Monday, 8 June 2015

Matzoh balls

I often marvel at how similar I am to my husband.

Neither of us ring friends "for a chat", we are suspicious of ski-ing, believe Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, to be the best film ever made, like to go to bed promptly at 10pm, get lonely and think about death, talk too much and too fast and don't think Monty Python is funny.

Even after we had children, we broadly agreed on things - that we ought to do our best to make sure our children eat well, sleep in their own beds and get plenty of exercise, but that we ought not sacrifice a happy family atmosphere in order to achieve those things in paramount.

But a sticking point has emerged. A terrible chasm in our marriage and parenting:


Giles thinks that ideally our children ought to watch no telly at all. He knows that this is not practical but believes that this would be best. No telly, no iPad. Ever.

I, on the other hand, do not care.

I don't care because I know that I don't let the kids watch telly all fackin day long, (unless it's very bad weather outside and/or someone is ill), but they telly that I do allow the kids to watch is essential.

A bit in the morning so that I can get ready and eat breakfast in peace. A bit when Kitty gets back from nursery/Sam is waking up from his nap and trying to achieve equilibrium and then a bit around teatime.

My husband dislikes the fact that the kids thoughts immediately turn to telly and wants to encourage them to do something else. I, on the other hand, think that if you give them telly as soon as they ask for it and then say "One more Team Umizoomi and then the telly's going off" is easier than forbidding it from the outset, or making them wait until some arbitrary time for it. They don't understand "later". And they don't understand why. Is telly "bad"? Is telly "good"? If your attitude to telly is inconsistent and fucked-up then theirs will be, too.

My attitude towards telly, such as it is, is that it's good for a bit but not too much. What's "too much"? Well, that depends!! What an easy and straightforward thing modern parenting is.

My husband would consider an entire day without the telly going on once to be an achievement. I would just be sobbing and exhausted from shrieking "No telly!!" all day and liable to get uncontrollably drunk to recover.

I also think mammoth telly-watching is a phase. Kitty was obsessed with watching telly at around about Sam's age and just wanted to watch Peppa Pig and then Tom and Jerry all day long. There wasn't much else she could do: of all her play options, telly was the best.

She is four now and for a while has been able to do plenty of other things. You can also reason with her and say "after this, the telly's going off and we'll find something else to do" and she more or less goes along with it.

I am able to use, rather than abuse, the telly much more easily than I could have done with her when she was Sam's age. Sam is the same as Kitty used to be. If you tell him no, he has a freak out - but will of his own accord just wander off and find something else to do once he's had enough of it.

Anyway you ought to hear some of the ding dongs I've had with my husband about the wretched box! I feel defensive about it, you see. I'm sure that it IS best that they watch no telly. I am envious of other families where the kids seem to just play and not shriek "PEPPA PIG NOWWWW ABNEY TEAL NOWWWWW." But I need it. I need the telly like I need my Ocado app.

Our friends Henry and Jemima now have a rule in their house that there is no telly allowed at ALL during the week and then the kids gorge on it from 7am - noon on the weekend. But their youngest child is three! A grown-up! A reasonable person! Sam is still two years old! An animal! An alien!

I have no answer, there has been no rapprochement. Every time I reach for the remote it's like an act of war.

It's a shame because in other areas, my husband and I are a great time. Like in making this matzoh ball soup.

This matzoh ball soup is pretty much the only soup I can abide. Matzoh balls are not that straightforward to make and the ideal result is quite doughy and chewy and I can see why a lot of people would wonder why you'd bother, but I love them.

Matzoh balls by Claudia Roden
Makes about 15

75g medium Matzoh meal
2 eggs, separated

1 Beat the egg whites until stiff

2 Add the beaten egg yolks and then the matzoh to the whites and carefully turn it all together until combined. Add salt, quite a lot - probably 2 big pinches. You could also add some chopped parsley if you had some - about a tablespoon probably.

3 Stick in the fridge for 30 mins.

4 With wet hands, form the mixture into little balls, much smaller than a Ping Pong ball as they will swell on cooking. Probably the size of a biggish marble. Does that make sense? Don't worry too much just don't make them huge.

5 Now simmer these - don't boil them as they will fall to bits - for 30 mins before adding them to your chicken soup.

I am touched and moved by how sad everyone is about the end of Recipe Rifle. I will be wrapping things up around July 15th as that's when my nanny goes off to have a baby and the au pair goes on holiday.

