English: My parents.
English: My parents. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). No, not *my* parents. The artist’s parents!

Most people become parents at some time or other, and this is still true in spite of a supposed trend to childlessness in more couples. It is an ancient joke that the childless, in particular, the childless who do intend to have children at some time, don’t know how fundamentally life will change for them when they have children.

Father with child
Father with child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Childless couples, while not being selfish per se, are only responsible primarily for each other. Of course they are responsible for relationships with relatives and friends, but to such outsiders they appear as a single entity – John-and-Mary, Peter-and-Joanne, or maybe Mark-and-Andrew, or Lucy-and-Anna.

They become atomic, like the electron and proton of a hydrogen atom. We can’t press that analogy too far of course, as electrons tend to get shared around in compounds and that sort of relationship doesn’t work too well with humans.

Eadweard Muybridge's Phenakistoscope: A Couple...
Eadweard Muybridge’s Phenakistoscope: A Couple Waltzing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a child comes along, by natural methods, or by adoption, or by donor, or by less formal methods in some societies, everything changes. No longer is the prime focus of the relationship each other, but is now the third person.

Young couple with baby.
Young couple with baby. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The parents quickly become the support structure for the child, and the view of the world is now that they are ‘parents’ and not a ‘couple’. In the view of the world, the child’s needs are paramount. At parent-teacher meetings the sole topic is what is good for the child. Schools send notices to parents demanding money with menaces – there’s no softer way to put it – so that the child gets the laptop, the sports gear, the musical instrument that the child absolutely needs according to the school.

English: Three Children in the courtyard of Th...
English: Three Children in the courtyard of The Druk White Lotus School Shey, Ladakh. Русский: Трое детей во дворе Драконовой школы Белого Лотоса в Шей, Ладакх, на севере Индии. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the initial shock, and it is a big shock, a world-shaking shock, most parents adapt. Babies are designed to be cute after all. Super cute, so that the mechanics of nappies and feeding, the deprivation of sleep, and well, the loss of an independent life have their compensations.

There is almost certainly something instinctual here, some urge to protect one’s offspring, or indeed any small cute creature. How else can it be explained that couples allow their whole lives to be derailed by the arrival of a child?

English: Old School, Liversedge. The former Na...
English: Old School, Liversedge. The former National School is behind the photographer, the other side of Halifax Road (and being renovated at present), so it was surprising to find an ‘Old School’ next to the Town Hall. Possibly it was a small Board School to provide for children of parents who were not in the C of E (the National Schools became Church Schools, of course). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t overemphasise the oddness of this. Leaving aside the fact that couples don’t know in advance how world-shattering the change is, couples in the main seem to embrace the change once it happens. Many women plan to go back to work after the first few months have passed, and a significant number fail to do so, even in this day and age.

Parents at the Art and Crafts Exhibition at th...
Parents at the Art and Crafts Exhibition at the Parent Teachers Meeting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you talk to someone with a new baby, well after the first few tumultuous months anyway, it is usually a bit like switching on a light. Parents trumpet the amazing achievements of their children as if no other child has crawled, walked or said “Da-da” in the history of the human race. Prior to that point sleep deprivation means that any communication is difficult in the extreme.

English: Group portrait of the Maryborough Gir...
English: Group portrait of the Maryborough Girls Grammar School cricket team, 1915. The girls are in uniform, wearing shirts, striped ties and skirts. The group poses on the lawn in front of a school building and some other girls can be seen in the background. The back row stands and one of the girls is holding a cricket ball.The middle row sits in chairs and one of the girls holds a cricket bat. The front row sits on the ground and one of the girls wears cricket pads and has a bat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prior to the child’s arrival the pairs major preoccupation is strongly with each other. Of course pair bonds vary in intensity, but in couples the bond is usually strongly couple-centric. When the baby comes along, their major preoccupation is intensely with the child. In the first few months the child will be the topic of almost all conversation, except for the essentials of daily living.

A woman breastfeeding an infant.
A woman breastfeeding an infant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a few months, the child quickly starts to give back some of the attention. In fact most parents believe (as I do) that interaction between child and parents starts pretty much from birth, but the interaction between child and parents deepens as the child develops in the first few months.

original National Geographic article A BEDOUIN...
original National Geographic article A BEDOUIN MOTHER AND CHILD. The father of this little nomad may be a warlike bandit with a cloudy notion of property rights and other details of the civilized code; his mother a simple daughter of the desert with a childish curiosity and fondness for gaudy trinkets, but her babe has the divine heritage of mother love as truly as the most fortunate child of our own land. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Call it love, because that is what it is. It begins right after birth, and grows as the child learns to react to the parents, the feeding, the changing, the cuddles, the kisses. I believe that animals, at least those that bring up their young, in some ways feel for their offspring in the same way as humans. Heck, let’s just say it – animals that bring up their young must surely feel love, in a sense, for their young.

