Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

A breakthrough at breakfast

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 03 April 2012

Everyone makes fun of how rigid I am as a parent. Whether it’s to my face or behind my back, I know that the thing about me, the thing that people snigger about, is how neurotic and to-the-second I am about timings, how strict I am about bedtime routines, about sitting in high chairs for meals, about not getting a toy back that has been thrown out of a buggy more than once, about not napping after 10.30am so that the lunchtime sleep goes well.

You know my sort, I’m sure. Maybe you’re the same.

But we are living back at home with my parents at the moment, while there is building work done to our house, and being around my mother has had a surprising effect.

My mother, you see, is probably the reason I am so fastidious about routine. We had none, as children. I slept in my parents’ bed at night until I was eight. There were no set bedtimes, no supervised homework, no rules about washing hands or keeping your feet off the furniture or bathtimes or anything. Until a child wanted to sit in a chair and eat by itself, it sat on my mother’s knee and picked food off her plate.

And Kitty has been doing this with my mother. One evening I found Kitty in the garden sitting with my mother, opening her little beak for the very same vaguely unfamiliar chicken pie she had steadfastly refused to eat in her high chair. She was being fed with a fork! A big metal one! Off a china plate! She didn’t have a bib on! And she looked like she was having a marvellous time.

I have since applied this free-range theory to breakfast, the meal in which Kitty is the least interested – but the one I am most keen she ought to eat because she gets ratty and furious with hunger all morning if she doesn’t eat anything.

So it goes like this: I make myself a large bowl of Alpen and granola with whole milk and sit at the kitchen table eating it, while Kitty bumbles around with some toys. Every so often she will shuffle over to my chair and shriek “Up!” and then “Num num?!” which is my cue to drag her onto my knee and spoon some cereal in. She takes two bites then shrieks to get down in pursuit of the cat, or a ball. A few minutes later she is back. “Up!! Num num?!”

The whole process is completely alien and weird to me, but Kitty thinks it is a brilliant way of doing things. And she eats! I would say this morning she ate two heaped tablespoons of Alpen, which is a breakthrough.

Don’t get me wrong, this won’t be happening at every mealtime, it’s too absurd – and goodness knows I don’t want everyone laughing at me.

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