Roll up, roll up for the Little City sweepstakes: how many toast-based meals will I feed my kids while my wife is away?
Next week I’ll be solo parenting again as Mrs LC is away on business travel.
For her it will bring respite from domestic chaos, the unwelcome return of something called autumn and another bucketful of QMiles she’ll never be able to find an eligible flight for.
For the kids, however, it means I’ll be in charge of catering. They’ll be begging for mercy before her taxi’s left our compound.
Just so we’re clear: I already am on cooking duty for a good proportion of the evening meals, but with a safety net – namely, by the time she gets home from work, there’s usually still enough time for Mrs LC’s prodigious culinary skills to rescue whatever creation I’ve managed to rustle up.
So as I chat about my day (“and then hot yoga started ten minutes late, which threw my whole morning…”) she will casually ask questions like “Have you seasoned this?” or “…and what veg are we going to have with it?” in a subtle but successful attempt to ensure that something edible will be served before bedtime.
Variety is the spice of life
Tasks are divided up at Little City Towers, and as anyone who’s ever eaten at ours will know, Mrs LC’s place is in the kitchen – literally. (I am apparently not allowed to describe her as an extraordinary cook, so let’s leave it at ‘slightly above average’.)
However, she also has a day job which often seeps into the night as well, so the last thing she should be doing when she comes home from work is cooking a meal for four from scratch.
She reached her tipping point last week when she came home – a full day’s work behind her, hungry children and bedtimes looming – to find me out with Amnesiac at football and supper no further advanced than a vague notion of doing “something with chicken” (macramé? shiatsu?)
“Seeing as how you’re not that busy in the day…” she began, skilfully neutering any counterargument I might be planning before I’d even opened my mouth, “maybe you could find a few new recipes for us to try?”
“Yeah,” joined in the kids, who clearly enjoy kicking a man when he’s down, “we want different lunches, too.” Do I look like I’m running a restaurant? Apparently yes, I do.
They had a point; more than a year of limited variations on the same packed lunches / suppers – frankly I’m surprised everyone hasn’t protested sooner.
So like a rational grown up, I threw their complaints back in their face.
“Fine,” I said, “anyone who wants to choose something different for their lunch has to come to the supermarket and help me with the shopping.”
Ha! I chuckled at my own evil genius. The kids hate shopping even more than being told to brush their teeth or tidy their room. Checkmate, suckers.
Except I had fatally underestimated their culinary desperation. “Me!” they both screamed, tearing and clawing their way past each other to get to the front of the queue. Curses; foiled again…
Chairman of the smorgasbord
A friend back in the UK asked me recently, “what do you eat in Qatar?” The answer, given that 90% of the food here is imported is: “basically anything” (albeit at markups ranging from ‘impressively rapacious’ to ‘eye-wateringly cruel’).
Case in point: as part of this year’s Qatar/UK cultural tie up, you still have a few weeks left to enjoy the Camel cottage pie on offer at the Museum of Islamic Art café.
With Qatar’s shoppers at the mercy of globalised processors and currency traders, food prices here bounce around from week to week like a toddler on a bungee; you really need to have your wits about you when you hit the shops. Like so much else here, even the weekly grocery shop is exhausting enough, without dragging two children along for the ride.
But a deal’s a deal, so off we went and filled our trolley full of things-pretending-to-be-cheese, whatever cereal bars met the school’s “no nuts, no chocolate, no fun” policy and approximately three-quarters of the yoghurt aisle. They were, thankfully, delighted with their plunder.
But it’s still a weekly hassle I could do without.
So in a country drowning in help – you can get a bottle of milk (none of your eco-bags here) delivered to your villa from the shop literally around the corner – I’m struggling to explain why no has yet spotted how much money they could make by doing a full weekly shop for you.
This is a country where KFC delivers, but supermarkets don’t. Where you can park your car outside any shop and if you honk your horn for long enough, someone will eventually come and serve you, even they’re a dry cleaners.
The pitch writes itself:
- no more piped pan pipes (it was the Inspector Morse theme last week, ffs)
- no more freestyle car park madness
- no more queuing twice to get your fruit/veg weighed and paid for separately
- no more smugly handing over your reusable shopping bags only for the packer to try and win the weekly how-few-bags-can-you-get-a-full-trolley-of-groceries-into sweepstake (current record: three)
So if you’re reading this and fancy yourself as even the teensiest smidge of a retail entrepreneur – please do it. Qatar will thank you, and I promise to be your first customer. (Particularly if you are Waitrose.)
So having silenced the lunch critics, it was time to spruce up our suppers. I went onto one of Mrs LC’s many cooking / recipe apps and hunted around under “quick suppers”. One step at a time, and all that.
After shortlisting a few hopefuls, based on availability of store cupboard ingredients, I made the first of our new dishes this week. It was a squash and coconut curry which basically features three ingredients, one of which comes in a can. It was the very definition of a doddle.
Prepped, cooked in one pan and served in half an hour, to much fanfare and acclaim. Phew.
I’ve got some more picked out and lined up as well, so hopefully the menu can be expanded enough to dampen down any more culinary rebellion.
And of course I’ll keep it up my newfound culinary enthusiasm while Mrs LC’s away. Anyone who thinks I’m just going to get by on Mini Cheddars and Haribo doesn’t know what they’re talking about.