Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Salmon courgette noodles with basil

You wouldn't know that I get any negative comments on this blog. Because I delete them.

It's my blog, I reckon, and I am queen of it and if I don't want to read shit about myself, let alone publish it, then I don't have to. Plus sometimes I think there's something a bit tell-tale and needy about publishing mean things - "Look everyone!! Look how MEAN she was to me!" I'd rather just take the bad stuff on the chin - read, delete. Move on.

But, if you are curious as to what the negative comments I get DO say, they say "God stop moaning," and "Why did you have kids then?" or "What did you expect?" or "You sound like a spoilt whinging child."

I absolutely hear all that. I do - I hear you, haters! Loud and clear! I can see why you feel that way. Why DID I have children, then. Or at least, why did I have another one?


1) It's not awful, it's fine once you get used to it. It gets you outside. It gives a shape and a movement to your day, to life. Your own children are fascinating. They say idiotic and hilarious things, you get to revisit colouring in and stuff like that. There is a frisson of excitement at the possibility that your child might be useful to society - they might do something about world debt, or discover a cure for cancer, or just sweep the streets very efficiently.

But having very small children is also like being an Olympic athlete. You cannot do it unless there are people around you saying "Go for it, dude.". Writing about it and getting support back keeps a spring in my step. In turn, I say what you might be thinking but cannot articulate because you are too fucking tired. I am your coach, your support boat, the bloke with the ringside towel and the weeny stool - and you mine.

2) All my life I've been the person who stayed behind. If there was a walk to be walked or a hike to be hiked, or shorthand to be learned or a rave to be raved or a game of hockey to be played or a ditch to be dug or a field to be sown, I was the one who opted to stay home and clear up, or make lunch. Or just not go.

As the do-ers set off, I always felt smug. Ha ha, I would think. Suckers.

But after about half an hour I was always bored. And after an hour, going crazy. After two hours, I would think - where ARE they? When are they coming back? I am lonely and fretful, unable to settle to anything, jumping at small noises. And now feel stupid for staying behind. They will be back soon. Any time now.

The do-ers would always be back a good hour after the latest I thought they would be back - and they were never really back. The experience had changed them - they were no longer the same people, they had moved on, especially in relation to me. They had had a joint experience, whether it was good or bad, and I had not been part of that.

I had dodged it out of laziness and fear, out of a desire to keep my life the way that it was (i.e. sitting about in my pyjamas in the warm) rather than offering myself up for a period of discomfort in order to put my comfort into perspective, or in order to learn something, to add something, to experience something. When the do-ers came back as far as they were concerned everything was just as it was - all the comforts, all the joys. The difference was they had enriched their lives and I had not.

I was the sucker, not them.

And so when it came to children, I was not going to be the sucker. I was not going to hang back in my pyjamas while everyone else set off with Kendall mint cake in their pockets and a stiff upper lip. I was not going to sit about twiddling my thumbs while everyone else raged over their shorthand or got their faces splattered with mud or put their feet down rabbit holes and fell in burns. I was not going to wait and wait and wait for everyone else to return, only to realise that the people I was waiting for were never coming back.

It was not the fear of missing out, you understand - I absolutely know what it is to miss out. I spent 30 years missing out. There was no fear involved: it was cold, hard understanding of what happens when you opt out. If I opted out of children I would opt out of a certain kind of family life that I would not like to be without. I would opt out of grandchildren. I would opt out of that shared experience, which is exhausting and traumatising - but not constantly. Not fatally. I would be left at home, in my pyjamas, not enjoying my book or my bath or my free time, but worried about where everyone else was, fretting that I had made a terrible mistake until it was too late to do anything about it.

And dealing with two children under 3 is nothing compared with that sort of existential crisis.

3) I did, in fact, know exactly what I was letting myself in for because not only do I have 5 nieces and nephews, my little sister was born when I was eight. I might not act like it but I think little tiny kids are always delightful and engaging, even when they are being horrible and whiney. And I know, because I watched my little sister grow up, that they are very small and difficult for such a short time, relatively speaking.  In the grand scheme of things, the really hard bit is the equivalent of a long-ish Sunday afternoon walk up some hills in the rain when you're a bit hungry.

But then you get back to the house and there are scones and a hot bath and everything's ok. And children get to four years old and they are staggeringly brilliant fun. Nobody's in a nappy, nobody needs a bloody sleep at 1.30pm. Everyone understands bribery etc. They have little friends...

And don't get me started on grandchildren. I am already planning to be No 1 Granny with the campaigning cunning worthy of Napoleon. I feel sorry for the woman whose daughter marries my son. I really do. ("Noooooo!!! I want Granny Coren! I want Granny Coren!" - HA HA HA). I may still be writing this blog, except it will be called Recipe Dribble and include mostly recipes for soup.