I will have 2 children on my own all day from then until September and will be using my evenings to  drink right up until just before then point I calculate my hangover will be very unpleasant.

But I will be back with another blog in the Autumn. It will be a bit more all-purpose, not quite so kitchen/children based. If anyone has any brilliant ideas for a name, (snappy names and catchphrases and headlines being my absolute blind spot), I would be so grateful if you'd leave it as a comment or Tweet me @estherwalker.


  1. So pleased you will be starting another blog x

  2. Rifle Moves On. Or something. Anyway FANTASTIC news about a new blog about all of the things. Hoorah. Good luck with the summer holidays. I am DREADING it. And i'll still be in work some days.

  3. Hurray for new blog - can't wait...yours is the only one I've ever bothered to subscribe to...

    With you on the TV thing - my husband maddens me by suggesting that if the TV has to be on, I should sit down and 'watch it with her'.
    Why???! When it's the ONLY time I ever get anything done?

  4. My husband used to be a big No Telly For Children person, and then he had to mind them, alone, for an entire wet, London weekend. After that he went strangely silent on the matter.

  5. Very pleased to hear you're starting a new blog Esther, I was quite forlorn that Recipe Rifle was ending!

  6. Riding shot gun

  7. Rifling through.
    Pleasingly non-specific but with a nod to previous incarnation.
    I have loved RR, never more so than in the last year when I have had a daughter of my own. I still go back and cook from the archives.

  8. 'scatter shot'
    Agreed, best way to resolve the argument is to leave him in sole charge for a long time, bet he wont be so keen on snakes and ladders after a few days.

  9. They won't have time for TV when they are older anyway ( homework, sulking etc). And TV is the new cinema.
    My suggestion for blog name is Estherical

  10. Could you start writing a hiking blog and call it "Easy Walking with Esther Walker"?? Other than that, I don't have any ideas.

    Have loved the blog. I also loved "The Bad Mother" - how is it that even a committed dad can find the mental space to get totally wasted on a school night when I don't dare go to bed after 10? Maybe that will change when we all take up long distance walking and are filled with masses of excess energy.

    Good luck with the new blog. I think you are so right to stop writing about the family. Babies are one thing but it's a bit mean once they turn into real people. And think how pleased Giles will be when they are rosy and hearty after their long county walks (no tv up Ben Nevis).

    1. I also love this. I am actually a very good walker and hiker (just not much of a runner). I will think on it.

  11. Not meaning to sound overly dramatic but THANK FUCK.
    I thought you meant you would not be blogging at all - and I would miss my updates from my imaginary friend.

    1. Charlie? PS Esther I'm thrilled too
      Especially about six new posts appearing. It's like finding 20 quid in an old coat pocket.

  12. I am so, so thrilled to hear there's a new blog coming. RR has helped me through so much in these early, often lonely, years of parenting. Absolutely cannot think of a new blog name though now that I've read anonymous' brilliant suggestion above ("Estherical").

    I see Giles' point but yes TV is crucial to sanity. And like you said consistency is v. important. I've (thus far) been quite good with turning it off when I say I will ("x" number of episodes or x minutes later etc.). And as you can see I'm patting myself on the back for it - ha!

    Looking forward to your new blog and have a great summer!


    ps. Sorry the "have a great summer" sounds like a hyper primary student

  13. "Coren's Warren" - about anything you find in any (figurative) hole you look into.

    "Walker's Crisp" - likewise, but indicative that there may be a good deal of not suffering fools (Warning: may attract trolls)

    "Esther's Nose Job" - a literary allusion (Thomas Pynchon via the Soft Machine, themselves a literary allusion) which again allows you to do anything you damn well please ( you see where I'm going with these ). Sample answer for interminable stupid Qs about nose jobs :" I'm following my nose, you , and THAT'S ALL!"

    OK, maybe not. Just as long as you let us know where to look...

  14. So happy to hear of your new blog! I'm not good with titles either, I was trying out something like Extreme Esther but gave up when I saw the above suggestion of Estherical. Can't beat that!

