So many times as a skinny teenager I used to ask ‘What’s for dinner Mum?’ She’d usually sigh, and dismiss me with ‘Oh I don’t know, I hate cooking.’
I made myself a lot of frozen pizza with instant mash potato.
I learnt to love cooking though, especially after becoming a vegetarian in my early, idealistic twenties. When I had my son in my early thirties, I created different memories around food and eating with him; when he was 7 for example, I bought him his own small chopping knife to help me cook with, and ten years later, we still use it. We both enjoy good food a lot (he’s actually making dinner while I write this).
His Dad’s a good cook too. We separated when ’17’ was only a toddler, and at first our son spent 2 days with each of us. It slowly stretched to 3 days, then 4; I think he was about 5 when it grew to Week On/Week Off.
The day of ‘changeover’ became a mix of sadness and joy, for all of us. Sometimes it was fraught, other times simple. Sometimes I dreaded the farewells, and other times I couldn’t bloody wait. Not much has changed. After a long time of living more with his Dad and new step-mum plus two cute brothers, we have now evolved to Fortnight On/Fortnight Off.
Linked to that, one of our big treats together has long been pancakes on a weekend. Not every weekend, but often enough to feel like our small family ritual. Especially whenever he has friends for a sleepover, I make pancakes (albeit ‘healthy’ ones, with a mixture of buckwheat & spelt flours, plus minimal sugar, and organic free range eggs). I treasure the memory of my Dad making pancakes; he cooked them so fast my brother and I could barely keep up, and he didn’t pause to have one himself at all.
So I do that with my son, watching happily as he and his friends stuff their grinning faces, smiling to myself at the sweet toppings they combine, while I wait to have the last one, always savoury. Mmmmm, avocado with salt & pepper, lemon juice and fetta cheese, perhaps tomatoes from the garden too.
What about the first one though? For some reason, it’s often a bit dodgy! We call it ‘the dog pancake’, although we only have a cat, and sometimes it even goes straight in the bin. Do you do that? What do you call it?
This afternoon, I picked ’17’ up after school, ready for our fortnight together, and we drove to get some of his belongings from his Dad’s. I was tired, with a headache from flying back after performing work in Cairns, lugging stilts and costumes around. He was tired from a day at school, plus not enough lunch. As he drove us home, the timeless scenario played out:
Him: ‘What’s for dinner Mum?’
Me: ‘Oh I dunno, I’m not in a very good cooking mood; maybe a quick pasta sauce?’
Him & Me: Generalized grumbling/soft protests/sighs/complaints/rebuffs/sighs/Silence…
LONG, LONG PAUSE
Him: ‘You know, I think the day we reunite is sometimes just the dog pancake.’