Indian Rhinoceros at San Diego Zoo's Wild Anim...
Indian Rhinoceros at San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park in Escondido, CA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certainly the higher animals do seem to feel something, as ape mothers carry around dead young, and elephants appear to grieve over their dead calves. Dolphins have been seen carrying their dead calves.

Baby bottlenose dolphin shannonry point 2006
Baby bottlenose dolphin shannonry point 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having survived the culture shock of the birth parents usually embrace the role. They pretty much dedicate their lives to their children, and if they are thoughtful people, will recognise why their own parents behaved the way that they did. Having railed at the restrictions put on them by their parents, they find themselves imposing similar restrictions on their children.

Indeed often they find themselves using the exact same phrases as their parents. It can be a great shock to realise that you are turning into your parents and that they turn out to have been right, justified and after all, reasonable. How did that happen?

Parents with child Statue, Hrobákova street, P...
Parents with child Statue, Hrobákova street, Petržalka, Bratislava (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In most cases parents quickly come to terms with their somewhat subordinate role, which is at times infuriating, frustrating and drives parents to the edge of despair. It is also immensely rewarding, fulfilling, and enjoyable. Parents feel more pride when their child achieves a milestone like learning to walk than they ever felt over any of their own achievements.

If their children shows promise at any sport or academic achievement a parent’s pride is immense. This extends to at least the second generation, as I can attest. It’s not that a parent’s life is subsumed by their role in bringing up their children, but child rearing certainly causes some of a parents activities to take a back seat for a while.

English: Kindergarten kids and parents on the ...
English: Kindergarten kids and parents on the back of a truck on Norway’s constitution day. ‪Norsk (nynorsk)‬: Barnehageungar og foreldre bak på ein lastebil 17. mai. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If a parent is so inclined the child can be incorporated into the parent’s preferred recreational activity, so we see parents jogging with purpose-built strollers or pushchairs, and children being carried in backpacks. Children may play in the crèches of educational institutions while one of their parents continues their studies.

Most people go into parenthood not knowing how their lives will be wrenched into a different course by becoming parents. Most parents quickly come to terms with the enormous shift in the emphasis of their lives, and most would not go back to pre-parenthood if given the choice. Parenthood is that rewarding.

Portrait of a married couple and their child b...
Portrait of a married couple and their child by Gerrit Donck. Oil on canvas, 65 x 48 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Quite a Quiche

Late... Again ?
Late… Again ? (Photo credit: M_AlPhotography)

Ooops! Late again. I really have to get myself organised and get a post out on time. On time is sometime before last thing Sunday. Today is Tuesday!

Anyway, this time I’m going to do a cooking post as I can’t remember the last time that I did one. (It was 15th May 2013, actually). I cooked a quiche this weekend and it turned into two quiches. As I usually do I looked on the Internet for a recipe and came up with this one here. Yes, you are correct, I was using up some of the Christmas ham, but I do like quiches with ham in them. I also like quiches with leek or silver beet, but I didn’t have any of those at the time.

Ham and cheese quiches
Ham and cheese quiches

The recipe that I found doesn’t include the pastry and uses two 9 inch pastry shells, but my dish was around 10 inches across and I guessed that the area would be about the same. If I’d done the maths, I would have seen that one 9 inch shell would have an area of 81 * pi square inches, so two would come to 162 * pi square inches and the 10 inch pie dish would have an area of 100 * pi square inches, so I’d likely have around a third of the mixture left over.

imaginary calculation
imaginary calculation (Photo credit: monkeyinfez)

Anyway, I ploughed on, not realising the problem. I made some ‘short pastry’, which is basically just fat and flour and a little water to bind it. I mixed 5 ounces of margarine and 8 ounces of flour in a bowl. I used the technique of “rubbing in” the fat to the flour and this markedly changes the consistency of the mixture. It starts off with the flour being, well, powdery, but after mixing it with the margarine, the consistency changes to a more “bread crumb” structure. That is, the mixture has a more particulate structure, and the powderiness disappears. When just a little water is added and the mixture is kneaded a little it changes again to a smooth consistency and becomes a ball of dough. There are good reasons why these changes occur, physical and chemical ones, no doubt, but I find them fascinating. What early cook discovered these changes and thereby started the whole culinary business?

Baked pastry dough
Baked pastry dough (Photo credit: 3liz4)

I rolled out the pastry and lined the dish and stabbed the base of the pastry case with a knife. Then I put it into the oven (at around 200 degrees C for 15 minutes). As an experiment I didn’t line it or cover it and I didn’t fill the pastry case with beans or pastry beads or similar. It came out fine and that may be because the oven has a fan to circulate the heat.

The recipe calls for two cups of chopped ham and two cups of cheese. It also calls for dried onion, but I used half a normal onion, which I lightly fried first. Two cups of chopped ham seems a lot when you are slicing it off the bone and then cutting it into small bits. The cheese was OK, and grating that amount doesn’t take long. I had the cheese, ham and onion in a bowl and it already looked a lot.

