Matt would probably argue that Nigel Slater’s Real Food changed his life more than mine but that’s ok.
Matt doesn’t have an enormous appetite but does like good quality food. When we first met he said he couldn’t cook anything other than fried eggs, burgers and student spag bol. That’s ok, me and the friend who I shared a flat with were both enthusiastic cooks so it wasn’t such a big deal.
We got married and moved to our own flat, I did the cooking. I like cooking, I like baking, but it does get a bit tedious when you are the sole provider for the meal at the end of the day. You end up turning to fast solutions and repeating safe recipes; the joy of cooking can be lost among a sea of pasta and pesto.
When I fell pregnant in January 2006, I couldn’t think about food. If you put a meal in front of me, I would happily nosh it down but if I tried to think about choosing or cooking food, I was immediately couking. And then there was the phobia I developed about opening the bottom of the fridge, which combined with an inability to make decisions and cancel the veg box order, meant that we had a growing pile of rotting root veg that needed using up.
The Christmas before, in a hope I could encourage Matt to share the cooking even occasionally, I bought him Real Food. I think it was on the the third day of me suggesting potato waffles for dinner that Matt opened up the book. After fetching a toaster from Woolworths – our grill wasn’t up to the job of producing urgent quantities of buttery toast for a grouchy upduffed woman with carb cravings – he went shopping.
I don’t know if what he cooked that day actually came from Good Food or whether Nigel Slater was just the inspiration but the Thai fishcakes and green curry, cooked from scratch, were certainly a revelation. And I mean scratch, there was Matt making green curry paste in the food processor. Hell, I didn’t know he knew we had a food processor.
It proved to me that Matt can do whatever he sets his mind to and do it well. And that this ability to apply his skills to new tasks could no doubt be transferred to cleaning the bathroom…
By the following Christmas, Matt had two new roles – Daddy and Chef, cooking roast turkey for 12. Matt is now the roast chicken dinner maestro – his roast potatoes are divine (thanks Nigel!) – the one who rummages through the cupboard and freezer when I’m weary of being a mummy and comes up with noodles and stir fry shellfish or Tom Yum soup.
Not being responsible for every meal means that when I do cook, I mostly enjoy it. And if we’re doing something slightly more complicated we can share the task. I still do the meal planning and Matt still pops his head around the corner and asks if we have any of the one item we don’t have any of, but generally it feels like the burden of meal provision has been lifted.
So, there you are, Nigel Slater changed my life.