Waiting for Agnes

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Like a cheap fiddle September 10, 2010

Filed under: Breastfeeding,Parenting — titchandboofer @ 3:08 am
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On Monday, an encounter with my GP led to some serious pondering on my behalf. Not just on the question of whether to seriously attempt to make the small one eat, but more interestingly on the realisation that, as a family, we’re leaving one part of our lives behind and moving on again. Sometimes in life the transitions are blindingly obvious – big landmark occasions like giving birth or moving out of home, that you see coming a long way off – but sometimes they are so gently, subtly played out that it’s not until you’re on the other side that you notice – like looking at your baby and seeing that their awareness, their very ‘personhood’ has become so clear, they don’t look like a baby anymore. Undoubtedly, inevitably, we are leaving small’s babyhood behind. And it’s not all about the food. I realised we’re not trying to drag him prematurely out of babyhood, but that this is just one in a series of little changes that have snuck up on all three of us:

Small is getting very social and although he may not have the words yet, his intentions could not be clearer – if he sees someone that he wants to be with, his face becomes a big question mark, his arms stretch out, he ‘hhurrrs’ insistently, and if this goes unnoticed he gets quite irate. In fact he has definite preferences about many things – if we’re reading he wants to turn the pages himself, if the beloved or I are cooking he wants to inspect every bowl and pot, and if there are other kids around he trails them enthusiastically wherever they go, whereas once he would have lost interest if they moved out of sight. Things are changing for the beloved and I, too. Over the past two months I have been easing back into working, and I am so excited by this. I go to work, leaving small with the beloved or The Nanna, and I don’t miss him. I thought I would, but I get so immersed in the work and I know he’s totally fine without me, so I don’t miss him. But I am thrilled to see him again at the end of a shift as he comes galumphing down the hall ‘hhurrring’ at me. As I have picked up work hours, the beloved has been able to cut down hers. And as all of this has happened we both realised we’ve been so wrapped up in the intensity of being parents to a new baby, that we are missing being a couple. Little by little by little (as Dusty would say) our family dynamics shift.

So, back to the food issue. The following are some scenes from this week, the week in which the fun parent takes a back seat, and begins to think she may have been played:

Scene 1, Monday, a few hours after coming home from the GP –

The seed of doubt, sown by the GP, niggles at me. I wonder what would happen if I try and feed small some lunch. With great determination, I sit down opposite small in his highchair, squeeze some organic-baby-goop-in-a-sachet onto a spoon and aim it in the direction of small’s mouth. He sees this coming a mile off and starts windmilling his arms furiously, at the same time pursing his lips and trying to swivel his head backwards. I put down the spoon, secure both of small’s hands, pick up the spoon and try again. Lips still pursed tight shut. I wedge the spoon between his lips and he begrudgingly lets in a drop. Then he cries miserably until I squeeze his foot and say ‘honk’. Then he laughs. Hmmm, maybe not so sad. We repeat six times.

Over the course of the next few hours, I talk with the beloved and with some friends and I swap emails with family and friends. A wise woman, who has known me since we were both eleven years old, cut straight to the heart of the matter. She reminded me that even if I do something that may seem unpleasant, I am not going to become my step-father, her father or any of the other uninspiring parents in our shared lives. Gradually, I come to the conclusion that while it may not hurt small to just keep breastfeeding, it won’t hurt him to eat something either.

Scene 2, Tuesday, breakfast –

Once again, I sit opposite small, this time armed with weetbix and milk. Preemptively securing the windmilling arms, I offer a spoonful of weetbix. Small opens his mouth and takes it! Then he seems to realise what he’s done and squeezes out a tear. Just as quickly, he spots his toy car and is smiling again. A few reluctant spoonfuls and about forty minutes later, we call it a day. Well, until lunch.

Scene 3, Wednesday, afternoon –

I walk into the dining room. Small is in his highchair, looking up at the beloved who is wielding a spoon. He is opening his mouth like a little birdy and looking quite, well, happy. Then I see what she is feeding him…nutella. Hmmm. Little scammer.

Scene 4, Thursday, at work in the afternoon –

I am describing Scene 3 to my work colleagues. The in-charge for the shift, who adores children, advises me to just let him eat nutella all the time if that’s what he likes. One of the LMFs suggests mixing vegetables into nutella. One of the other LMFs thinks I should make my own nutella out of organic hazelnuts, pure cocoa and expressed breast milk. Another describes the times she discovered that her children could play her. Am loving that although I have had advice that ranges from the totally permissive to the absolutely authoritarian, I don’t feel confused or indecisive, but held up and buoyed by everyone’s support and encouragement.

