This is a real photo, nothing staged, nothing moved, of dinner preparation tonight. Beef and Vegetable Pasta Bake in it's infancy (i.e. still on the stove), the mushrooms I forgot to put in it (yes, how could I forget? they were right in front of me), the cup of tea going cold, the puffed corn I'd resorted to to keep Tilly quiet and on the step stool and off the bench, the empty tomato tins...
Really, the masterchefs are the women in the kitchen (and the occasional fella) every day, coming up with something nutritious that they and small people might like to eat. They might have a child hanging off one leg as they walk from bench to pantry, or they might have one "helping" at the bench, which means being extra diligent with knives/stove/glass canisters/even hot teaspoons still hot from stirring the stock. (Yep, hand up, bad mother.)
The real masterchefs are the ones who are orchestrating small crafts at the same time as trying to cook dinner, anything to divert the "helpers". They're waving Sydney Morning Heralds underneath the smoke alarm as it goes off (again) and turning the sausages with one hand while picking up a helper who's fallen off the bench with the other. They're cooking every night for largely disinterested customers. Even old favourites can be met with the harshest of criticisms. Something new and creative tends to challenge the consumer beyond acceptable parameters.
"I don't like it."
"You haven't even tried it."
"I know I don't like it."
"This is it. This is dinner."
"PLEASE can I have some tinned spaghetti?"
It's demoralising. Even if you love cooking, it takes energy to come up with something to serve every night. So this post is a big hooray for everyone who's doing it. For every one of you who does the majority of the cooking in your house, not just the special occasion polite claps all round aren't you clever cooking, but the it's five thirty, you're just home from work, the kids are tired and all you can find in the fridge is chicken breast. Right. What the hell are we going to do with chicken breast tonight. That kind of cooking.
It's often a little thankless and there's no professional knives and enormous clean benches and kitchen hands to wash up but there are plenty of judges. In the room and out of it. "Don't like it, Mum" as well as "Are you feeding your children enough vegetables? too much carbohydrate? not enough protein?" So GOOD ON YOU.
For inspiration and encouragement there are some gorgeous food blogs around like these: