Since moving to the Netherlands the one area of my life which has improved immensely is my cooking. Not to say my cooking was bad when I was in the UK but over the years I have definitely evolved. My journey was somewhat like this…
Like many people I learnt to cook with my Mum, making jam tarts, maids of honours and Christmas cake. The main cook book we used was the Home Recipies with Be-Ro flour. I still use this today. I learnt to make pies and evening meals for my family, there were six of us and so we would each have turns to cook dinner.
I moved into my own place as is the normal progression and cooking fell to the wayside as I trained and qualified as an accountant and worked long hours, food just became the fuel to keep going. Even when I moved in with my boyfriend food had a low priority in our home, we were busy going out with friends or at every chance popping on a plane to visit some far flung destination. When we did cook it was as an event, inviting friends round and making taking turns with the courses, great fun but a little inconsistent.
Then we decided to get married and I needed to fit into a bikini for the honeymoon and so set off the pre-wedding diet and wedding dress fittings. This was a kickstart to a change in our behaviour. We said hello to WeightWatcher and embraced the No Count diet which provided a list of foods which were free to eat and so Stir-frys and Low Fat Meals in Minutes were our first port of call. This was the first time websites were available for recipe suggestions. This was the first time we started planning and cooking our food rather than just sorting it out as we went along.
After the wedding and beginning a family my cooking moved into the next stage – weaning of children. I ate to the kids schedule and so my food lost all flavour as salt and spices hit the road. I often wonder if the reasons kids are picky eaters is because of pureed and blended food as babies, Annabel Karmel has a lot to answer for. With my second daughter I chose to go down the Baby Led Weaning route and have to say apart from her still taking food from my plate nine years on it was the easiest way to expand her palate.
And now my journey continues. On moving to the Netherlands I have had to leave behind my quick cheats, jars of Dolmio’s white sauce for lasagna or Bisto gravy granules to smother bangers and mash and I started making more meals from scratch. Pre Covid-19 we would visit the UK regularly and therefore get a “fix” of our favourite snacks and foods but now my choices are to either do without, travel to Amsterdam to Kelly’s Expat shop or make it myself. I have to say I am loving learning to make things like pork pies and treacle sponge, it has driven me to make Moggy cake (a Yorkshire sticky ginger cake) and relearn how to make pastry after years of just buying Ready-roll.
I have struggled to find ingredients locally but its more an issue of not knowing where to look rather than availability. I would be at a total loss without Google to translate and locate or Amazon.co.uk to ship over favourites or other expats friends who are quick to share their shopping finds. But they say necessity is the mother of invention and in my case the kick I find different ways to do things. For example I always used corn starch to thicken soups and gravy and although I had knew how to use a roux to make white sauce for lasagna and cheese sauce for mac”n”cheese, it never occurred to me to use it for gravy. It was a eureka moment.
I am loving living in the Netherlands and the experiencing another culture, even though not so dissimilar to my own. But I think your own traditional food gives a certain level of comfort and reassurance and so while by moving here the girls have had to adapt to a lot of changes and giving them food they have known helps, and that is not only traditional English food but Chinese and Indian food too hence the variety in the meals we are trying to cook.
Now my cooking evolution is at the stage where I am getting to teach my girls and give them the basics to build upon. I am trying to establish good habits such as planning your food, maintaining a balance between food and fitness so that there is no such thing as bad food as long as it is eaten in moderation. But what I love most is that in trying to teach them, I am learning new things all the time…
… and I am looking forward to learning more and more.