I am a horrible cook. I used to think I was a mediocre cook until I started getting feedback from the boys. Since then I've had to downgrade my cooking level descriptor significantly!
Basically, if the boys have heard the microwave ping, then they're probably happy to eat it. If they've seen me in the kitchen over a pan, or peeling a vegetable, then they're probably not going to eat it. If I'm really lucky, they'll just push the plate away. More often, one of them will start crying just at the sight of it! We've finally got past the food-throwing stage now, but that was a right barrel of laughs I can tell you!
When I announce that I am making tea, OB stands at the safety gate by the kitchen door, demanding tea "on a plate Mummy". At first I was bemused by this crockery fussiness, but now I know . . . if it's a 'healthy' tea like pasta, soup, stew, etc., then I'll serve it in a bowl. If it's a 'freezer tea', like fish fingers, then it's dry so it comes on a plate. OB isn't fussy about his crockery - he just wants potato waffles!
Personally I have dreadful eating habits. I'm quite happy to have the same (deeply unhealthy) meal every evening for a week, or longer. I remember when I was thinking about weaning OB, I got a book on the subject and settled down to read it one evening. It said that I should give OB family foods - basically the same foods that everybody else was eating. That night for my tea, I had had a bowl of super noodles with bacon chopped into it and two fried eggs on top! Not exactly food to grow up on for a 6-month-old!
So, I have made the effort. For the first time in my adult life, I now own a fruit bowl. Occasionally I will even force myself to look like I'm enjoying a piece of fruit in front of the boys so that they get the idea. Thankfully, they are both total fruit fans, so they don't take much persuading to empty that fruit bowl every week.
Unfortunately, not only do they have an aversion to my home cooking, but NB also seems to have a whole list of foods which are totally unacceptable if I serve them, but fine to eat elsewhere.
Let me give you an example. When NB first came to live with me, I was told that he liked cheese. Well, OB is a major fan of cheese, so we serve cheese in some form most lunchtimes. But NB wouldn't eat it at all. I tried cheese in all its forms - cubed, sliced, grated, string, babybel, on toast, melted over pasta - no dice. On the couple of occasions that I managed to persuade him to pop a bit in his mouth, he was actually sick on the dinner table! I persevered because I read once that you have to introduce a food to a toddler 14 times before you can be sure that he doesn't like it, but in the end, after about 3 months, I gave in and stopped serving him cheese.
Imagine my surprise then when, around 6 months later, I was greeted by one of the Aunties at Playgroup with a funny story about how NB had filled his cheeks with cheese like a hamster at morning snacktime. Oh yes, they assured me, he loves cheese and has a massive pile of cubed cheese every time he comes to Playgroup. He also loves ham sandwiches apparently - he cries when I give him ham sandwiches at home! Now, after a serious talk, he eats cheese at home too. And ham sandwiches.
I know that food is a big area of conflict and control for lots of kids, not just looked after or adopted children. I've eaten many meals at the homes of my friends and watched them approach the 'battleground' in various ways with their children. Personally I try to play it low key. Every meal contains something I know the boys will like. I encourage them to try everything on their plate. If they won't eat something, that's fine, but no substitutions and no getting down from the table until everybody's finished. If they make a decent stab at their meal, then they'll get their yoghurt or whatever we're having afterwards - I'm not usually into insisting the whole plate is cleaned.
But sometimes it's hard when you've gone the extra mile to make something from scratch that you think they'll really like and they start shouting "No like it!!!" and crying about it before it's even on the table! It's hard when, yet again, you've burned something on the stupid electric hob that you can't get used to even after two years! It's hard when you're tired and teatime is just another stopover on the way to bedtime and a couple of hours of peaceful bliss. So, sometimes my cool gets lost and my encouraging voice becomes an insisting one and then a nagging one and then a shouty one.
We always regain our equilibrium before bedtime though!
It's for these reasons that my cooking skills have had to be re-evaluated down to 'horrible', and my kitchen self-esteem has dropped to an all-time low! When NB's new Mummy came to visit recently, the SW asked me to provide some sandwiches for everybody. Well, it was a busy time and I wanted the house to look nice and . . . in the end I just called the SW and asked her to pick some sandwiches up at the shop! Yes, I couldn't even bring myself to make and serve sandwiches for a few strangers. Goodness knows what I'll do when new Mummy comes up for introductions and I have to provide meals for her. She definitely looks like the sort of person who eats green things she's picked herself from the garden - the sorts of things that I would mistake for weeds. I have a feeling that a plastic plate with fish fingers and beans on it won't fill her with as much joy as it brings to the boys!