are sullen teenagers who never want to join us, let alone converse.
As much as our kids enjoy their food and love their sweets and treats, they are also health-conscious. Despite boasting healthy appetites, they’re all aware of what foods are good for them, they’re good at exercising self-restraint when they’re full (far better than I have ever been) and they’re always quick to pick up a piece of fruit without having to be told. Heck, Kara even asked for a second portion of salad with her dinner last night.
They all enjoy their food and eat their fair share of cakes, biscuits and sweets but I’m immensely proud of the fact that they make good nutritional decisions for themselves and aren’t among the 30% of children who are overweight or obese. None of them have ever had any problems with their weight. And, having been deliberately and regularly exposed to eating out from an early age, they’re also good in restaurants. We need to expand their horizons a little beyond Italian and Chinese but the basic foundations are there.
There’s no doubt that food is a big part of our family life. Hopefully it always will be one of our little pleasures.
What about you and your family? Is food just a functional thing, or is it more than that to you?