At first, in the breast milk, formula and sleep deprivation days, food reverts to it's most primal. It's fuel, to be rammed into your bleary face as quickly as possible before collapsing to get your next twenty minutes sleep. Anything that fits into a half made fist and eaten is fair game. Mince pies, scotch eggs or three day onion bhaji, it's all the same really, portable food that can be returned to at some future point after you've washed the baby piss out of your hair and semi digested milk off your shoes. It's a disaster zone, so the only way you'll get a decent meal is through the kindness of friends, family or complete strangers. Friends who bring cooked food for the freezer are like descending angels of mercy, even if the cooking was previously held to be suspect. You'll eat quinoa. You'll eat "my special lentil bake". You'll eat anything cooked by a human over fire. The kids themselves are milk-addled squirming leech things, who'll latch onto anything that vaguely looks like a breast, so food for them isn't something you have to think about until six months down the line, when it seems like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
You're wrong. You might be getting more sleep, you might even get out of the house but you are never going back to the way your did things before. Mealtimes become a mind game, a conflict with subtle shifts in the balance of power and a degree of strategy you'd never have thought possible given that you are trying to get a small child to eat a piece of steamed broccoli.
Like all true master strategists they lull you into a false sense of security in those first few weening months. All these new flavours, Daddy! What a wonder! You look on proud and smug as your kid eats green beans, butternut squash and quinoa (how times change) and you tell the few friends you have left what an extra ordinary palate your child has. She LOVES olives and garlic. You are a sitting duck. She has you right where she wants you.
Six months later she'll only eat penne arranged into a Fibonacci spiral and you are subsisting on her increasingly bizarre left overs. Pesto and blueberry sandwich? Just smother it in Siracha, it's a done deal. You'll tell other parents about the healthy and nutritious food you cook for your children from fresh every day and deep down know that they had Babybell and Nutella sandwiches for lunch. In front of the TV.
It's the relentless meal prep. Even if you are organised and have things stashed away in the freezer, it's the cajoling, the thrown food, giving up and handing over the Petit Filous and the clean up. The constant clean up. Which I have stopped doing. The little fuckers eat more off the floor after lunch than they did when it was in a bowl in front of them, so I let them do their Roomba thing for half an hour after every meal.
When it comes to feeding yourself, it's as if your own palate has devolved. Your eating leftover fish fingers and half chewed bagels. Yes, you will eat partially masticated food that your own child has spat out. Simply because it is on front of you and the thought of leaving your chair to make something for yourself is way beyond the level of energy you are reserving for bedtime.
Occasionally, I'll look at the wall of cookbooks and feel compelled to cook something different. I don't. I don't know that names of any restaurants anymore unless I can get an oversized buggy in the the front door, they can provide multiple highchairs at the drop of a hat and don't mind a porcine level of mess afterwards. Those carefree bar hopping, first to a new restaurant days are long gone and I've got a cup of tea and a bowl of cold baked beans to see me through till dinner time.