Family life through the gastronomical glue that holds it together

Welcome to the first of a brand new regular feature, My Day in Food! Food is such a staple of family life – full of traditions both old and new, mealtimes are a time for families to bond and regroup, not to mention crucial for refuelling and reinvigorating tired parents and kids. They can be both battlegrounds and sanctuaries, but the dining table and kitchen are the backbones of so many families. It’s always fascinating how different and varied each family’s approach is to food and mealtimes… Each feature a different parent will talk us through their family life through the medium of their own grub-related habits.

First up, we have Dave! Living in Salford and working in private healthcare supporting people with ongoing complex health and care needs, he lives with his two children, Oscar and Una. Dave also spends a lot of time living with his girlfriend Danni, and her two children, Lincoln and Eleanor… and sometimes a combination of the two!


Where and how do you wake up?
At home… or sometimes Danni’s home. In fact, normally Danni’s home… rarely anywhere else. And how? Natural causes. I set an alarm but I have a stubborn body clock with in-built 6am functionality. Actually, despite typically waking up in a house inhabited with a pick and mix of Danni’s and my children, I tend to wake up first. I know… what’s wrong with me?

What does breakfast look like and who makes it?
During the week breakfast resembles the Somme… or that scene from Platoon with Willem Defoe … scrambling out of the jungle to Adaggio for Strings. Kids have got a habit of opening breakfast cereal boxes like the Incredible Hulk bursting out of David Banner’s shirt. So, from thereon in, what should be a cleanish daily breakfast is, in fact, a cascade of Rice Krispies everywhere… reaching places where even Rice Krispies can’t reach. I grill myself some toast in the brief window in which the kids eat their cereal which, coincidentally, is ready around the time the kids finish their breakfast… at which point I hear the chirp, “Can we have some toast now, Daddy?” And I, without time or will to parent a debate with an under-8, reluctantly concede.
However, every other weekend Danni and I ‘tearfully’ wave our variety of kids off to their other parents so often enjoy 11am Saturday morning breakfasts. Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon… sausages… sometimes Eggs Benedict with a side helping of sausages. This is a true story… we like sausages. Sausages…

An early food-related memory?
A series of memories rather than a memory. I was vegetarian up until the age of 12… this was upon my dad’s insistence. He’s never eaten meat…  neither had his mum / my nan (I don’t think her mum… my great grandmother… did either). At primary school I remember waiting in the line for school dinners and having to go to the end of the counter to pick up my vegetarian substitute to all the (what seemed like) weird and wonderful meat dishes, like pies, sausages, roast meat, etc. I’d never really had much exposure to meaty dishes outside of school…. I remember the aromas in the school dining hall vividly. Whilst I curiously eyed up slices of meat dripping in gravy on the plates of my schoolmates, they reciprocated with my cauliflower cheese grill.
Since then, and especially in the last several years, I’ve made up for lost time and easily put away my fair share of meaty protein goodness… sorry vegetarians, but I did my stint.


Mid-morning / mid-afternoon snacks?
Varied and infrequent. At the weekends, typically nothing… I don’t tend to have anything between meals, but make up for it when it does come to meal times. During the week I’m at work the vast majority of the time so it depends what’s floating around the office… a lot of the time I don’t have anything but, when I do, the floodgates open. If a colleague brings in treats because it’s their birthday (I never got this; surely others should bring them treats?… All a little self infatuating. Perhaps I’m being harsh…) I suddenly acquire the ability to inhale donuts and cookies. Allegedly, one of my most used phrases in the office is, “Has anyone got anything to eat?” But I consider this view to be total bullshit.

What does food mean to you?
Anything from sustenance to hedonism… breakfast and lunch tend to be about practicality and getting the bits my body needs inside of it. In the evening I enjoy the creation, preparation and, most of all, eating of a variety of foods. I find the process of cooking in the evening therapeutic… I love cooking for Danni too and making sure she’s got some nice food in her belly. I follow recipes and invent my own dishes (which, more often than not, work!)

Any strange food habits in your family?
Probably the vegetarianism thing (see above)… although that’s not that weird a habit, is it? No… no strange habits really. The kids are addicted to ‘special drinks’ (Innocent Smoothies) which is great as it means they get all the vitamins into them that pizza, hot dogs and fish fingers just don’t provide. Yep, that’s about it for that one…

What’s for lunch and where do you usually eat it?
During the weekends that Danni and I don’t have our kids we don’t usually eat lunch due to the 11am breakfasts (see above). When we do have the kids, picnics are a winner! The lads like making sandwiches (and fencing using knives) so the preparation is quite an engaging, if hazardous, activity. Ideally the picnic is outside in the sun. However, on a rainy day indoor picnics have become increasingly prolific… the location of choice is Danni’s parents’ as they have lots of space and tolerance! During the week I eat lunch at my desk at work. Recently, a ‘best sandwich in the office’ thing has kicked off… I’ve *smug face* been victorious on a number of occasions as Danni and I have been barbecuing a fair bit so I’ve been packing leftover barbecued meat and trimmings into mine.


Any foods you can’t stand?
Not really… I don’t think. Maybe kidneys… I never really fancied kidney after dissecting then in GCSE biology classes. They smelt repugnantly of, how do you say it, piss. I’ve convinced myself… I definitely don’t want piss soaked lamb’s organs in my mouth or any other part of my gastrointestinal tract, for that matter.

Who cooks dinner?
Me… I insist.

Feeding the kids. Discuss.
Aaargh! Such a bittersweet, guilt ridden rollercoaster of an experience. Every last bit of me desperately yearns for EVERY meal I serve the kids to be exciting, nutritious, around a dining table and accompanied with “How was your day, dear?” conversation. However… it entirely depends really. Sometimes it’s adventurous. Sometimes they even join in with the preparation and cooking, particularly the highest risk elements (blades, graters, blenders, heat, etc.) Oscar and Una (my two) both went to nursery full time from 6 months old so got to experience a huge variety of foods from different cultures… In fact, I typically got food envy upon picking them up in the evenings and hearing what they’d had on the menu that day: North African tagines, Southern Indian chicken curry, cowboy meatballs… all sorts! Food envy to the point of sulking. In hindsight, I think this took the pressure off serving up anything massively adventurous in the evenings which is a habit that’s stuck around and I’m quite eager to shake off… all suggestions welcome in the comments below!

A simple recipe to share?
Jamie Oliver’s veggie chilli. It’s simple but fresh and really versatile. Great with rice, nachos or in a burrito. Works as a side dish and also as a salad when cold. I’ve varied a bit as I’ve cooked it several times but the original is great!

Describe your perfect meal. Who, what, where, when, why?
This is really easy to answer; a dinner party at home with friends… Because, amongst the hustle and bustle of life in general, this sort of thing doesn’t happen enough… and it’s increasingly difficult to make happen too, with the ever growing number of sprogs being popped out, careers being built, etc. Homemade food, wine, cocktails, music, games and chats; a perfect evening for me.

Thanks so much to Dave for being the first Food Dude on The Curve!

If any of you would like to share your own family food habits by being one of the next people in the hotseat for My Day In Food, please do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!