When we asked three Wild Women to share what dinner looks like in their household, we expected to get a recipe or two. Instead, we got a beautiful window into the kitchens of three very different Australian women – a lone ranger, a married mum with young kids and a single mum with teenage boys.
From connecting with your teens around a kitchen bench to avoiding “I’ll just have toast” syndrome when cooking for one, these amazing women give us tips, insights and reflections on food, family and our relationship to it.
Sasha Reid, Marketing Director
Mealtime is an adrenaline sport in my household.
It requires activewear, a bangin’ playlist of feel-good dancefloor hits, a baseless sense of optimism and gusto, and a fire blanket… just in case.
Mondays are full of potential and good intentions – and so is my fridge. There’s even a chalkboard menu plan on the wall where our family faves, try something new and dinners out for the week are lovingly handwritten, café-style. Please note, dear reader, this does absolutely nothing to curtail the number of times a child will innocently, maddeningly, repeatedly ask “what’s for dinner?”, but pointing to the wall vs constantly repeating myself has proven very beneficial for my mental health and, by extension, the wellbeing of our entire family.
By mid-week, things can be described as slapdash at best: the oh-shit-I-forgot-to-defrost-the-meat moments, the quick thinking about what can be whipped up quickly in between work and ferrying kids to sports, music and friends, as well as the ‘WTF-was-I-thinking-attempting-something-new-and-fancy-on-a-Thursday?’ thoughts.
I confess I do not love cooking.
BK – before kids – meals were more carefree and probably a bit lazier. My schedule was either my own to do as I pleased, or synced up with my now-husbands. We shared the cooking more, but our collective skills were rudimentary: pre-prepared meals such as lasagne, thai curry meal kits, stir-fries with store-bought sauce or salads with simple protein (actually still a fan of this) and can’t-be-bothered-scrambled-eggs-on-toast (still a fan of this too!). We definitely ate out more often!
It is, however, important to me to nourish myself and my family, and not to take good health for granted but rather as something to nurture and continuously fuel. I know nutritious food gives us the energy, zest and strength to climb trees, swing from monkey bars, ride bikes… and dance around the kitchen.
It’s been QUITE an education – for me as much as for them. In wanting my kids to be healthy, as well as interested in food and where it comes from, I’ve learned a whole lot about nutrition, what good food is, and how to store and prepare it. It’s re-taught me the basics of how to make it. And that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
I learned about the SLOW food philosophy of seasonal, local, organic (if possible) and whole. About variety literally being the spice of life. How to use up excess fresh produce odds & ends. The essentials to keep in the pantry and fridge for all-occasion use. That salad dressings, pesto, curry and pasta sauces, once de-mystified, can be made from scratch, even by a novice like myself. About batch cooking: that life-saving art of cooking for families everywhere! I double down on bolognese, stews and curries, and will forever be an adoring fan of any dish that claims to be a one-pan wonder (because after the cooking comes the washing up). I’ve learned that Mexican food is a consistent crowd-pleaser and will be on our menu board for the foreseeable future. Even better than that the kids can help make it. Ditto fried rice.
This is important as I’ve learned children are phenomenally good at minding what you do, not just what you say. So, despite my poor enthusiasm for the relentless planning, shopping, prepping and cooking cycle, I champion food and good eating in our house.
Our food adventure continues…
Robby Gee, Partnerships Manager
I used to be the mother of two small boys. They were cute, they depended on me and I was the centre of their world.
I am now the mother of two young men (aged 17 and 19). They tower over me, have busy, engaged lives, they lift heavy things for me and fix stuff.
The balance of being a single, working mum and the sporadic lives of my teenagers meant little time for us to come together. We were like ships in the night, so the evening meal became our together time. The kitchen was our hub.
It was over meal prep that we chatted and laughed and discussed our days.
Chatting with a teenager is often much less confrontational when not face-to-face. Matters of concern become easier around a kitchen bench with eyes on a chopping board. We have talked about grades, girls, friends, teachers, hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations – all whilst gathered around our kitchen bench for a brief time each day before fading back into the busyness of our worlds.
Our kitchen bench was where we were united – at least for a little while.
With the help of a wok, rice cooker and slow cooker, a subscription to Hello Fresh, a well-stocked freezer and endless cartons of eggs, I taught my boys to cook.
I’m delighted that both my boys now love cooking and are eager to experiment. It truly has brought us closer, and it is something we still love to do together with music playing in the background – not that our music tastes align!
These days, when I visit my eldest at university, he is proud to show me ‘his shelf’ in the communal kitchen which has a wide variety of herbs and spices, and ‘his drawer’ in the communal fridge which is brimming with fresh fruit and veggies (often a tough ask on a uni income). They often host uni dinner parties (and send me screenshots of meals) and he loves to cook and experiment with his friends.
Now if only he would learn to clean his room!!
Yvette Peverell, PR Manager
My issue has never been my relationship with food – it’s my relationship with cooking that’s the challenge.
When it comes to me and cooking, I am an acronym: I am a WIP (work in progress) who likes to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). I’m also a lone ranger – no acronym for that one but it means I cook for one and any other lone rangers out there will know that’s a challenge in itself!
When you don’t have to answer to anyone (i.e. a bunch of hungry kiddos) it can be really easy to get lazy – I call this the ‘I’ll just have toast’ syndrome. So, to combat the IJHT pitfall I try to stick to this:
- Protein with veggies or salad: Told you I kept it simple. If I have chicken, fish and/or meat in the fridge I often buy the salad or veggies on the day because I hate wasting food and I don’t always get through a fresh produce shop.
- Cook in batches: Pasta is always good for this. I don’t rate many things I cook, but I do make a mean spag bol. Make enough and with a side salad, this can be on rotation throughout the weekly dining schedule.
- I eat out! There must be some advantages to being a lone ranger, right? I’m surrounded by great restaurants, pubs and cafes in my local neighbourhood. I tend to mix things up by dining out on cuisine I wouldn’t cook at home. Thai or Japanese are favourites that break up the week and still offer some good healthy and tasty options. Besides the much needed injection of variety that eating out brings, it’s also a vital ingredient in ensuring overall better mental health and wellness. A good laugh with friends, a catch up with family, dinner and live band – all help nourish the soul.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’ll never be a cordon bleu chef, but I do feel a sense of satisfaction after a week of (relatively) healthy eating!