Cooking Lessons Post Divorce

What happens when Dad is a gourmet cook and Mom breaks out the frozen food? Things don't taste very good post split!

How does the one who can’t cook manage when a couple splits up?
Jo Carlowe happily left all the cooking to her husband. Then they divorced, leaving the kids complaining bitterly about her food. Things got worse when she met her new partner – he’s a rubbish cook too.

It’s a terrible bind to be a foodie who hates to cook. For years I got away with it as my husband liked nothing better. Then we got divorced. At 40, when my marriage broke down, I was struck by the realisation that I was now a single parent on a low income, with two children of two and five – and I would have to cook for them. Not having made a meal since student days, my repertoire barely exceeded pasta with pesto.

Worse still was the height at which the bar had been set. My children, as tiny as they were, were gastronomically spoilt. My ex-husband, Simon, former food editor on the Jewish Chronicle, co-wrote a cookery book, Warm Bagels & Apple Strudel. Home had always been a testing ground for him, a place to experiment with bold and complex recipes. On the rare occasion the family meal fell to me, I would do fish fingers and beans, as there was simply no point trying to compete.

With the marriage finally over, I resigned myself to the fact that I would need to do better, and on a budget. My first attempt was soup. Cheap and easy – simmer onions and vegetables in a pan, add stock and water. How hard could it be? But like many so-called intuitive activities (riding a bike, learning to swim), they are only automatic if you have grown up doing these things. I wrestled with the rudiments – just how bubbly is a simmer? How much water is sufficient? When do you season? Will fish stock (which was all I had in the cupboard) suffice? The end result was terrible. It tasted watery, so I added tinned tomatoes. This made it too acidic, so I added honey. When this too failed, I stirred in a spoonful of Marmite. It was the dietary equivalent of sawing off table legs. The kids were in tears.

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