Thursday 8 March 2012

What really happens at our dinner table.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had some of the loveliest things happen.

Shared with beautiful peeps.

I had a lovely lunch at my place with 3 special gals.

It was the bestest.

Pip wrote about it here.

I also had a fellow blogger (Suz) write about how a post of mine has helped create a positive change in her life.

She had come across it as I was conversing with another mum about her previously adventurous eaters' new 'Fussy' stage.  She had asked my advice.

My advice was to 'Give up worrying about it & serve Weetbix' ...well actually I advised Porridge as I know this little lovely has a special love for Oats.

This was an online conversation on Twitter (do you use Twitter? I do - you can find me here.).

She had read the post (which explains my position & experience in more detail) I had linked my other friend to and she wrote about how it had helped her here.

I cried & cried when I read it.

Who would have ever guessed that something I wrote could so profoundly affect someone in such a positive way.

Well at least I NEVER did.

It filled me up.

I overflowed out of my eyeballs.

I felt that as a blogger I could hang up my to speak.

I also had a mum stop me at the stupidmarket to tell me I revolutionised dinnertime at her house.

She has started to serve weetbix when the kids start a fuss.

She had asked me....pleaded with me months ago about how I manage dinner at my place and stay sane.

I pointed her to this same post.

She wasn't a mum I saw regularly.

And I hadn't seen her since we had that conversation.

It was so lovely to hear that for her the mealtime stress has changed in such a positive way.

What was the most interesting of all was that she said that her children seem to have become less resistant to meals too.

As parents of little kids I reckon the stress can be split in half between sleep stress and eating stress.

We seem to judge ALL of our success on either or both of these things.

We seem to have this dark cloud that hovers over us that is dinner or bedtime.

I imagine too that when people see my pictures that I post of the dinners I make here or on my Facebook page or on Instagram (you can find me there at: gourmetgirlfriend)
that lots of people imagine my 5 kids sitting up at the table eating EVERYTHING I serve.

It ain't like that!

I don't want people thinking that.

My little 3 are still pretty unadventurous and will have things like toasties or eggs or speedy noodle dishes, the kinds of recipes that I write about in Tiny & Little magazine.  Meals for their age.  Simple, good quality, nutritious food.

The dishes you see here are really the ones I make for me & Hubs & the big 2 (age 11 &13).
The Big 2 were difficult as younger children too but are now willing & able to eat EVERYTHING that is served.
They don't love everything but they do try- and are expected to.
The Weetbix fallback is still there if they are not in love with what gets served.
Respecting the cook is still an expectation. A nod to the effort is gratefully received (and EXPECTED) but I certainly will not force them to eat food they don't like.  I respect their choice and their different palates.

I cook these delicious meals because I WANT to, because I LOVE to, because it gives ME joy- the preparing but most of all the SHARING.

I don't do it because I think it makes me a better person or a better mother.

Yes I DO feel strongly about my children being educated about food ethics & I DO want them to have a healthy attitude towards food & I DO want them to have an understanding of the provenance of their food & I DO want them to appreciate the effort that goes into cooking a meal & I DO expect the mealtime to be a time of enjoyment & fun & of sharing ......but I DON'T expect them to eat the same as me.  I just don't.

What really happens is that I often serve a meal for the littlies that is different to mine.

What really happen is that it is not gourmet EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.

What happens is I REALLY serve ice cream for dinner sometimes. YES. REALLY.

What happens is I get upset too that my kids don't always like what I cook.

What happens is I now focus on the dinner table being a joyful place to be.  Not necessarily a gourmet place to EAT.  There is a BIG difference.

What happens is that we have candles- even when it is Weetbix all round.

What happens is we have music playing.

My message is that NO mother on this planet is to be judged to be a better mother because of the dinner she cooked.

At then end of the day it everything else about LOVE.

Not dinner.

I'm so happy the cold is coming back.
Mostly because I can bring out my stripey tights but also because it is PIE weather!
I made this recipe up years and years ago & have been loving it ever since.  Several of my besties also love it and I know they cook it at theirs too. Happiness making.
When my eldest came home from camp last night I was all ready to make Hainan Chicken rice as I know it is a real fave of his but he surprised me by asking for my Chicken pie.
I was happy to oblige! I LOVE it too and there was a crispness in the air asking for it!
I couldn't believe I hadn't put it up on my here it is!

  • 750g Organic chicken thigh fillets, sliced into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green peppercorns (you can use pink and u can reduce the number if you think it might be a bit much but i LOVE the tangy crunch and surprisingly so do my kids!)
  • 8 sage leaves, chopped fine
  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • 3 rashers bacon, diced
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • 1 egg (to brush pastry)

Preheat oven to 180C.
Heat a nonstick pan to a medium/high heat.
Add bacon and fry till brown, add Garlic and stir for a minute.
Add sage and peppercorns.