Ok how about some food, yah? Not soup. This is a thing I cooked recently that was surprisingly nice and excellent if you're on a diet.

It utilises a thing called Slim Noodles, which are like Zero Noodles mentioned in my previous post but vitally these things are AVAILABLE ON OCADO!!! So from now on until I weigh 9 stone again, (I am 10 stone 5 now), every evening meal will feature these. There are only 7 calories per pack. SEVEN!

This is based on the principle of my Asian Baked Salmon but I have used a different marinade because just between you and me I was getting bored of the Asian-ness of the old one. That's not racist!!

Salmon courgette noodles with basil
for 2

2 salmon fillets
1 handful basil
2 spring onions
1/2 handful mint
some light soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 courgette, diced into 2cm (ish) bits
1 packet Slim Noodles, or two if you are feeling wild

Preheat the oven to 200C

1) Put the basil, mint, spring onions, 2 tbsp soy sauce, garlic and chilli into a whizzer and whizz

2) Put the salmon fillets on a strip of foil long enough to make a little parcel and then paint the salmon with your basil paste

3) Put this in the oven for 25 mins

4) Meanwhile fry off your courgette die in some hot groundnut oil over a medium flame. When they are tinged dark brown and starting to collapse (about 15-20 mins) sprinkle with salt. Then drain and rinse your magic noodles and add them to the courgette. Turn in the oil for 3-4 mins and then shake over some more soy sauce.

5) Plonk some noodles in a bowl and then scoop chunks of salmon off its skin and arrange artistically on top.

Eat and try to ignore the nagging feeling that someone, somewhere, is having more fun that you.


  1. Yesss I have all the ingredients. ALL of them :)
    I actually think it's weird, not the posting on your part of the mean things but the actual time taken by another person to leave a mean comment. I mean. Come. On. Takes time, no? If nothing nice to say... jog on.
    Thanks for the realness Esther!

  2. I used to do that a lot - stay behind instead of taking the risk. It's good to be reminded that it didn't do me any good.

  3. I'm not gonna say much about the haters etc. I've said it all before. But i met a toddler mum the other day who seemed so RELIEVED that someone else felt it's not all fluffy kittens and rainbows that i had to direct her here to hear someone articulate it A LOT better than me.

    So the noodles, are they OK? I'm guessing they must be edible if you're using them in a recipe but are they just about edible or actually alright?

  4. That's such a good piece. One of your best ever. You should do this for a living. And to think I just sat there watching Avengers Assemble for the fourth time while you wrote it. Talk about staying behind.

  5. I hear these noodles have a weird texture though, how do you get round that (or do you just ignore it?) I need to try them.

    On the other matter, I've been up since 5, been to the gym, eaten bacon and eggs, done 1.5 hours work. Children make you get alot more shit done.

    1. Personally I like the texture. Sort of crunchy. I am also on such a strict diet that by the time dinner rolls around I am so fucking starving that almost anything tastes as exciting as a Mars Bar. But I can see there are others who would not like it. I say give them a whirl anyway.

  6. Well not one for usually commenting to blogs and as a bloke who found this blog from following your hubby on twitter i think (for the little it's worth) your writing is refreshing and brilliant. Haven't got kids yet but I love your (what seems to me) honest, realistic and loving approach to parenthood. Also my girlfriend will now love the fact there are noodles with practically zero calories (i'll be taking the credit of course). Keep writing and we'll all keep reading

  7. Your best post ever. Love it.

  8. I can't eat noodles, but love this post. I don't have kids but the bit about being a 'staying behind' kind of person is so much like me. It wasn't kids but getting married that stopped me from vegetating. My husband doesn't let me duck out of things and just be lazy - he doesn't want me to miss out. Because of him I don't just stay behind all the time but I get involved. Being taken out of my comfort zone is the best thing that happened to me. x

  9. It's far too easy on the fucking internet to get away with murder (literally). People are so much more horrible these days because what are the consequences? I'm 20 years old, have no intention of having children just yet but always read your blog, even when I can see it's mostly about subject that currently does not interest me, for the refreshing sound of honesty and FEARLESS humour. It's pleasant and enjoyable (eVEN when it's about a subject that currently does not interest me). And I love food. So keep it up, well done etc, we bloody love it x

  10. Perhaps I have been doing it wrong, but I'll go along the same lines as this blog whenever someone tells me they're pregnant - enthusiastic, happy and excited for them, but also that they ought be prepared/circumspect about the darker moments, that it can't always be smiling cooing gurgling babies (without bogging them down with too much details) - and I find that it is never well-received. Possibly the same sort as your haters. I do wonder why nobody ever told me when I was pregnant, I wished I'd known. We had ours before any of our friends, 2 under 2, and both our families are overseas. I wandered around alone, on many a long grey winter afternoons wondering how I found myself in this position at this stage in my life - I might have been depressed, but I don't know for sure, I never saw anyone. What you're doing is a public duty, all new mums who are sick of feeling grateful, fulfilled and "your prize is Motherhood", can settle down with a cuppa and biscuits to a long read with LOLs and feel immediately comforted. You are fab. Have ordered noodles. Thank you xxx

