I guess you can call this “A Few Hours in the Life…” or “How We Eat Something Other Than Frozen Pizza.” (The recipe for a fabulous salad is part of the post…you just have to hunt for the pieces like a treasure because I have zero time to write it all out.)
I can’t remember when I realized I would have to cook something for yesterday’s lunch because there were no leftovers, but I had all the ingredients for a roasted butternut squash, fennel and spelt salad, and it seemed easy enough.
Baby went down for his nap in the crib upstairs, Little Boy was zooming around on his scooter. I started skinning and chopping up the half of a butternut that was in our fridge. Toward the end, I asked Little Boy to help me, and he came in and put the little pieces into the roasting tray, we sprinkled sea salt, pepper and olive oil and tossed it. I put the roasting pan into the oven (170C) and set the timer for 15 minutes.
Little Boy starts pushing the knobs on the oven, and I get down to his level, look him in the eye, and say Josiah, what are you doing? What is obedience? He looks everywhere except my eyes, eventually meets them and says, No. So I say, That’s right, kiddo, obedience is no touching, if you do it again, you get a time out.
Baby starts crying – I did not check when he went to sleep but it had not been long – and Little Boy does not look like he will co-operate with the whole running upstairs, running back downstairs routine, so I put him in his chair at the dining table, turn on the nursery rhymes on Starfall.
I run up to pick Baby up, start rocking him back to sleep until I realize he will not go back to sleep without a bit of nursing, so nurse we do. Eventually I hear the timer start to ring, baby is “asleep” so I put him down, run downstairs – notice that Baby started crying again – pull the pan of squash out and set it on the counter while Mary Had a Little Lamb plays in the background.
Keep trying to put Baby back to sleep. I put him down semi-asleep again, he starts fussing almost immediately, I run down anyway for five minutes.
I take one bulb of fennel* out of the veggie basket and decide not to use the second one, wash and start slicing into medium-thick wedges. I’m about to put it all back in the oven when I remember that there’s supposed to be a clove of garlic chopped into the mix.
Never leave out the garlic.
Back up the stairs I go to see if Baby will be soothed to sleep. At some point I give up and just take him down to the kitchen, plop him into the bouncy seat. My little extrovert. He’s full of cheeky grins and coos now and wants to have a little chat while I start chopping garlic into tiny pieces. I am thinking about the other bulb of fennel in the fridge. What will I use it for if not in this salad? Is this going to be one of those things that just gets thrown away after a week or two? I take it out, chop it up and put it into the roasting tin.
If you’re following, that’s the 15-minute roasted squash, two medium-sized fennel bulbs sliced, and a clove of garlic chopped. Top it all off with a toss and a bit more olive oil, and back in the oven it goes for 20 minutes. (Set the timer. It’s always a good idea.)
I measure out my spelt, which I don’t think is spelt but something I brought from Switzerland called Ebly – it looks like pearl barley. Maybe. Who knows. Some sort of puffed grain. Easy to cook and fun to chew, so I really don’t care any less. I have not had time to figure out what spelt is in Swedish. Or what spelt is in English.
Either way, it’s two cups of Ebly to three cups of salted water in a pot on the stove.
I go over to check in Little Boy who looks totally bored with Incy, Wincy Spider an happily wants to get down. We begin a little kitchen dance that involves him wanting to get into stuff and me trying to keep him happy because I know he’s hungry.
Want fruit! Want bread!
How about some butternut squash and fennel in a few minutes?
Butternut KWASH, he says.
Zero, zero, he says pointing at the timer, ring ring! Ring ring!
Nope, I reply, that’s an eight, see an eight can look like two zeros on top of each other, and I walk over to his blackboard and draw two zeros on top of each other that look like an eight.
Turn down the now-boiling Ebly so that it is only simmering.
We count down to zero while watching the timer. I am amazed that this can be fascinating to a two-year-old, but really, I’ve stopped asking questions.
The timer goes ring ring! and I pull out the roasting tray and toss everything again and scatter about 50 grams of whole walnuts on top, everything goes back in the oven for eight more minutes.
I check the Ebly, and it seems done, grab a colander, put it in the sink, check for the toddler before I start handling the boiling liquid and pour.
HOT HOT!! Very hot!
Now, I tell him, I’m going to get a nice salad bowl out, and we’re going to make a nice salad.
But he’s hungry and wants to try the Ebly. Why not. So he sits down at the Red table! and starts eating a small plate of Ebly. He rejected it last week, so this is a success. I put the Ebly into a salad bowl that was a wedding present from Australia and watch the way the steam curls up toward the ceiling, with the still alive herbs and gorgeous October light in the background, and I think, I need to take photos of this. Because the herbs will probably be dead by afternoon.
The timer goes ring ring! again, and out comes the tray of roasted veggies, I mix it all up with the Ebly and toss it on the red table! and then remember that half a lemon gets squeezed over the whole lot. Miraculously there is half a lemon, cut and waiting in the fridge.
Little Boy squeezes the lemon because citrus has no chance when his hands are around.
We sit down and eat our lunch. This salad is fantastic, I think to myself, the textures are lovely – crunchy walnuts, soft fennel and squash, gummy Ebly. There’s supposed to be grated parmesan through the whole thing, but I’m not eating dairy at the moment.
There’s laughter and talking, Baby keeps smiling at Little Boy and trying to “talk” to him and to me. Little Boy eats all of his walnuts and starts to take mine off my plate.
How do you ask Mommy? I say.
Please Mommy ayyy I be cused! he says because it’s one of his little memorised phrases.
Not that one, I say, Please Mommy may I have a walnut. I don’t know what he says back to me, but I give him the walnut.
Butternut squash is let completely untouched – it was his favourite first food two years ago – and for two weeks now he has steadily refused it. I can’t be bothered arguing. There is enough salad for another meal for Husband and I (and snacks for me during the afternoon). Baby is happy, Little Boy is looking very ready for his nap.
I’ll call that a good morning. We’ll tackle the butternut squash again next week.
This recipe is from delicious. magazine, but I cannot find the recipe online. It was from the November 2011 edition, page 91, “Hugh Goes Veggie,” recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
*If you are breastfeeding and have supply issues, fennel is supposedly a simple way to increase milk supply. I was given fennel tea in large thermoses by the midwives in the hospital after both of my sons were born.
(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)