Children. They do say the darndest things. Like be-sghetti and feep fops instead of spaghetti and flip flops. I find them adorable, but lately my own kids have been ruining my self-esteem and my cooking mojo with the stuff that comes out of their mouths when I lay a meal on the table.
"These pancakes are too old and rusty," my four-year old said about my banana pancakes recently. OK so they got a little burnt on one side, but I think "rusty" is a bit harsh. They were rejected before he even tasted them.
Sometimes when the aroma of whatever I'm cooking hits his nostrils he will announce that he doesn't like what's for dinner. "But... you don't even know what it is yet!" I will yell, exasperated.
My two-year-old is worse. At mealtimes she'll totter over to the table, get up on tip toes to peer at what's on her plate and will either pull out the chair and sit down which is her nod of approval, or she'll shove the plate away from her and walk away, sometimes with a big disappointed sigh.
My heart will sink. And my wallet will shed tears. Occasionally, bubbles of anger will rise.
I know you hear me. New research from Kellogg Australia found that majority of parents think their children are the biggest food critics in the family (66 per cent) and describe their opinions as brutally honest with no filter whatsoever (64 per cent). More than one in four tell their kids it's their turn to cook next if they don't like it, which I'm going to try later but I doubt it will translate to a clean plate.
To research this story, I asked my Facebook friends to share some of the meanest comments they've had on their cooking. "It's ugly." "It tastes like jail food." "Why do you only know how to cook five meals?" and "Are you actually even a mum?" were some of the best.
I've always considered myself as decent cook. Prawn fajitas, vegie burgers from scratch, roast chicken and spag bol (grass fed beef, good quality tomatoes, proper Parmesan not the stuff you shake from a can) are some of my go-to dishes.
But lately I've been wondering if I'm actually not that good. Feeding a two-year-old and a four-year-old 21 meals a week is a lot of work and it's difficult not to question myself when at least 15 of those meals are half eaten or rejected.
I figure that because nobody else has complained, it's definitely them and not me. But what if my friends and family were all just being polite?
Why do I bother?
Some days I wonder what's the point of cooking for my kids at all, if they'd really just prefer food from packets or frozen bricks of breaded meat. But isn't my job as a mum to help them foster a love for good proper food and feed them nutrients that will help sustain their growing bodies and not grow horns from their skulls?
So I carry on cooking because it's also in my nature. I read food blogs and subscribe to newsletters from Bon Appetit and Delicious. I ask for cookbooks for my birthday and I find flicking through them to earmark recipes relaxing.
I don't have the time or the inclination to make separate meals for the adult and the kids in my family, so some days we will all eat peanut butter on toast with two blueberries for eyes and banana slice ears.
I keep at it. Hoping that through the years, I'll grow a thicker skin and my children will develop more sophisticated palettes and begin to appreciate the effort and love I put into their meals. Perhaps one day they'll start to enquire: "What is in this Bolognese sauce mum? I'd like the recipe for when I leave home to carry on the family tradition." I know, LOL right.
If not that, then I hope to at least bring the ratio of rejected meals down. Because there's no better feeling as a mother than watching your children devour something you've cooked from scratch and then ask for seconds. This has happened, on occasion.
Of course at the time I've acted like it's no big deal because perfecting the art of parental nonchalance over meal time is all part of the game.
But we all know that on those days, my face is poker but my soul is doing cartwheels around with kitchen with pom poms shouting for someone to RELEASE THAT TICKERTAPE!!