  11. Really beautifully written - you are a very talented writer and a jaw-droppingly
    disciplined dieter!

  12. People say that stuff? Seriously?? I've never read anything in your blogs which I thought was even vaguely whingey etc. Certainly nothing that you'd think "why did she have kids then?" I can only imagine that the people who leave those comments don't have children (or, indeed, anything better to do). Everyone with children knows they're a complete pain in the arse 50% of the time (and, with any luck, asleep the other 50%). Now, my losing weight tuppence worth: become a sugar-nazi. I stopped eating ALL sugar one lent (I was feeling uncharacteristically holy, or something) - so NOTHING with added sugar in it passed my lips. Within about 3 weeks I had lost so much weight that I went to the dr, convinced I had Something Terrible. I didn't, and we worked out it was the holiness which was doing it. It was friggin' awesome, as my husband would say. I could GORGE on booze and carbs, to my heart's content, as long as there was no added sugar. (Natural sugars seemed to be fine.) Anyway, for what it's worth - if eating the zero noodles starts to get to you, might be worth a try.

  13. Your keepingitrealness makes the prospect of having children a bit less scary. THANK YOU.

  14. I also stumbled upon this; such a good piece, it struck a nerve with this middle aged bloke with no kids. I've just read a few of your other posts; for what it's worth I think that you write beautifully. The recipes look great as well.

  15. Having kids turned me from a blob sitting around on my whiny ass, to a do-er. I can't believe how much I get done now, and have the courage to try compared to then.
    It really is one of your best posts!

  16. It seems that you always have long post talking about your life and thinking. I enjoy reading it. Maybe people do like to know how other people living. Of course I like the noodle you cooked, but just not the salmon. I just not enjoy salmon. Probably I will try shrimps, crab, mussels or squid, any seafood I can find in my fridge. :)

  17. Totally agree with not missing out, so much so that I decided to cook this recipe! Was delicious, thanks!

  18. You're not whining - you're just telling it like it is. I love my kids but there is absolutely no doubt they are 100% hard work a lot of the time. And because life with kids isn't always rosy pink it's good to hear how others do or don't cope with all the challenges they throw at us. Sharing stories and experiences with other mums (and dads) has been one of the things that has kept me sane. It might sound like whinging and kid-hating to some but we know better. Keep doing what you're doing - it's great.

  19. Tell them not to read your blog if they dont get it! Your writing is funny (really funny), smart, honest and very, very good. Your food is great too, but I really read you for your writing.

  20. Random question.... do the noodles fill you up?! While I love the idea of only having 7 calories, I worry that half an hour later I'll be reaching for the jammie dodgers as I'm staaarving.

  21. I rustled up this recipe last night for a date night with my fiancé and it was absolutely marvellous and simple to make! The only thing I will do differently next time is finely chop the paste ingredients instead because whizzing them just failed in both my small and then more meaty whizzer.

    So thanks for the post and keep shrugging off the idiots. "Haters gonna hate!"

  22. I just want you to know what a life line I have found your blog to be, and this particular post has resounded so strongly with me. I have always been the sort to sit things out, and in a bid to shake myself out of this I agreed to move country for my husbands work with our four year old and two year old in tow. The stress and alienation I've felt in the last few months have exacerbated all of my insecurities about being a terrible mother. The kindness and honesty of your writing remind me that it is normal to struggle with the early years and the expectations I place on myself are a nonsense that I'd be happier without. I have recommended your writing without reservation to several friends who also find parenting not to be an endless stream of light and fun. So, thank you, thank you, thank you for gifting me a little sanity.

  23. Ignore the haters! Your blog is brilliant, I laugh so much and observations on motherhood are utterly true. I have a just turned 3 year old and a 9 month old. It's rewarding but verrrrry hard work! Your blog allows me to see the funny side. Thank you!

  24. I think you are great. And well done!

  25. Loved this post very much. And totally spot on with why I want kids. Mustering up the courage for no. 2!

    Keep writing forever!
    Veronica x

  26. This salmon courgette noodles with basil is very healthy on what i think because the combination of the ingredients are just awesome.

  27. Tried and tasty. Me likey long time.

  28. A friend of mine is a first time mom and recently made a wonderful post that I think you'll enjoy. http://www.amaranthroad.com/2013/08/moms-put-down-your-weapons.html

  29. I made this last night for friends (with fat girl rice and stir fried greens on the side) and it was AMAZING. Thank you - for the recipe and the writing.