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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese. Just Because...

Something happened to me today.
Something extraordinary.
And wonderful.
And permanent.
And yet it happened in the most ordinary of circumstances.
Which is probably why it’s worth writing about. Or maybe it isn’t. Let me know?
So, I was driving my son to school this morning as I always do. We were taking the same route, at the same time, in the same car. All perfectly normal. All perfectly mundane.
When suddenly a small voice from the back seat pipes up: “Mama, you’re coming back later? You’re coming back for me?”
And I almost crash my car.
Because momentarily I find I have lost control, hit, by the poignancy of the question; the sheer simplicity with which it is uttered.
My little boy, my child, this precious piece of my heart, doubts – actually doubts – that I will come back for him?
I choke back emotion and say quickly in my cheeriest voice: “Of course my darling. Of course I’m coming back for you – I want my Ranbir back!”
I take a peak then, secretly, in my rear-view mirror and see his little face, tense with anticipation, relax into a smile. He makes an almost inaudible happy squealing sound, and the knot in my throat just tightens further.
And it dawns on me – right then, right there, in the middle of the road, stuck behind a garbage truck – just how easy it is to be selfish in this complex and ever-evolving saga that is the parent-child relationship.
And when you strip away the nonsense, how easy I have it, compared to him.
I'm not, by any means, denying how hard motherhood - or parenthood - is. Of course it is. It’s the hardest thing most of us have ever done - the unending second-guessing, the self-doubt, the debating on end, over choices pondered and decisions made – and then that defining question: Am I a good mother (or father?) How do I really know? (You don't!)
And yet we do it, parenting, each in our own way.
For it is that one thing in life that is learned but can never be taught.
But still. Despite this. Despite all of this, today I realise how easy I have it.
How easy it is to view the world from the lens of an adult – all powerful, all-knowing.
How easy it is to stand in that position of power and demand that a child – innocent, ingenuous, all-trusting – obey you blindly.
How easy it is to underestimate their emotions and bark orders at them: “eat, sleep, go to the toilet, come here, go there, stop whining, do this, do that, play with your toys, tidy up your toys, we’re going out, we’re going back home.”
And how difficult. No, how utterly impossible, inconceivable even, it would be for me to be in this place that he is in right now.
This place where his entire existence rests on the trust he’s placed on me, his father, his little world, to be there for him, to look out for him, to protect him. This place where everything he does, his every action, is essentially out of his control. This place where he never really knows – with certainty – when he will be fed next, when he will be asked to sleep or wake or dance or play. When he will be left with the nanny, when he will be taken along. When he will be cuddled. Or kissed. Or shouted at. And why?
And – at the deepest, darkest core of it - this place he's at, where he is unsure, still – if I will, if I intend to, If I want to come back for him.
And I marvel at the essence of it all.
Because - old or young, three or thirty three - we are really all the same. And Ranbir - in his own way - has done nothing more than to have asked that eternal question, the one we grapple with from the day we are born to the day we die: Am I loved?
And so, with that, just those two simple questions posed to me by a three year old from the back-seat of my car, I find myself touched – profoundly. And I resolve to be a kinder, gentler, more patient human being.
Because that’s what this little person expects.
Because that’s what this little person deserves.
Because that’s what being a mother means.
And so it’s Spaghetti Bolognese tonight.
Because he loves it
And I hate it
I mean, face it – there’s absolutely nothing I can say to talk up the nutritional value of Spaghetti Bolognese. There’s  meat. And there’s carbs. Lots of it. And… ummm, yep, that’s it. Ok fine, I put carrots and real tomatoes in my version – but if you’re shaking your head and smiling to yourself right now, you’re absolutely right – who am I kidding?!
And so, it’s a dish I have vowed to keep out of my kitchen and off my son’s plate. But sometimes you have to reverse the roles and do what they love.
And really while nothing would make me happier than for my child to live on a diet of broccoli and green beans, nothing would make him happier than Spaghetti Bolognese.
And so Spaghetti Bolognese it is.
Just to see the sparkle in his eyes
Just to see the smile on his face
Just to hear the sound of his laughter
Because that’s what being a mother means
Because I love him
Because I want him to know it
Here’s what you need:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 whole red onion, diced
- 4 grated carrots
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 800g chopped fresh tomatoes (depending on the size of the tomatoes)
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1kg lean minced turkey (or lamb or beef)
- 2 large glasses of red wine (yes, yes, it’s really ok but if you’re that picky, just  skip) (don’t then be asking me how my child sleeps through the night…)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (2 if you like it spicy)
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp dried basil flakes
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- Drizzle balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 800g dried spaghetti
- Lots of freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Here’s how you do it:
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and garlic and cook until softened. Increase the heat and add in the minced meat. Cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the carrot mixture.
Now, pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third. Reduce heat and throw in oregano, basil and bay leaves.  Now add the fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire and balsamic vinegar and stir well while the mixture heats.
Season well with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer the Bolognese sauce over a gentle heat for 30 mins to 1½ hours, whatever you need, until it's rich and thickened.
Serve with Spaghetti and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Yeah – there’s a reason they love it J

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