Grated Cheese
Grated Cheese (Photo credit: Annie Mole)

I used two cups of milk instead of cream and added the four eggs to it. It became obvious that there was too much mixture for the pie dish that I had! I put a large part of the ham, cheese and onion into the pastry case and tipped a similarly large amount of the liquid mixture over it and put it into the oven for the requisite 35 – 40 minutes.

Large quiche
Large quiche

While that was cooking I grabbed a smaller dish and made some more pastry to line it. Half of the above quantities was enough and I put the pastry in the oven with the first quiche for 15 minutes. Again it came out OK, and I filled it with the rest of the mixtures and they filled nicely, so into the oven it went. At this stage I managed to burn myself a little on one of the oven racks.

Smaller quiche
Smaller quiche

Both quiches came out looking fine, and I’m pleased to report they tasted fine too!

Two quiches
Two quiches

Some people may be wondering what re-ignited my interest in cookery. Well, I’d been complaining for some time about my wife’s scales, as it is difficult to measure small quantities on them. So she bought me a small electronic scales for Christmas and I love them! They have an incremental function on them so that you can put a dish on the scales, set the scale to zero, add the correct amount of an ingredient, set the scales to zero again and add another ingredient into the dish and so on. The scales also have a timer function for the actual cooking.

Electronic cooking scales
Electronic cooking scales

Before Christmas I bought a heat pad, so that I could raise bread and other yeast doughs in a more consistent way. Watch out for more blogs about bread making!

Heating pad

Enhanced by Zemanta

Back to the beginning – Cheese Scones.

Cheese scones
Cheese scones

I think that the first thing that I ever cooked was cheese scones. They are an ideal project to start cooking on as they are so simple. I’m not going to mention the actual recipe that I used since there are probably millions of them and they all work pretty well. Basically cheese scones are made from flour (usually self-raising), some shortening (butter, margarine, oil), a small amount of liquid (water or milk), some baking soda (to give the typical scone ‘tang’), salt and a little mustard to taste and of course cheese, usually a fairly strong variety.

They are simple and quick to make and cook and equally simple and quick to eat! I like them hot with butter and apparently so do most people, and in fact I doubt that many scones get to cool to room temperature! If you fancied it, you could add a touch of chili I guess, or some ham or prosciutto. Of course, they don’t have to be cheese scones – I’ve always liked date scones. I suspect that with sweet scones you’d need to reduce or remove the baking soda though.

Anyway my efforts are shown above and below. The pictures don’t really show how toasty brown they were. They look a little pallid in the pictures. I can assure you that they tasted great!

Cheese Scones
Cheese Scones

(I intend to try to post to this blog at least once a week – I haven’t posted since the end of last month and that is not good!)

Focaccia with bacon and tomato

I have previously cooked Focaccia and blogged about it. That was a pretty simple bread recipe and I added nothing to it, so I decided to have another go and add a few frills.

The original recipe uses Rosemary and Parmesan cheese and I added neither of these to my first try at the recipe, purely because both were in short supply. This time I decided to forgo the Rosemary as once again there was none to hand. However there was bacon! Also, I thought that some tomato would brighten it up a little. So I had a recipe.

The first rising was done in the usual way, in a warm spot. For the second rising, the recipe says to put the bread into a cold oven with a dish of hot water. I decided instead to put the bread into the grill which sits above our oven, with the oven on and the actual grill off. This worked splendidly.

After the second rising I added chopped bacon and chopped tomato and dusted it all with ground parmesan. If it looks a bit “rustic”, some visitors arrived as I cooking so I was short of time, but I reckon it looks pretty good anyway!

Focaccia with bacon and tomato
Focaccia with bacon and tomato

By the way, it tasted good too!

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Found at
Unfortunately these are not my baked potatoes. Click to see the source page.

Well, cheesy baked potatoes would be more accurate. I took two large potatoes, washed them and pierced them, and stuck them in the oven at 220 degrees centigrade. I checked them at 30 minutes, at 45 minutes, and one hour and still they weren’t completely done! Maybe they were too big. Almost certainly they were too big.

When they were done (I thought) I hollowed out the potatoes and mashed the innards and added the cheese. Then I put the cheesy mix back into the potatoes and put the potatoes back in the oven for 15 minutes.

As it turned out, while the top part of the potatoes was fully cooked, the bottom parts were OK, but could have done with a bit more cooking. Who would have thought that simple baked potatoes could have been such an issue?

Baked potatoes with cheese

The lessons I’ve learned is to use smaller potatoes – large ones take a long time. Also, I think I should have turned the potatoes at least once.

Cheesy potatoes

As usual I looked on the Internet for advice. To summarize the advice there, I could have wrapped the potatoes in foil, or zapped them in the microwave. If I take either of these approaches in the future, I could finish them off in the oven to crisp the skin before removing the innards and stuffing them.