JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

the interview

Well I've brought this on myself. Some little demon in me e-mailed Ilva and asked her to interview me ... it's an interesting meme doing the rounds at the moment, where you answer five questions about yourself. I've got the usual blogger's showing-off gene, but I'm also quite reticent / private / a hermit / happy in my own company. But I really enjoyed reading Ilva's interview, and so, here I am, pushing my boundaries. Besides, later on, I get to ask YOU the questions (it's all explained at the end).

1. When you had to change the eating habits because of your husband's heart attack, how difficult was it to involve the rest of the family?

The children were interested in theory - they know that their genes are likely to give them the same problem, so they couldn't help but take it all in. On the other hand, they weren't even slightly interested in giving up crisps or milk chocolate, or in eating more fish or five-a-day. On the basis that we didn't want to get neurotic about food, I didn't force the pace. I explained what we were doing and why; I also said that I didn't think they should worry about it too much while they were still growing and playing sport most days. I offered them fish and veg whenever we ate it (we always eat as a family); we're eating more of it, so they are too, partly because I expect them to try a little of everything, even things they think they don't like, at every meal ("your tastebuds change" is the family mealtime mantra). Some of the junkier food got healthier (more veg in the mince, for example). And gradually, over a couple of years, they all eat more fish, more fruit and vegetables, less saturated fat and less sugar. Now, when it's fish for supper, we all eat it. They all eat five a day. They all eat less sweets. They all know that butter and cheese should be thought of as treats rather than everyday items. They all cook better, because they - kindly - didn't see why I should cook for them what I wasn't going to eat myself. Alfred even said the other day that he quite likes kippers (which Lucius and I always have for breakfast on Saturday or Sunday) - result!

Some of these changes would have happened anyway, but I think that they are all aware of the need to balance their diet without making a fuss about it. And they all enjoy cooking and eating. Also Coke and crisps, and something very nasty called Tunnock's teacakes - but then I used to eat them when I was a child, and I don't now, so I'm not too worried.

2. I'm always very curious about what people really would like to be or work with so I have to ask you that as well!

I used to be a news reporter, but that's not a job for a proper grown up. I sometimes miss that buzz, though, and I'm very deadline driven (which drives Lucius NUTS). Now, I am happy tending my family, my blog, and my garden, and doing a little teaching. I am hoping to write a book, history / memoir, later this year, if I can find a publisher.

3. I know that your mother died when you were very little but I also know that your father remarried (I saw the photo), what I would like to know is how or if that loss has influenced your own parenting?

Of course all mothers think that their relationship with their children is precious and special. I have always been especially conscious of it, because, with Eleanor, it's the first time I've had that mother-daughter relationship, so I'm always treading new ground, we both are. I was a pretty vile adolescent, partly because I was missing the mother I never knew, and resenting my stepmother. But as time goes on, I realise that, in fact, I did have a special relationship with my stepmother, who has been a rock in my life. One of the interesting things, for me, about motherhood, is how it has made me re-evaluate my own childhood, and it has given me much more sympathy for the decisions made by adults doing the best they could.

Mainly, it made it easy for me to decide to be a full-time mother - in fact, for me, it wasn't really a decision. Now, when it's hard to find meaningful paid work, I sometimes wonder whether it was such a good decision, but at the time I couldn't have done otherwise ... and I'm glad that I chose to put the children unequivocally at the centre of the whole of my life. (Please do NOT think I am criticising anyone for choosing to carry on working, this is always a personal decision, and what's best for one doesn't necessarily work for another.) It's possible that my children would have preferred a mother out at work and less in their faces!

4. What's your favourite radio program?

It used to be Desert Island Discs, an interview programme with music. The interviewee chooses what s/he'd like to be marooned with on a desert island: eight pieces of music, a book (Bible and Shakespeare already there), and a luxury - nothing practical. You get a good insight into a person. But it's not as good as it used to be (how old does that make me sound??), and so I have now started listening to a similar but much more in-depth musical programme called Private Passions. It's more about the music than the person, although you get flashes of illumination. And there's more music.

5. Give us the menu of the meal of your dreams

This is really hard. Unless we're going to spend all day eating dish after dish - and we're not - then so many favourites have to be excluded. Even so, this is a procession of dishes, because the dream would be to share this meal with my favourite people, and have time to talk. This is today's dream menu. Tomorrow, it would be different.

* Smoked salmon with pepper, lemon zest and juice, on sticks, accompanied by a glass of Prosecco
* Prawn paste on a bed of watercress
* Beetroot salad - this one would be good, although there's another one I haven't blogged, involving redcurrant jelly
* Fish with vegetables. I don't really mind what the fish is, so long as it is very fresh; and I'd like lots of different veg, plainly cooked, with a side dish of roasted onion slices
* Mixed green salad, lots of different shapes and tastes
* Cheese: one tiny cube each of Cheddar, Gorgonzola, and Crema del Piave, which I discovered this weekend and which is delicious, creamy but sharp and with a Camembert-y tang
* Fruit salad of melon and raspberries
* Espresso and chilli chocolate (black chocolate is good for you, the blacker the better)

Thanks, Ilva, for a really interesting set of questions ... challenging but enjoyable to think about and answer.


1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Beware, I'm not shy of asking personal questions! Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


Ilva said...

This was really interesting, now I know more about you but I forgot to ask how old your children are, can I have an extra question here?

Joanna said...

Yes ... they are 20, 18, 16 and 14. Two are at university, and two are at school.

I realised later that I didn't say anything about my husband's attitude to the changes in diet - I was lucky, because he was completely up for it. I know plenty of people who have had a heart attack and think they are safe to carry on as before because they are taking statins (which help regulate blood cholesterol levels) ... we both found it helpful to be doing something ourselves, taking a little control in a world which seemed, for a while, to have turned upside down.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Joanna, Ilva asked wonderful questions and you answered so beautifully.
When I was in grad school our professor always said that each time you went through a childhood development stage with your own children, you had the opportunity to be more successful (or fail more) for yourself.

Joanna said...

Tanna, I think that's a really interesting idea, one that seems to ring true here ... I like the implication that improvement is possible (although, of course, it's up against that great family brake on personal change, the stereotyping of an individual: the black sheep, the pretty one, the clever one, etc)