Raise heat to High.
Add chicken and brown.

Dust flour over the ingredients and stir for a minute or so to cook the flour.
Add Zucchini.
Now add the chicken stock and stir till thickened.

POur mix into an ovenproof dish and top with the Puff pastry.
Make a little hole to allow steam to escape.
I HAVE to make some sort of picture on top of the pie.
I find it NECESSARY & of course it tastes better!
Brush with egg wash and pop in oven for 30 minutes or until brown.

Serve with Buttery Mash!

Here is a little sneak preview of new M.Ward. Can't wait for his new album. YAYNESS:


  1. Gosh! Your just the best! xxx

  2. Love this post Ruth. I was part of those brilliant conversations over the last couple of weeks about kids and eating and reading your old post and this new one, restores my faith that I am doing the right thing at my place! Dinner food sometimes, toast sometimes, whatever!!! It's so easy to get in to the trap of being frustrated when your kids won't eat the food you cook - especially if it's something that has taken a long time to prepare, cost hard earned money and if it's something I know they would love if they actually tried it!!! But, the lesson to have the freedom around the concept of let them eat it if they want to, but if not, have a back up (wheatbix, toast or a banana in our household) is extremely liberating. I sometimes forget this, but you are a brilliant reminder!!!

    I tagged you in a photo on instagram yesterday when my 1 year old had a mega meltdown and refused to try his dinner of scrambled eggs & lost the plot. I was on the brink! I put him down on the floor to play and gave my 3 year old dinner. I walked away & came back 5 minutes later to find my 1 year old had climbed right up on to his brother's knee and was happily shoving fistfuls of scrambled eggs in to his mouth!!!! He just wanted to do it on his own terms, with his own hands!!!! It was your advice in my mind that allowed me to calm down and leave him be in that infuriating moment, and giving my baby the space to decide on his own was a HUGE success!! And it was beyond adorable seeing him sitting on his brother's knee at the table!!!

    Anyway, your reach is far lovely Ruth!!!! Thank you for your constant inspiration.xoxoxoxoxo

  3. We have ice cream for dinner too sometimes, lots of French Toast, boiled eggs, and dessert dinners - loads of oaty apple crumble with plain yoghurt. It's all good!

    Of course you inspire people, you are awesome!


  4. This is the best post ever. I feel so lucky that I have you in my life. I feel blessed that we actually met up when I was in Melbs.

    Food unites us. Food nourishes us. And it teaches us - mostly about our kids.

    Love to you and the brood. See you soon I hope so we can all hang out and drink coffee and the kids can play.

    Love xox

  5. I wanna say everything that Stella Orbit above me said.
    Love you and look forward to both our gangs sitting down for another meal together soon. xxxxx

  6. I want to meet up and have dinner with you too, you are just delighftul xx

  7. Hmmm I had forgotten about that chicken pie. Might have to give it another whorl!!!!!!!!

    Love you and your work,

    ps Very proud and happy for all your success Darlin'

  8. I love this post Ruth. Love. It is everything food and love and family should be.
    Each night I put music on in the kitchen and light a candle on our table. The music was always there, but the candle idea came from you.


  9. It will come as no surprise that I love a gal who feels compelled to put a picture on the top of her pie :oD

  10. you're right Ruth, the food isn't the most important thing at the dinner table... thank you so much (and you know, your influence in our house has been huge - today I was presented with play dough wontons!)x

  11. Love your blog...I'm a newcomer and truly love the way you cook.

    And phew...I don't feel so bad that some nights it's just chops + peas + chips + egg at our place (or in the case of my four year old - no chops + no peas + some chips + do not put an egg anywhere near my plate) night...

    Thanks again.

    Just bought my wonton wrappers for the wonton, just need to source the maggi seasoning from somewhere (coles online devastated me with their oversight!)



  12. Thank thank thank you. I am coming off yet another week of being at my wits end about fussy eating, many meals one night, one meal for everyone another night, one child out of four being possibly pathalogically afraid of trying anything new at dinner time and on it goes. Your photos on facebook have inspired me to keep going and keep trying but it was SO humbling to read your post about what goes on in your house and gives me hope that by the time my kids turn 10, things may have turned the corner. In the meantime, I am not going to stress about serving up weetbix and toast (a sure fire fix to when I cannot face dinner drama!) Keep up the excellent work. Jo

  13. I'm almost in tears reading this. I think the last few nights have got me down. The kids (7, 5 & 2) have been tired and cranky, and more difficult than usual. So it is wonderful to read that I'm not the only one who struggles with reality! More than that, it's great to be given hope; hope that mealtimes can be a relaxed and enjoyable family time (as they sometimes are). Thank you, Ruth, for your honesty, insights and ideas, as well as your inspiration. Here's to the dinner table being a great place to be!

