Wednesday, May 12, 2021


 Food is always so important to looked-after kids. I always get around to asking them about their history of food and how it worked (or didn't) in the home they'd been removed from. But it's best to make these enquiries without them thinking you're prying.

Food is everything to them. One of my current lot goes furtively to the fridge after I've done a supermarket run to admire the full shelves. 

A girl who stayed with us way back told us that no food had ever been cooked in their house. Unbelievable as it sounds, their oven had never been used. She had sometimes, for breakfast, warmed up last night's leftover KFC, still in it's carton, in their microwave. That was the extent of their food preparation.

I remember winning that girl round one lunchtime by laying out a full kitchen table with food; bowls of hot beans, sausages, sandwiches, crisps, nuts, fruit, salad, breakfast cereal…just about everything from the larder. I'll never forget her face as she said; "I didn't know there was that much food in the world". It had been my way of telling her she would not want while she was in our home. I'm not saying it made her happier exactly, that would have run deeper. But she became a little less anxious.

I try to take care to make food some sort of celebration. We don't say grace, but I sometimes jazz the food up - one day I made fresh pasta sauce with cooked-down tomatoes and onion, but the verdict was that my 2 hour effort wasn't nearly as nice as Dolmio.

The kitchen is a special place in most homes, but definitely in a foster home, let me tell you something slightly interesting.

I own a pestle and mortar. 

(I did say "slightly interesting")

It's a big one, and rather fancy. You can't help but notice it. The reason it's slightly interesting is this: it's useful for fostering.

I've only used it for cooking once, when a peppered steak recipe I was doing as a special request called for so much cracked pepper I thought it would take all afternoon using the pepper mill.

It turned out the pestle and mortar was useless, or maybe I wasn't any good at it. Or maybe the batteries had run out. 

It now sits on the breakfast bar in the kitchen where it is a) an ornament b) a bowl for random things such as keys we don't know what to, paper clips, fuses etc.

It's third use is the big one. It's a conversation piece. See, new foster children always ask:


I explain, and we get talking about food in their home, and they never realise I'm doing research.

I tell them I never use it and they ask why I've got one.

I tell them the story; some friends of ours were visiting and we started joking about posh TV chefs and their pestle and mortars. We ended up wondering which was which, whether the bit you bash with is the pestle or the mortar. The whole thing became a bit of a joke among us, such that for one wedding anniversary they bought us a really naff pestle and mortar.

Without them or us having the slightest inkling what a useful kitchen gadget it would turn out to be.

For fostering. 

Definitely not for cooking.


Post a Comment