What do you miss about life before kids? That was the question on an online forum recently. I sometimes miss sleeping when I like, and socializing when I like, and spending (ish) what I like. And I also miss curry. I really do. I used to make curry at least twice a week; chicken Korma with lime, lamb Passanda, Rogan Josh – and other dishes I pronounce equally badly, all from my giant Marks and Spencer Indian cookbook.
But the kids don’t eat any of it, so I threw in the (tea) towel. Twice a year, I make a renewed attempt to get them to try curry, each time hoping for an epiphany; an exclamation of delight – a “Mum this is gorgeous!” or even a “Mum, I don’t actually hate this.”
Yesterday was one of those days. I got out my old collection of recipes clipped from weekend magazines of the Independent and the Irish Times. I decided on a honey and ginger curry, which the recipe stated would take twenty minutes to prepare. Twenty minutes later, I had chopped some onion and was half-way through peeling the garlic. Recipe writers probably don’t take child-interruptions into account when they’re calculating their timings. I’d had one request for crackers, one report of hair-pulling and two urgent appeals for help with loom bands during those twenty-minutes so my chances of preparing an entire curry in the alloted time were limited from the outset.
“What’s for dinner mum?” asked Emmie who is five, during one of the mid-cooking loom-band tutorials. “Eh… honey chicken and rice,” I fibbed, but only slightly. “Yay! I love rice!” she said happily. Right so, honey chicken and rice it is.
An hour later, when I had finally assembled the curry in the pot and the children at the table, I started distributing plates.
“Argh!” screamed Emmie, on seeing spring onions chopped up in her dad’s curry. “Don’t worry,” I reassured her, “There’s no spring onion in yours.” I’m all for giving them a bit of everything, but the honey chicken was going to be a tough sell on its own. So each child was given a bowl with rice, two small pieces of chicken, and one – just one – sliver of red pepper. And so it began.
“Mum! What is this red pepper doing in my bowl? You said it was honey chicken!” said Emmie.
“It is, but it comes with red pepper. Don’t eat it if you don’t want to, but you know I’d love you to try it.”
“No way am I eating that. I’ll try this chicken though”
She gingerly (no pun intended) nibbled a tiny, miniscule corner of the tiny, miniscule piece of chicken, then screwed up her face in horror.
“It’s yuck! Oh it’s terrible!” she said, then turned to Clara, who is six, and warned “Don’t eat it – whatever you do, don’t eat it!”
Clara had been feeling brave about trying it, but this was a setback.
“Oh – I don’t think I should taste it after all mum – it sounds really yuck,” she said, having the good grace to look apologetic.
“Ah please try it, honestly, it’s just normal chicken with a bit of honey?”
“OK, I’ll do dip dip dip to see if I should try it,” she decided.
She started pointing to each of us in turn, and singing a rhyme that went something like “Dip, dip, dip, will you come to the party, and will you bring your own cream bun”.
She landed on my husband, and looked at him expectantly. Just as confused by all of this as I was, he looked wordlessly back at her.
“Dad, you have to vote now – should I try the chicken or not?” she said.
“Yes, do try it,” was his obvious response.
“Right, that’s your vote done – thanks dad, now I’ll go again, dip, dip, dip….” and off she went, around the table, this time landing on Sam, who is two.
“What do you vote – I think I shouldn’t try the chicken, say ‘no’ if you think I shouldn’t try it,” she said.
“No!” was his not unexpected response.
“Right, that’s one vote for and one against, I wonder who will win!” she said excitedly. Emmie looked gleeful, eager for her chance to vote against the chicken and indeed, she was next.
“Should I eat the chicken?” asked Clara.
“No, don’t eat it!” said Emmie.
“OK mum, I think that’s it – two people said no and one said yes, so I’m not allowed to eat it,” said Clara.
“Don’t I get a vote?” I asked.
“No, you’re the person who made it, so you don’t get to vote,” she said.
“And this is why we never get to have curry anymore,” I said to my husband, throwing my hands up in the air.
“What, that was curry?” shrieked the two girls in unison. That was the end of the remaining half-hearted attempts to try the food. And the end of my attempts to cook curry. At least for another six months.
In case you’d like to try the Honey and Ginger Curry that I can’t have, here’s the recipe:
(taken from a Catherine Cleary column in a 2003 edition of the Sunday Tribune)
- 1 medium onion
- Half a thumb size piece of fresh ginger
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 dessert-spoons of honey
- 4 chicken fillets, chopped
- 2 cans of coconut milk
- 1 tea-spoon of curry paste (or just chillies instead)
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 4 spring onions
Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in some oil
Add curry paste, then honey
Add chopped chicken and fry until cooked on the outside
Add slices of red pepper and pour in coconut milk
Simmer for twenty minutes or until the chicken is cooked through
Add spring onions at the very end, and serve with rice or naan bread
I’m not jealous at all.