Wednesday, 18 November 2009


THERE WERE tomatoes everywhere of every type– ripened, slightly green, cherry, and off and on the vine.
And in the middle of them chopping, peeling, dicing and slicing stood my husband, looking like he was getting ready for the final of MasterChef.
‘I’m cooking everything fresh from now on,’ Alexio announced. ‘No more junk food in this house.’
I smiled. Alexio’s Italian. It’s not as if we have a secret family McDonald’s habit or live on turkey twizzlers.
For him junk was pizza, anything fried and roast dinner. Which is a shame as that’s all I can cook.
It’s taken me 25 years, and a marriage to a man who reads recipe books like I consume celebrity and real-life magazines, to understand cooking doesn’t mean burning.
Growing up I didn’t know that fried eggs should be white with a yellow yoke. I’d only ever seen them black.
And I’d never understood that baked beans were separate swimming in a tomato sauce. I’d always seen them dished up as a congealed, burnt blob of beans.
My mum’s cooking skills consisted of throwing something in hot oil and hoping for the best.
Our weekly treat would be a fried egg that she’d incinerate while I rushed to the mobile fish and chip van to buy fries wrapped in paper.
Needless to say back then I thought it was delicious – but not exactly healthy.
Having a mother who thought cooking was as exciting as going to a funeral gave me a twisted vision of food.
As a student I lived on peanut butter on toast. When I became a successful journalist I ate out on expenses.
If I invited any friends home for dinner they always knew that meant plenty of rioja – and a takeaway menu.
And then I met Alexio. He lives for food. When I offered to cook him lasagne on one of our first dates he thought I was as talented in the kitchen as him.
Only when the ping! of the microwave – and the scent of a ready meal – filled the air did he realise what a cookery clutz I was.
So from the moment he moved in he laid claim to the oven. I’ve spent the last 13 years scoffing cannelloni, melanzane parmigiana, spaghetti mozzarella and fiori fritti. All home cooked, of course.
It was like having an Italian Jamie Oliver in the house, only he said ‘bene’ instead of ‘pukka.’
Our son and daughter think we’re slumming if we go out to a restaurant as it’s never as nice as something Daddy would make.
But now, Alexio had decided the days of fine dining were over. We all had to hit the salad bowl (with no dressing), egg whites only omelettes (cooked in lo-cal oil) and tiny portions that left our stomachs growling for more.
Luckily, I’m vegetarian and Anais is only 18-months so needs a varied diet that includes some fat. But more Deme was handed fish that had been steamed, poached or broiled but had never ever seen the whiff of a chip.
And – shock – now he was expected to eat Alexio’s tomato soup. It was a labour of love. He spent an hour preparing the ingredients and then he lavished the broth with love as it simmered all day in the kitchen.
He rarely left the pan’s side, tasting and checking it was the best soup ever.
Every utensil in the kitchen was used and he made enough mess to make Gordon Ramsay use the f word.
Finally, it was ready and I collected our son from school. ‘Mmm, something smells nice,’ Deme said, washing his hands for dinner.
Alexio was beaming as he served him a steaming bowl of soup. Deme took a sip and pulled a face. ‘Euuuwwww,’ he said. ‘That’s disgusting.’ Alexio looked furious and crestfallen at once.
‘How can you not like it?’ he demanded. ‘I know you eat tomato soup at school.’
Deme slammed down his spoon. ‘Yes but that’s delicious, Daddy. Everyone knows the best tomato soup comes out of a can.’
I thought Alex was going to have a heart attack but I managed to calm him down. After all, everyone knows that Heinz meanz happy kids! 


  1. I do feel for Alexio - there's nothing worse than having a child look at you askance when you proffer your lovingly prepared meal.

  2. Hmm seems Neeraj and Alexio should have a competition :) but not soup
    Maybe over Christmas holidays