One of my many great failings as a wife, a mother and a human being is a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the kitchen. I would love to be one of those people who thrives on food preparation and creation; can while away a happy afternoon baking amazing goodies for the family and knows of other things to do with amusingly shaped vegetables than adding features with a sharpie and posting pictures on the internet. But I'm sadly not.
I am not a terrible cook. There are a number of examples that counter this claim - the famous episode with the Leek and Potato soup ('How the fuck did you get it that colour? NO! I'm just not eating that!') and the Chocolate Mousse that could've been used to waterproof roads and has been attributed the full blame of the cyclist's 4am dash to A+E and subsequent appendectomy (God it was YEARS ago, you can barely even see the scar) aside, there are far worse cooks than me out in the general public. Rather than straightforward cack-handness, my issues are more lack of desire and a tendency to get bored and wander off. I just can't be arsed.
Which is becoming a bit of a problem. The cyclist needs feeding pretty much constantly, and the children aren't too far behind. But thanks in large to the cyclists renewed interest and participation in the sport, an increased interest in and understanding of nutrition and food in general has swept the household. This is no bad thing, because apparently Hula Hoops aren't one of your 5-a-day. And, for the first time I have been introduced to the dark and mysterious world of Sports Nutrition.
The cyclist has always been able to pack it away; food I mean. This is a man who once ate himself to a near-death experience in a restaurant in Dallas, pushed close to the edge by 'Mama's Apple Pie and Ice Cream' ('No, seriously, stop laughing and let me go towards the light'. He is sweating and close to tears. I am far far too far gone on frozen margaritas to do anything except laugh so hard I fall over). But recently, the conversation in our house is 10% work, 10% kids and 80% food. It's all he ever thinks about. His car is an automatic, basically so he has a hand free for eating. He has developed a complex relationship with carbs - We are loading! We are avoiding! - and we are dipping our toes in the dark waters of Low-GI. I have experimented with various origami-based methods of wrapping sandwiches in foil so he can best unwrap them with his teeth mid-ride (Burrito-style - fold at the bottom, twist at the top).
Several nutritional wonderfoods have been attempted in the name of 'Marginal Gains'. There was beetroot juice. That lasted about 2 days. Completely disgusting, and caused a little whimper with the cyclist's morning wee. Luckily, he remembered the unique side effects of beetroot juice before calling the ambulance, and the relief was palpable. Result:- large quantity ('No, we'll get this ENORMOUS bottle, I'm sure it's delicious') of beetroot juice down sink. And coconut oil. 'We'll cook everything in coconut oil, it's much better for you. Men's Health says so'. Everything tastes like it's been fried in Hawaiian tropic and it made the kids cry. Result:- large quantity (No, we'll get this ENORMOUS bottle, I'm sure it's delicious') sat in the cupboard next to the Cayenne Pepper (It speeds up your metabolism. Well, it would do if I put it in anything).
And our kitchen has a little section added, near the xmas Baileys and the stickily dusty bottle of Drambuie with half an inch in the bottom; bearing such beguiling promises as 'Isotonic!' and 'Electrolytes!' and 'Real Fruit Flavor!' are several tubs of powers and sachets of gels. There are Pre-Exercise, During Exercise and Post Exercise varieties. There's even a special night-time recovery one you can get should you so require. One of the great mysteries of the universe centres on gels; despite the vast range of flavours apparently available, it is only ever possible to buy 'Tropical' gels in the shops. The cyclist has dismissed 'Tropical' as being fit only for Triathletes. Not having a sweet tooth he would love to find a manufacturer that made savoury gels. Cheese and Onion, anyone?
A few weeks ago, the cyclist found himself behind Chris Boardman in the queue at a service station Starbucks. On our next coffee shop stop, the cyclist eventually came back to the table I was guarding with my Vanilla Latte and Caramel Slice, his Flat White and Croissant, and a tub of lukewarm soy porridge and a small tub of sarcastically priced dried fruit.
'This is what Chris Boardman ordered when I was behind him in the queue the other day!'
Raised eyebrow. 'And the croissant?'
He has the decency to laugh. 'Baby steps.'