Scene 5, Friday, breakfast –

Compromise. Small eats about three teaspoons of weetbix and a quarter of a slice of toast, with nutella. Then he smears weetbix happily all over me, the table, the floor and his own head. I suddenly realise that with a small bit of enforced feeding, his voluntary eating has seemingly doubled in the space of five days. He’s eating wholemeal apple bars for a morning snack, peanut butter on crackers for lunch and even a bit of rice and eggplant last night for dinner.

So, being the parent, taking the lead. Not so dreadful after all. Thanks everyone.

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Repeat offender August 15, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 8:13 am
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A while back I was tired. Unsurprising, you say, I have a small baby and it’s one of the things to tick off the list each day: feed family? check. entertain the baby? check. answer phone without snapping at caller? check. keep baby alive? check. being tired? check. But this time I was really tired, hours of baby-screamathon, fuzzy, blurry, prop-your-eyelids-open-with-matchsticks, forget your own name kind of tired. And I ate a lot of Nutella. By god it’s evilly good stuff – chocolatey and gooey, a melty lake of sweetness on hot and crunchy toast, or just straight from the jar. Very therapeutic. Some might say that if you’re tired you should fuel your body with healthful, granola-esque meals, litres of filtered water, vegetables, flowery teas or zinc supplements and whatnot. That’s all fine and good if you’ve got the energy and concentration to chew granola, or find the replacement jug filter for the one that expired two weeks ago, or peel a vegetable, or remember that it is zinc you need from the pharmacy and not bubble bath and a 1kg bag of jelly beans. I was doing well to wedge the baby between me and the cupboard I was propped up on, unscrew the jar lid and remember how to use a spoon. And then a friend, who lives in Canberra and therefore is no doubt deeply intimate with the therapeutic value of Nutella, gave me the recipe to Nigella Lawson’s Nutella Cake. Alright, it’s officially named Torta alla Gianduia, but that doesn’t give it nearly as much pull – really it should be called Nigella’s-Entire-Jar-Of-Nutella Cake to alert the potentially fatigued to the importance of it.

I’m a sucker for ‘whole jar’ recipes. I have several recipes for cakes which include a whole glass bottle of real maple syrup, for a cake that has a whole can of Coca Cola in it and for biscuits with a whole tub of peanut butter thrown into the mix. Partly the appeal lies in the ease – no measuring, no waste, no feeling the need to be creative with the leftover bits, no needing to work out if you already have enough in the pantry, just buy a whole new jar. But mostly it’s the decadence, the thrill of emptying the entire contents of a jar of heavenly spread or syrup at once, of knowing that the pleasure of one spoonful’s worth will come back to you exponentially increased in the form of dessert. I made this back in that dark time of very-tiredness (yes, it’s that easy, even the madly fatigued can’t screw it up) and best-lawyer-friend (a great appreciator of any baked goods to grow in our kitchen) was away on a very non-lawyery jaunt in the Mediterranean. Forced to do horrible things, like leaping from a boat to swim in the sparkly blue sea and drift about in a hot air balloon at sunrise, the BLF was clearly home-sick and sent a brave and hardy carrier-pigeon with a request to make this cake for her homecoming (oh fine, not really, she facebooked me).

Nigella’s Entire Jar of Nutella Cake

only slightly altered to suit my definite preference for Amaretto over Frangelico

6 large eggs, separated

pinch of salt

125 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

400 gram jar of Nutella

1 generous tablespoon of Amaretto

100 grams of ground almonds

100 grams of dark chocolate

For the ganache:

160 grams of dark chocolate, broken into pieces

160 grams of cream

1 tablespoon of Amaretto

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 deg fan forced).

Butter and line a 23cm springform baking tin.

In a small bowl melt the dark chocolate (you can do it over a small pan of just simmering water, or in the microwave on reduced power – I knock the power down to 60% and heat it for 1 min 30 secs) and then leave to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed and add the Amaretto, egg yolks and almond meal.

Fold in the melted chocolate.

In a separate medium/large bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form.

Add a good sized dollop of egg white to the chocolate mixture and stir through to lighten it up. Then fold in the remaining egg white gently, a third at a time.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. It is ready when it has risen, a bit springy to touch and starting to come away from the sides of the tin.

For the ganache:

Put the chocolate, cream and Amaretto into a medium sized saucepan over a low heat until the chocolate is melting, then remove from the heat. Whisk until cooled and thick enough to ice the cake with. The first time I made this I whisked by hand continuously and damn near broke my arm in the process. This time I took a short cut and used the handheld electric beaters on high. Beating until cooled like this gets it to a really light, moussey texture, which is lovely and soft on the dense, damp cake.

Slather the cake with the ganache, slice into great big pieces and eat. Good with tea, equally good with another shot of Amaretto. Slightly more taxing than just eating Nutella from the jar, but well worth the effort. Thoroughly enjoyed by the BLF and all other takers. Happily, we have a teensy bit left in the kitchen that has mine written all over it.