COOKING to entertain is one thing. COOKING for children is another. If you love it—that helps—but even the inventive genius of a cookery lover tends to flag under the strain of cooking for children.
Some people will say that there is no such thing; that you give them what you eat and they can like it or do the other thing. Others like Mrs. Becton, consider that only plain foods are suitable for young children.
Personally I subscribe to the former idea since it is less likely to result in finicky adults. The trouble is that, whatever one cooks—be it a rich, garlicky stew or plain boiled fish—one is faced with the incredible boredom of producing food to be eaten rather than food to be enjoyed.
Don't anybody tell me that small children enjoy food. They don't, or at least, in my experience they don't appear to. A noisy munching accompanies the liking of it. Vociferous complaints or a general whine are signs of the other thing.
What it boils down to (if you'll excuse the phraseology) is that these little conservatives simply do not appreciate one's cooking.
Almost every mother I've spoken to admits to enjoying "entertaining" cookery but the cry against ordinary, everyday cooking is as loud as their individual consciences permit it to be.
What is the answer? To my mind, the only possible respite from the tedium is to do less of it. By this I don't mean that one should, (even if one could afford to) live out of packets and tins, but that instead of cooking one meal at a time, one should cook in douhle or even treble quantities.
My sister-in-law has always disliked cooking, but with six children and the kind of life that implies, she hasn't much alternative. Her answer, a simple but frequently missed one,
has been to cook a lot of things at one time to save herself effort.
If she's making pastry, for example, she'll do 48 jam tarts, a number of pies and pastry fingers to use up the bits. Having two ovens helps of course, but her organisation enables her to spend the least possible lime cooking.
One would have thought that cookery hooks would provide some answer to this kind of problem but since they are mostly hostess-type books, there hasn't been much help to be found here until recently. But Jean Robertson, cookery writer on the Sunday Telegraph, has just written a book which she describes as not so much for entertaining but for the woman who values and enjoys good food even though she has more things to do in life than work in the kitchen.
"Which is more important," she writes, "a bedtime story or podded peas for dinner?"
Most of her recipes can be used for dinner parties but she has many "one meal, one pot" recipes to save on washing-up and a number of things that can be made in double quantities and kept in the fridge for another time.
Before anybody writes and tells me that there are some aspects of cooking for children that are fun, 1 will anticipate this by mentioning the one aspect that appeals to me—in the theory at any rate—party cooking. This children do appreciate, provided it is not too rich nor too sweet.
I shall have something to say about children's parties nearer Christmas for the organisation of the children worries me far more than the cooking. I only wish that a book by Penny Drinkwater to be published in the New Year was available now to help me through the "horrors". She includes everything, from the cooking for a party of 10 upwards to ideas for the games and decorations that go with it.