Saturday, 7 November 2009

Food for thought

We had pancakes for breakfast this morning. Ok, it ain't the moon landings, but for us it's faintly miraculous compared to how Saturdays used to be.
The routine while I was working fulltime: roll out of bed early Saturday morning, quality time with child limited to changing nappy, leave house before anyone really awake. Quite often, breakfast, lunch and dinner for me would be at the same desk, forked out of a styrofoam box from the office canteen.
Today I've certainly eaten better than that, but it's not just about the food. At the time I would normally have been commuting, I was balancing my son on the kitchen worktop letting him crack eggs into the pancake batter. (Admittedly, it ended up a bit...crunchy). And whisk until there was flour halfway up the wall.
There was a long, autumnal walk in the sunshine; a log fire; a lot of crumpets. There has been some pottering around the kitchen, some wandering into the garden to see if there are any herbs still alive in November (freakily, there are: global warming, eh?) and there is now an Italian-ish sausage and bean stew in the oven.
And I'm thinking about a beautiful piece in last weekend's Sunday Telegraph mag, by the food writer Diana Henry, about her love of food: she talks about cooking as theatre, food as a conduit to other cultures,as a means of connection and as pure alchemy. (Interestingly, she also says she was a TV producer until she had kids and realised that didn't fit).
I come from a family where good food and the rituals associated with eating together - talking, arguing, laughing, getting drunk - mattered.
When I worked fulltime, cooking supper marked the transition from office to home: here is something terribly soothing about chopping, stirring, spooning. But it was also one more thing to fit in, and sometimes by the time it was finished I was too tired to eat it.
So Henry has reminded me that now I have more time I want to spend more of it on food: cooking for friends, cooking with my son, maybe growing a bit more of our own stuff, and working out how to use cheaper cuts and leftovers.
After all, without a fulltime salary, there can't be expensive takeaways and convenience foods and nice stuff from the deli. But there might actually be time to eat without getting indigestion.


  1. Sitting round the table for an evening meal is one thing I cherise from my childhood and we do the same with our children, MadDad's home time permitting and we have a great time for chat, good food and to actually appreciate out little boys. I actually enjoy taling to them

  2. I'm so happy for you
    Keep on going girl!!!!!

  3. Hey there usedtobesomebody. I used to be somebody, too. I left big-time lawyering from the 50th floor to become an 8-5 nobody in a small university town and who for the last 20 years has been able to come home and enjoy evenings with his family, and weekends, too.

    There have been times when I've missed the power and importance and money of being somebody, and other times when I've resented not being treated as SOMEBODY, but then one of my rich somebody friends from the old days drops in and we spend an evening in my modest home, discussing their failed marriages, their stranger-kids, and their ragged souls.

    You'll have regrets, but 20 years out you'll know you did the right thing.


  4. I really enjoyed your article. As soon as my children go to bed my life is consumed with getting out of the two hour commute/office job and the dreams of making enough money myself to stay at home with them. I don't even have a stressful job I'll admit, but I only go there to make money to pay the bills!
    Good luck with it all.

  5. Sounds good but careful too much cooking could mean too much eating and then weight goes up!!!;-)

  6. Hi Gaby. Love the blog title and the article in the guardian. I'm 20 years ahead of you and can truthfully say that having a "somebody" career doesn't hold a candle to being a "somebody" at home, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the transition was a bit shaky. A move also coincided with my leap out, but I struggled at first with wanting other women in our new community to know that I "used to be somebody." I look forward to following you in your journey as you blog. Blessings!

  7. Dear Gabby,

    What's going on with the Observer and motherhood these days? That newspaper has 30-something women on a leash. A few months ago, the newspaper dedicated pages to a 'warning note' to women, cautioning them that their ovaries won't last forever. I duly sent the email around to my bestest of friends, initiating countless discussions, a multitude of inter and intra couple-conversations, decisions made. I discussed it with my boyfriend and over the months, we came to pick a time where I would toss the pill to the wind and our love would bear, literal, fruit. It felt like a new step in growing up and in our delicious path together.

    However, your article and the subsequent editorial in last Sunday's Observer magazine is starting to give me palpitations, unravelling such well laid plans and keeping me pill-bound. I'm a career woman, born and bred. In my short, eventful life, I have been chased by jihadists, groped by gun toting generals, was a gangsters mole, gotten lost in riots, dug up mass graves; you name it and I've nearly been killed doing it. I love this way of life, I thrive on the thrill of the chase. All of this must seem completely at odds with motherhood, but I love children. I love to bake. I even love to clean. I love nursing and inventing mystery games and drying away 2 year old tears. As the oldest of four, I have a strong maternal heart that pumps away rhythmically.

    I can't say that the recent articles warning women against having it all came entirely as a shock. A little voice in me asked: how can you coast down the Mekong in search of drug traffickers with a baby on the boob? I was willing to make some sacrifices, but truth be told, as a child, I always wanted an adventurer for a mother, and some silly part of me hoped that my kids would want just the same. Kids though, will be who they are, and there's no changing them.

    As such, I was so desperately thankful for the small morsel of hope you tossed your readers - perhaps freelancing or owning your business is the answer, yes that must be it! Is this the way I can fulfill all dimensions of me?! Not to burden you with being a lab rat for the career women of the nation, but I, like many many woman, will be watching your process with the keenest of interests. Good luck Gabby. You can do it. For all of us!

  8. Just wanted to say that your excellent piece in the Observer and subsequent blog touched a nerve. I 'used to be' Deputy Editor of a high profile weekly magazine; I am now mostly picking children up from school and blogging about 'How to be Unemployed - the white-collar way' ( Good luck; I look forward to following your blog.

  9. Hi! I loved your piece in the Guardian. I left my promising career 5 years ago, and the transition to 'usedtobesomethingotherthanmom' was not easy. I had to really look at my identity and how I defined it, my relationship with my husband and how he saw me as a woman (he married a corporate woman who talked 'corporate things', so we had to explore other dimensions to our relationship and make adjustments here and there during the transition. I have 2 small children now and have just completed my part-time dip in Montessori education. A whole new world has opened up. It's still hard sometimes as there will always be ppl who treat you according to the business value you may bring (which left me with a much shorter phonebook to maintain...), but I'm a much calmer, happier and fulfilled person now.