Food has taken over my life. It’s not even me that’s eating it (mostly). For the past 6 months I’ve basically been delivering around 9 meals a day. At one point that was 9 milk feeds and nothing for me as I didn’t have any spare hands or minutes, but now we’re into weaning (just change two letters and it’s waring – go figure!).
So, it’s 5 milk feeds, 3 ‘solid’ feeds (how can they call that mushed up vomit solids?!) and a meal for me and my man at the end of the day. It’s endless and exhausting and occasionally highly entertaining!
Hours spent in the kitchen slaving over an Annabel Karmel cook book leave you with pulped fruit, pureed veg and mushy chicken all neatly spooned into ice trays, and a very smug feeling – until you realise that actually getting this stuff into your baby is a whole different ball game! …Basically, he chucks what he doesn’t like, so I just spent all those hours making delicate little canapés for the dogs.
If I’m honest, I was really dreading this whole stage. Squashed banana has always made me gag! And that stuff that mums wipe off the table into their hands – urgh! And the things that they do like licking stuff of their child’s fingers or picking out bogies – reeeeally?! So, I had to psych myself up.
Having said this, we started the whole food thing early. That was a whole other battle. How are you supposed to know when to do anything when advice is so contradictory?… 4 months was always the norm, now suddenly it’s 6 months. Can they sit up? Are they interested in food? Yeeees, but that was at 4 months. So we went for it. It was clearly a success as baby K has got entirely stuck in and started sleeping through the night (though they say the connection between these two events is mythical, well it wasn’t for us). But it’s certainly a journey. Yet another learning curve. I’ve learned so much new information in the past year – like an entire degree’s worth – most of it about stuff I never really wanted to know in the first place!
Anyway, there we were: Day one. Little bottom perched in big high chair, cute clean bib in position and mini spoon in hand. I offered up the fruits of my labour… only to have them returned in a splattery spitty mess seconds later along with a look of absolute disgust!
Our rented house is definitely going to require an entire blog post to itself (once we’ve moved out and got the/some of the deposit back!) but there’s no hiding the fact that there is rejected food splattered up walls! Thank goodness for the dogs (never thought you’d hear me say that!) or the floors would be thick with dried slop that I don’t have time to clean up – at least you can’t see dog spit!
There are at least a thousand things you can’t give a baby for fear of allergies, choking, or alien invasion, so planning meals is a bit of a minefield. And the homemade vs shop bought ‘organic’ options is a conundrum too. But we’ve found our middle ground and I’m pleased to say we have made progress. More food goes inside baby K than on him (more like 60/40 than 40/60!) and enthusiasm has improved – mainly in the form of ‘mmmmm mmmm mmm’ noises and flapping excited arms.
I’m not surprised he gets excited – the little prince is brought offerings of three or even four courses including finger food appetisers, nutritious blended mains and generally fruit-themed deserts. We don’t eat like this!
Mostly though, it’s good we don’t eat like him. If we did we’d be doubling our body weight every couple of years and also finding bits of lunch in our ears or eyebrows at around 3pm when we wake up from our naps. Oh, hang on – that does happen! Not the nap obviously, but randomly discovering he’s sneakily smushed some unrecogniseable food substance into my clothes, generally at a moment where I can’t do anything about it, happens quite a lot. It’s so glamorous being a mum!
it’s worth it: Worth scrabbling through the freezer amongst all the little pots of mysterious green stuff (damn, must start labeling them); the endless planning ahead; the messy disgusting state of everything; because he’s growing and smiling and enjoying it all. I never realised how much fun it would be to watch him try jelly for the first time, or taste pineapple or experience philadelphia’s creamy coolness on his tongue. Imagine what it must be like to have all those new tastes coming your way.
The endless preparation, laying out, delivery, clean up (then clean up again as he generally pukes at least some of it up once we’re all done) leaves you with little time to do anything else much, and makes it close to impossible to leave the house (the prospect of doing all this in a café where the high chair is probably too big so he slides around, other people distract him and he’s likely to strain for a poo very loudly half way through is just not that appealing!). It means doing anything for yourself is likely to be out of the question and has left me feeling slightly neglected: No time to exercise, grabbing a ready meal when you get a minute and growing steadily paler and paler. I jumped on the scales the other day to check how bad things have really got and nearly had a heart attack. So focused was I on the huge numbers which had appeared, that I failed to spot the little hands pressing down on the weighing plate just behind my feet! I forgot about my weight, because all of a sudden our little boy can crawl!!
Hmmm keeping him still to be fed is going to be even more interesting now!
