A call from Pope Francis to make chutney

pope francis laughingLast week I made some pear and apple chutney. It turned out ok. I found some basic internet recipes and then just bunged whatever I had into the pot. Sultanas were a good addition but overall I think I used too much vinegar. It was Pope Francis who set me off on this chutney session. I didn’t get a personal phone call but I did feel he was nagging me none the less.

This Pope really seems to get into our lives. From encouraging parents to bring their children to Church, to reminding us not to waste our food, he really gets down to the basics of how to live a good life.

I do try to use all my food wisely by planning meals and using left overs. But I know there are always vegetables I never get around to eating, cheese that I don’t store properly so it goes to waste and left overs in the freezer that I toss out because I’ve forgotten what they were in the first place. So when I saw that bowl of saggy looking pears and apples, which no one was bothering to eat, I knew something had to be done.

Over summer I’ve been reading Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel (thanks to the kind friend who gave it to me.) It’s a beautiful and practical book that encourages everyone to live simply. It talks about the value of home and the value of the home skills.

Simple living is “living a life that’s not complicated by wanting or having too much. It’s being satisfied with enough, whatever that may be. It allows you to discover the significance of home life and how your home can nurture you. It’s a lifestyle that allows you live well on little money, thereby enabling you to build a family and a home that is based on authenticity and love.”

Now isn’t that exciting! But also daunting… the book has some high ideals like making your own soap and knitting your own winter jumpers! Still, as it’s the start of the year I’m inspired to make some small steps.

Living a life of poverty or simplicity isn’t a new idea in the Catholic Church. Saints, Popes and everyday Catholics have been trying to live simple lives for centuries. However Pope Francis’ message really seems to be hitting home at the moment. It’s as though we are hearing an old message again for the first time.

Why does living a simple life seem so inspiring? Why would we be crazy enough to welcome a little poverty into our lives?

I suppose it has to do with our heart. Living simply, not creating unnecessary needs for ourselves, de-clutters our hearts so we can love. Our hearts are free to love people rather than things.

So perhaps it’s part of some plan that for now I don’t have a working oven, our plumbing is a bit hap hazard, we are fighting a battle against an ant invasion and I’m sitting here pregnant during a heat wave. Can’t say I’ve always born it graciously.

It’s a crash course in living simply and de-cluttering my heart. I bet if I told Pope Francis about it all he’d have a good chuckle.

Why I love Baby-led Weaning

Anyone who knows me well knows I probably take food too seriously. I just can’t help it.

Food is one of the great joys of life. It’s not just fuel. Food is bound up with family, talking, laughing, art, passion and traditions.

In Nigella Lawsons recipe book, How to Eat, she talks about her first pregnancy. In a short anecdote she describes chatting to an obstetrician at a party about breastfeeding. She was excited to learn that the taste of breast milk changes, depending on what the mother has eaten. In this way, the baby becomes accustomed to a variety of tastes. Amazing!

When it came time for Eloise to start eating, I hoped I could pass on my love of food. At first I was going to go down the path of making my own purées. However something about spoon feeding mush didn’t seem to work for me. I didn’t feel comfortable with it.

I’d heard mothers talking about forcing, distracting, coercing, persuading, shoving and tricking their baby into eating. This made no sense! Why would you need to “force” someone to do something as enjoyable and natural as eating!

You don’t force anyone to laugh, or sing, or look at a beautiful sunset or to play. Surely a baby simply wants to eat.

Well luckily I remembered a friend of mine, whose baby I’d seen eating a bowl of strawberries. The baby had been feeding herself. This friend put me onto information about weaning that can be found on the Australian Breastfeeding Association website. They call it starting with “family foods.” This type of weaning is also called baby-led weaning.

I have loved, loved, loved going on this baby-led weaning adventure with Eloise.

Why do I love it?

Well here are the best things about it.

Little Preparation

Since Eloise has started eating, I’ve hardly had to make any adjustments to my cooking. I’ve just given her what we’re having. My only change is I’ve started cooking with more vegetables – which has to be a good thing. She started off with cucumber sticks, roasted vegetables, avocado, mango, bread and strawberries. Now she can handle pretty much anything. She can suck up spaghetti covered in mince, scoop up rice, loves daintily picking up peas and kidney beans, chewing on steak and (to my husband’s horror) even loves her broccoli.

Food is a time for learning

For a while Eloise did more playing then eating at meals. But this didn’t matter. I would always give her a breastfeed before a meal so she wasn’t frustrated by hunger. Her skills in handling food have slowly increased and she has explored a variety of textures and colours.

I’m never worried about Eloise choking on her food. By letting the baby explore food at their own pace, they learn how to chew and swallow and how much to put in their mouth.

Food is family time

I loved how baby led weaning encourages parents to let babies eat at the family meal. It shows the baby that food is a social activity. It didn’t take long before Eloise was very excited to be put into the high chair. She knew the fun was about to start!

With this type of weaning, there is no need to give the toddler special food, like nuggets or chips. They are already accustomed to eating what the family eats.

Food is for eating

At first baby led weaning can be quite messy. What’s life without a bit of mess? You just need to take a few precautions to minimize the damage. However I’ve found that the mess has dramatically decreased lately. For a while, with Eloise, it was 50% play and 50% eating. These days she does a lot of eating!

My Mums brothers are both very tall men with huge appetites. They love their food. At one family gathering they were enjoying one of Mums meals, and at the same time watching Eloise eat. She must have been about ten months and was sitting up in her high chair feeding herself. In typical fashion, Eloise was eating with great gusto. My uncles looked shocked and I was worried that they didn’t approve for some reason.

“You know it’s quite appetizing watching her eat,” one of my Uncles said.  “She really enjoys her food.” Eloise continued to enjoy her meatloaf and vegetables and so did my Uncles.

And that’s food for you; food that we love, food that brings family together and food that is eaten because it simply makes us happy.

For more information on Baby Led Weaning you can visit the Australian Breast Feeding Association.

Pinky McKay also has a good article explaining the benefits of baby-led weaning.

If you’re really keen, you should buy the book. Baby-led Weaning, Gill Rapley and Thacey Murkett. The book answers every question or concern you could possibly raise. It’s extremely practical and gives excellent guidelines on how you can actually make baby-led weaning work. 

Today is a day for Chocolate Brownies

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Today is the sort of cold, miserable day when you must make brownies. Please go and buy yourself some dark chocolate, you will have the rest of the ingredients at home. I’m afraid I can’t give you my personal brownie recipe. It’s pretty scrumptious, if I do say so myself.

The recipe remains private for two reasons. Firstly it’s not mine to give; its my school friends Mum’s recipe. Secondly if I gave it to everyone it wouldn’t be special. Lets face it – brownies are even better than a cup of tea. They are perfect for every occasion. Every birth, marriage and death deserves a good brownie. I did tell one friend the recipe and she made them for a party my boyfriend (now husband) was having. It was all very awkward. Wasn’t that a breach of recipe etiquette?

So I’m afraid you’ll have to hunt down your own recipe. Just a clue, as you set off on your quest, the greater the chocolate, the greater the brownie. Also, if you love cheese, I once made a Nigella Lawson brownie recipe with cream cheese in the middle. Even feta cheese would work just as well – perhaps better! Its the sharp cheese flavour with the chocolate that works so well.

My goodness this is all too delicious! Without any more brownie recipe reminiscing, I’m off to the kitchen. Hope you have some happy baking!