I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Epicurean Parent

A recent (post-preggo hormone induced but nontheless thought-provoking) email from The Baker's Wife asks, "Can one be a parent and a foodie?" Her question actually goes one further than that - asking if one can live in the (outer) suburbs and be satisfied as a foodie. For the purposes of this post, I'm sticking with the first part of the dilemma. For me the answer as to whether a parent can be a foodie or not is simple: No, if you consider a foodie to be one who (often) indulges in good food and wine. (Unless you have loads of disposable income.) Yes, if you consider being a foodie one who appreciates fine food and wine, with no requirement that they indulge in it.

For me the definition of a foodie is both of those - one who appreciates good food and wine (and usually, cooking with one and drinking about the other) and one who has the means to indulge in both, fairly often. However The Epicurean Parent (damn, that would have made a good blog title) is often one or the other. The Epicurean DINK or SINK (double/single income, no kids) is definetly both of those. Put simply, being a foodie requires a decent amount of money and reliable, easy transport (a point also made by The Baker's Wife). Once you become a parent, your disposable income decreases dramatically, as does your ability to get to that little shop which sells the most divine cakes, or the little fromagerie with the gorgeous farmhouse blue vein. On the financial front, it's not just the ability to buy the gorgeous bits and pieces - it's the minimum $10 an hour for the babysitter, who can't stay past the third course of the degustation menu anyway. Of course you could load the kid into the car for the trip to the Turkish hole-in-the-wall bakery selling heavenly bourek... but then add another half hour at least to the journey.

I am a big believer in taking children to restaurants - and I don't just mean the sort with a $5 kids special which includes the minuscule scoop of shitty vanilla at the end. I think they should learn to enjoy the finer things in life, to develop broad palettes, to experience all edible life has to offer beyond things fried. At the same time, I don't think children belong in all restaurants, and frankly there are some where I definetly do not want them crossing the threshold. So the dilemma of being a foodie, and a parent, is a difficult one.

As The Baker's Wife said (email quoted without her permission - sorry babe):

"When I am surrounded by other committed suburbanites, like our families and old school friends, there is no problem, because they have forgotten what they're missing. Day old bread and crusty pre-sliced prosciutto are de rigeur. But my regular friends are different. And this ex-London/Paris/Albert Park/City chick has come to rely on the availability and accessibility of beautiful produce. I want jamon at $120p/kg on a ten minute tram ride from me, even if I can't afford it. I want figs and almonds and baclava cheap and I want someone with a gruff foreign accent to sell it to me."

As you can see, a foodie soul definetly beats within TBW's chest, doesn't it? So how do we solve the problem of the Epicurean parent? The one who wants the farmhouse cheese, the aged smallgoods, the vine-ripened tomatoes and the Victoria Street pho - the one for whom the $5 kids special is starting to look a little, well, like a greasy pizza and crappy vanilla ice cream. Honestly, the solution for me has been to grab a bit of foodie love whenever I can. So I drag the kids to the outdoor food events - and find things I think/hope they will enjoy. I plan (expensive, so totally worth it) occasional dinners out with other foodie friends, leaving DH behind. I plan date nights with DH at similar establishments, so he gets a bit of foodie love too. I indulge in the odd bit of expensive cheese or fabulous dips. The kids come along to foodie markets (Melbourne is fortunate to have many) and eat the beautiful seasonal fruit while I eat the smoked salmon (although, come to think of it, they eat that too. Epicurean children are an expensive habit.) I learn how to replicate some of these delicacies in my own kitchen. Most of all, though, I never really stop learning about food - reading articles in the paper, reading foodie blogs, asking my fellow co-workers, bosses or teachers - and so on. Being a foodie is not all about eating out - it's a hobby, a habit, and an addiction. So I manage to be an Epicurean Parent - but on a smaller scale than I did before kids. Why? Because I know that the minute these kids hit 18, I'm headed for Nobu. In London.

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