For those of you who are readers from the first world, ‘doing the shopping’ – that repetitive task of buying groceries and household requirements – might be perceived as a chore. Well, sorry guys but when I come home to the UK it’s a treat to go to a supermarket! You are so lucky! You might think it’s nuts that I get all excited and overwhelmed by the aisles and aisles of choices all under one roof. And don’t even get me started on those amazing delis, bakeries and little specialist shops you guys have scattered along your high streets!
But, you see, where I live, it just isn’t all that simple. This is how it goes…
In town there is one small supermarket. It does stock quite a bit but things like cheese (other than cheddar), good chocolate, good quality meats, lettuce, butternut squash … hang on, who am I kidding. They have shelves. And freezers. There’s no meat counter, they don’t sell veg at all. If they do get imported goods in they sell out and don’t re-order for another 6 months and most of the time it’s pretty inconsistent. It’s not bad, but it is expensive and it’s not very big. There are other supermarkets but they all sell the same stuff – nothing imported, and very little that’s refrigerated or frozen – so it’s easier to go to the one we know.
OK, so that leaves us still needing quite a few things… Fruit and veg for a start. So – next stop is the market. It’s an amazing place to spend a couple of hours wandering and chatting to people. Colours, sounds and smells will fill your head and there are choices as far as the eye can see…BUT you don’t usually have a couple of hours to wander and when you’ve been asked for the 50th time if you want bananas, had it pointed out that you are white hundreds of times and realised that mangoes are out of season, the tomato crop that day isn’t great and you can’t find mushrooms or red peppers for love nor money – you do start to lose your sense of humour. And if you’re not careful you can easily lose yourself too – it’s a big place and it’s easy to pop out in a spot you’ve never seen before!
It’s also likely you’ll be hounded by a string of young boys trying to sell you plastic bags and carry your shopping. I love these guys, but they don’t understand the word ‘no’ whatever language you use! You might well want the help of one or even two of them but can’t possibly hire them all.
Anyway, I’ve now done battle in the market. It’s over 30 degrees and I’m stinky and dusty and have a car loaded with supermarket stuff that’s rapidly going off. But I still need to take care of the cats and dogs. We don’t have tins of whiskers meat so it’s fish and rice for the cats and meat and rice for the dogs. Rice can be taken care of in the market but for the best price on meat I need to head an hour out of town to the stinkiest place you have ever smelled – the meat market.
I actually don’t mind coming here too much as everyone is always so lovely and welcoming, but it’s quite a drive and requires me to bring a big cool box which I unload and then select various unidentifiable parts of goat to fill it with, bargaining over the price for every piece.
The fish comes in the form of a tiny little one called dagaa and looks a little bit like white bait. If you thought the meat market smelled bad – this is incredible! It’s a great source of vitamins etc and comes from Lake Victoria so is found in abundance here. Most Tanzanians love it. It makes me want to throw up.
Oh and then I also need to buy the chicken. This requires a visit to a little shop on my way home which is full of nothing but frozen chicken. And then my last stop is the egg shop, not far from our house. These two are actually the simplest part of the whole excursion, but imagine going to one shop for one item and another for another. It takes forever.
OK – so we’re around 7 hours into our shopping trip now! That’s on a good day – assuming I haven’t been stopped by police or caught out by ATM machines that don’t work. I’ve achieved literally nothing else all day and when I finally make it home I realise we also would really like some fish for us to eat (not dagaa). Some salmon, trout or cod perhaps?
Well, whilst there is a small fish shop that imports frozen prawns, and sea fish in from the other side of the country (and I could pop there, indeed I sometimes do) they don’t sell salmon or cod or trout. For these I must head to Nairobi! That’s a nine hour drive, or a 2 hour flight! I also would want to get some good quality beef, lamb and pork while I’m there.
We buy it in bulk and freeze it in small packages, and then pack the car in cool boxes. This is generally pretty effective – apart from one time when Damien had a flat tyre and had to offload everything in order to jack up the car… unfortunately he was in the middle of the Serengeti and had just passed a large pride of lions only a few kilometers earlier!
We might also go to Dar es Salaam (another 2hr flight or two day drive). There we’d buy Thai, Mexican, Italian and American imported goods, as well as croissants, cheeses and strawberries or raspberries. Great treats, but sadly things we generally must live without.
You’re beginning to get the picture, right?!
In my phone I keep a Dar list, and a Nairobi list. In the kitchen I keep a whiteboard with a market list and a supermarket list. In my ipad I keep track of all potential opportunities to shop that could come up on the calendar because Damien has to go somewhere for a meeting or a conference or we are off to see family. It’s a juggling act that often results in failure!
So next time you go shopping (if you’re a reader outside Mwanza) – enjoy it and think of me! Mwanza readers who have to go to work for fixed hours every day and don’t actually have 7 hours to complete the weekly shop – I salute you! How do we not all starve to death?! Oh – yeah – curry!!