  14. When times are tough in my house - not necessarilly made so by my children, but by comments made by other people, sometimes, random, complete strangers - i put my comfy clothes on, make a pot of tea, and read all over your blog....its like a big piece of reassuring see, i have boys too....three very lovely, very loud, very bigger than life boys....we lost our only girl when we were 16 weeks pregnant with her....some things are just not meant to be....people love to ask my husband and i whether we will go back and get it right next time....ask me what i am going to do when my boys get wives and we are left all alone....i haven't got the heart to tell them we lost our girl...i haven't got the heart to tell them that there comments hurt....that their missing these three beautiful little boys who are usually standing right in front of them (6, 4, & 2) because it seems that its all about girls...its not my fault i don't have girls, i think i've finally forgiven myself for it....i love my boys, they are my world....i love that you have boys, i find absolute comfort in it...your blog is like my special world where its okay to have boys, where its okay to love that you have boys...all boy households are amazing....and loud....thats the comfort i find in your blog...your gorgeous food is just a bonus...

    1. Whitney.....I am completely overwhelmed by your gorgeous comment.
      Thankyou so very much for making the time to let me know your feelings so beautifully, honestly and courageously.
      I have been wanting to respond and couldn't email or find you.....then someone suggested I reply right here!
      *slaps forehead*
      Doh! how could I be so silly not to think of that!!!

      I have the same thing happen to me as you are talking of ALL.THE. TIME.
      the assumption that we have 5 children BECAUSE we kept trying for a girl.
      Actually. NO.
      We had a plan to have 5 children.
      Whether they were boys or girls was totally irrelevant.

      we are ever so lucky to have our 5 children.
      All gorgeous.
      Not because they are boys but because they are individual people with fabulously different faces, bodies & personalities.
      Yes. those comments really really hurt.
      OVER and OVER again....i think I might have a comeback....every single time...i seem to go mute.
      I think part of me is in shock at peoples insensitivity....(or is it stupidity?).

      It's not all about girls...or all about boys.
      It's all about LOVE.
      I am so happy this place has become a comfort to you & that you have forgiven yourself.
      I'm so sorry for the loss of one of your beautiful babes. a loss that never gets easier.....
      take care

    2. welling tears....

    3. I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a big hug, Whitney. I cried reading your comment. I am very sorry for your loss and that pain that doesn't go away, but hopefully becomes easier to bear with time. I have three boys as well, the same ages as your beautiful little gentlemen, and have been on the receiving end of those comments more times than I could count. "Oh, what a shame you had another boy" and "You must be so disappointed you didn't have a girl" without any knowledge of the journey I've taken to be where I am or how thankful I am to have each of them in my life. Every time someone says that, I want to grab them by the hand and tell them how sad I am that they're missing the beauty in front of them while wishing for something that's not there. I don't wish for what I don't have, I am thankful for the amazing and loving family that I am surrounded with. As Ruth rightly said, it's all about LOVE. It's not about gender, not even one little bit. I'm so happy that you've found Ruth's beautiful blog and the comfort you need to help you. Take care xxx

    4. Whitney I have heard those comments too. I have 2 boys & last year I had two miscarriages. Each time I told people I was pregnant people said "so I bet yoiur hoping for a girl this time?". Each time I said "no Im hoping for a healthy baby" because I had miscarried between my two boys as well so all I wanted was for that not to happen again. I seriously doubt I'll hold my own baby in my arms nowadays & I'm OK with that because I have two great kids. I wish people wouldn't see me as incomplete because I never had a daughter because thats not the way I see it...

  15. Loved this post Ruth. I found your previous posts after seeing conversations on Twitter and it was exactly what I needed. My normally unfussy girl has turned fussy. And as frustrating as it is, I just remember your post and know she'll be ok. I worry about her nutrition though. But I try to put it in the back of my mind.
    Your posts and your blog are inspiring. You're such a wonderful mother. xx

  16. I loved this too, another newcomer after finding this via the magic of twitter. I despise dinnertime with my three year old boy but tonight he had rice bubbles and I cut myself some slack and refused to feel bad about it so thank you x

  17. I have been following you on Instagram for a while now but today was the first time I clicked over to your blog & it was meant to be I tell ya!!!!

    I have the fussiest eater the eating gods have ever graced the planet with!!! Its hard to explain to people just how bad it is so I wont bother but trust me its mental. Its so nice to hear you say "My message is that NO mother on this planet is to be judged to be a better mother because of the dinner she cooked" because I often feel the need to justify the insanity that is my 12 year olds diet & I often judge myself & beat myself for poor eating choices. Weetbix has always been our stand by & its nice to know I'm not the only one so thankyou xx


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