  15. Ugh no telly is such a dad thing. I am firm believer in tv as needed and the person that gave me the confidence to break away from the no telly tyranny was you, Esther! You wrote a blog post 2 or 3 years ago about when you'd had to unexpectedly look after Kitty by yourself for a week and decided to just have the telly on all day (along with doing other things obviously...) It helped you no end to have that extra bit of distraction and every time after that if I felt like I might be on the edge of a meltdown, the telly went on. Helped me no end. In fact when #2 was born I would set myself a daily goal of how long I could go without putting the telly on. Glad to hear there will be a new blog, also loved Estherical!

  16. Estherstential? Love RR!

  17. I'm waving my flag for the Esther play on words theme. Estherical or Estherstential Crisis or DomEsthercated... The possibilities are endless! Either way I'm so happy you're starting another blog I turned round and gave my boyfriend a spontaneous hug (not the first time he's considered committing me to some sort of mental facility as he doesn't get the blog worship... Boys are strange)
    Question though; Recipe Rifle will still be viewable right? Might be a completely obvious question, but you put some brilliant recipes on here that I'll never have time to catalogue... :) Rita xxx

    1. yes still viewable for all eternity. I'll still be checking in occasionally to publish comments as well

  18. Back in the days when we all lived with a large extended family there was always someone on hand to play with young children when mothers had to get on with other stuff or simply just escape for half an hour. TV is the new "mothers help" for those times in the day when you need them to slow down. And some of it is amazing - Sarah and Duck for example. I caught my 4 and 3 yr olds deciding to have a "sit and think" recently. Something I don't get the luxury to do until 9pm. RR will be sorely missed this end but I will be tuning in for your next project. Before you go please, please can you do a post on how you managed to lose weight after pregnancies, especially when food is around the entire day looking after toddlers and a generally foodie lifestyle. I'm struggling and need inspiration xx

    1. I must point out that I still have weight to lose, I am by no means any sort of weight loss expert or guru.

      But I do know in principle what works. And that is: no sugar. I know that's not what you want to hear, but it's true.

      No more biscuits, cake, bread, pasta, potatoes. You can have camargue (red) rice and rough bread, like sourdough or rye bread. NO SUGAR!

      Of course, eat any fruit or veg you like - and honey.

      Also: no drinking during the week. it's a weekend treat only.

      I'm not good at this. I love sugar. I'm a sugar addict, which is why I am not 8 stone. But honestly if you cut down your sugar, you will lose weight. It really is that simple, but very difficult to stick to.


  19. Esther's Gestures. Esther's Aestheticals. Esther Pesters. Esther or Ether. Mrs Coren Correspondent.

  20. Excited to see what your new blog will be about. Please keep it as honest and raw as RR. Have enjoyed your take on babies (i have 3 of my own with my youngest being 3yo), loved the fashion (bought the demin shirt) and have enjoyed the britishness of it from far across the sea. We recently went away for the weekend to stay at a friends holiday house. The TV didn't go on. It's amazing when there are other little people around for them to play with that it was so much more fun for them than watching TV. It was nice to see. However as soon as we got home one was playing minecraft, the other watching Dance Academy and the littliest darting between the older 2.

    1. I am heartened to hear that when you have 3 they still love it most when you have visitors and when they don't, like a bit of telly

      my ONLY reason for having a 3rd (absolutely no plans to) but if I WERE to it would be so that they are more of a gang, there's more to do, it's less lonely.

      but if you still have to prise them off the telly when there's three then my reasons are redundant and I can go back to chucking out baby stuff

    2. Chucking out baby stuff? Anything useful? I live near you and am on my way to round two (second baby due in the new year).

    3. in fact most of it has gone. but I've got some puked-on babygros and muddy shoes if you're interested? (rhetorical question)

  21. Yaay, glad to hear you'll be back :)

  22. A Nanny and an Au Pair - REALLY?

    Sorry this distracted me somewhat from the question of a title name.........

    1. I know! it's one of the reasons I'm SO HAPPY recently

  23. In My Esthermation
    Coren's Asian Suite (furniture? music?)

    Can I stop now please?

  24. Esterminator!

  25. Don't know if someone's already asked this, but in your absence (so pleased you'll be back, no suggestions as crap at snappy titles) can you tell us what blogs you read, if any? Yours is the only one I follow as I can't be doing with all the Perfect Life blogs, so I thought maybe if you like it, we will too? Thanks - have LOVED Recipe Rifle!