You don’t need me to tell you that in recent years, there has been an explosion of cookery programmes telling us how to eat this or prepare that.
Without naming names, there are chefs that seem patient and thoughtful, more famously there are chefs that swear and belittle, not forgetting ‘chefs’ who seem more worried about pouting to camera and sucking cream off the end of a perfectly manicured finger (raymonblancgordonramsaynigellalawson).
I have to say that I do like the majority of these programmes; I like food.
A relative newcomer, for me at least, is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with his River Cottage and his campaign against cheap chickens. This campaign has made a big impact on our household, moving well away from eating mass produced two-for-a-fiver chickens several times a week and back to eating free range, organic chicken once a week, if not less.
I say “back to” because growing up, I can remember we had chicken on a Sunday; it was a bigger deal. My memory may be serving me badly and I may be seeing things through a pair of misty, overly idealised spectacles, but things seemed to work along the ‘less is more’ theme.
There’s no doubt that food prices have been steadily falling over the past 25 years and relative to wages, things were more expensive in the 1970’s.
Something my Dad would whole-heartedly agree with!
One thing that hasn’t changed however is the importance we attach to eating together as a family.
It didn’t matter what we were doing as boys; it didn’t matter if my Dad was working under his car or mowing the lawn; it wouldn’t matter if we had all been arguing five minutes beforehand; Mum would call out that “dinner’s ready” and we would slowly converge from wherever and take our “usual” places at the table.
If we had been arguing then conversation would be stilted and minimal but, more often than not, mealtimes were a time for talking and laughing. At the risk of sounding all cosy and rosy, we often found ourselves still sat at the table several hours later, bringing each other up to date with our lives outside the family walls.
What I think played a part was the fact that our Dad knocked through the wall joining our kitchen and dining room so that the cooking and eating flowed nicely together. And, like all good scenarios from your memory banks, when you have children of your own, you try to emulate those same situations; try to instil those same happy memories in them (hence us knocking the wall down in our own house and making the kitchen and dining area one space).
Yep, meal times are a pretty important time, in my book at any rate.
“But Dad, I’m watching Power Rangers!!!!” Joseph screams.
“I don’t want to, I wanna play”, echoes Annabel.
M and I won’t budge on this. We get their (almost) undivided attention, to hear about their school day, who did what to who at nursery and just a general update on their fast changing, growing-up-quick-lives.
They might not be thanking me now but I’m pretty confident they’ll appreciate it in years to come.