Thursday, 26 February 2015

Laotian fried pork

My photos will all be crap iPhone photos from now on because we were burgled and my camera was stolen. SAD FACE

I fell to talking the other day to someone about Sam's sleeping. Specifically, about how he still wakes up once in the night at 21.5 months (i.e. NEARLY TWO YEARS OLD). He wants a bottle and also needs his nappy changed as otherwise it leaks all over the bed.

They were shocked. Their mouth hung open. "You're up once a night. EVERY night?" They knew how well Kitty has always slept, how ferocious I was about it, about her. They were genuinely stunned that I was up once a night. It was as if Gina Ford herself was standing there shrugging her shoulders going "Yeah, it's not the end of the world."

I found myself in a metaphorical corner, on the back foot, stuttering, making excuses of the sort that I used to not be able to stand in other parents - about how it was cute when their kids came into bed with them so they couldn't say no, or about how they couldn't drop this breastfeed or that breastfeed because it was their special time with them or whatever. I would dismiss them as weak minded -in Victorian times they'd have been sent to a loony bin with a diagnosis of water on the brain.

But here I am, now, defending my continued co-dependency on this once-a-night thing I've got with Sam. Wake up, totter up to his room, new bottle, nappy change, a pat on the head and then back down to sleep.

I have tried to stop it. On five separate occasions I've let him scream his head off for hour in the night for about two or three nights, when I had failed to appear for this bottle-nappy tryst. It does work, for about a week, and he goes quiet all night and I feel sad but also victorious. And then it starts all over again, he wakes up and cries in the night and I, surprised and unsuspecting, give him the thing I know that will make him go back to sleep. Five times I've done this horrible ritual of letting him cry. And although it's said to be the thing that absolutely, definitively works - which offsets the horribleness of it, it doesn't actually seem to work, not long-term. Advocates of it say "it's just three nights - three bad night and then you'll all be sleeping all night and it will be worth it". Sam disagrees.

And the thing is, I'm not tired. I mean, of course I'm tired, we're all tired. We're all dying here,  but I'm just not tired enough to be driven to extended sessions of letting Sam scream his head off at night. I just don't want to listen to it any more. I don't want to have to grit my teeth through it any more. I'm done, finished. I can't be arsed. I feel, with Sam now walking and talking and suddenly being - just between you and me, very charming and easy -  like I've just finished my A Levels. So to ask me to sort out this once-a-night thing is a bit like now asking me to fill out a long tax return or sit an S Level when what I really want is to sit under a tree with a pint of cloudy lemonade and a bag of Hula Hoops, reading Riders.

There's more. I have always felt mildly fraudulent as a parent when all I had was one child who slept like a log. There was a real lack of authenticity about me. Don't get me wrong, I was grateful - and also absolutely and entirely terrified of sleep-deprivation, but still... there was something so real, so tough and so admirable about those women who had non-sleepers or bad sleepers, who just fucking did it and got through it. The fact that Sam wakes up once in the night and I can just cope with it - specifically because, I think, of my former crippling sleep-deprivation fears - is a perverse mark of pride.

This person made me feel bad and judged and a bit ashamed at first but then I looked at the true fear in their eyes of being woken up at night and I thought back to how I used to be - so, so scared of losing even 15 minutes' of sleep. I saw that same look, I recognised it for what it was and I thought: "Oh, grow up."

In my quest for everything to taste a bit like takeaway, here is a delightful fried pork thing, which is mostly aubergine and courgette, very easy to make and particularly good with Esther's Takeout Broccoli (q.v.)

Laotian fried pork
For 2 with leftovers

150g minced pork
1 aubergine
1 courgette
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp oyster sauce
3 spring onions
1 red chilli
pinch sugar
pinch salt

1 Chop the aubergine and courgette up into cubes and fry in some groundnut oil until collapsed - about 10-15 minutes. Remove to a bowl

2 Crush or grate or slice the garlic and add it to the empty pan and cook gently until it has coloured. Then add the pork mince and cook over a reasonably high heat until the pork is rubbly and dry

3 Chop the spring onions and the chilli and add these and cook for a few minutes, then throw over the sugar, salt and oyster sauce. If you're using a decent oyster sauce it won't itself have an awful lot of sugar and salt in it so you can be fairly generous with your "pinches" of these.

4 Add the aubergine and courgette back to the pan, stir for a bit, maybe add some water from the kettle if you'd like it with a bit of a sauce.

Eat and think to yourself "he'll grow out of it eventually".

Where's Sammy's foot?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Esther's takeout broccoli

You're supposed to be looking at the broccoli here

I once went to a talk by Irma Kurtz - where and why now escapes me - about getting old. She said that as you get older it's important to change your mind about things. "I try to address one of my prejudices each year," she said, "and try to change my own mind." Otherwise you get stuck churning out the same old boring opinions year after year and you start to be the person no-one wants to sit next to.

Since then I have always sought to change my prejudices about things, to change my mind, to move on, to modernise.

Only the other day, for example, I discovered that a really serious prejudice in my hair care routine was majorly holding me back.

I've grown my hair really long. Like, very nearly crazy cat lady long: it's down to my bra strap now and I'm wondering how much further it can go. I've only got so much time left to have really long hair, you see, and there are no more babies coming along to yank on it, so I've really gone for it. I've gone full mane. It's absolutely the anti-"mum" haircut, it's totally time-consuming, totally impractical.  It's my declaration of independence. It's my Braveheart scream of freedom.

I have historically been shy of hair product as my hair is so horrible and greasy - I've been frightened that I will make it go sticky and lank with too much "stuff" on it. So I've applied a tiny blob in terror and then wondered why my hair doesn't end up like it does at the hair dresser's.

And I've always dried my hair on a "medium" heat because I read in J17 once that a very hot hairdryer will cause you to have split ends. Split ends! Whatever happened to them? They seemed to be the scourge of the world in my teens - now never mentioned anywhere. Anyway so I always dried my hair on the "med" hot setting with a tiny slick of hair product and gone about looking pretty ordinary.

Then I noticed that my hairdresser, who is called Nadia and works at John Frieda in Mayfair, goes completely loony with the product and dries my hair so hot that I sometimes worry that my ears are going to frazz off. And my hair always comes out a cross between Gisele and Liono from Thundercats. (Although being similarly covered in spots, I will always be a dead ringer for Cheetarah. HA! Whatever.)

So I have started using three - yes three - pumps of Keratase Serum Oreo-Relax to my hair and drying it super-fast, super-hot and it looks phenomenal. Every. Time.

And all rules that apply to life in general also apply to cooking. So do this thing with broccoli, which takes normal broccoli and turns it into something you'd find in a really decent high street Chinese or Thai restaurant - and change your mind about it forever.

Esther's Takeout Broccoli

3 florets of broccoli per person
1 tsp runny honey
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp groundnut oil

1 Take a wok or a large frying pan and get it really hot then douse it with some groundnut oil, wait 30 seconds and then tip in the broccoli.

2 Stir this about until the edges of the veg are turning brown and black, then turn the heat down to a medium (in this instance, it is necessary) and add your honey and soy. Muddle all this around for another minute and then serve.

TA FUCKING DAH. You're welcome.