We had a teachers' strike in our neck of the woods on Thursday and so, as is my wont as a super-kind-generous-moronic-idiot I offered to look after a few of my kids' classmates for the day so that their hard-working parents wouldn't have to take the day off.
I've done this before and it has worked a treat. I just hand them the controls to the TV and Wii, give them the passwords to Moshi Monsters, Friv and Minecraft, then close the door and leave them to it while I get on with my own job.
The problem, though, is feeding them. Not because they are permanently hungry, but because they are ever so fussy.
I tried to get as much grub in ahead of the day so that I couldn't be accused of starving them, but instead they seemed determined to starve themselves.
Everything I offered was greeted with a shake of the head by one child or other, which made it quite a costly and expensive day.
One child like pepperoni pizza, three others didn't; one child like chopped peppers, carrot, celery, pitta bread and hummus, the other three didn't. One liked sausages and pasta; the other three didn't; one child liked tuna and sweetcorn; the other three didn't; one child liked cheese and ham sandwiches, the other three didn't.
Fortunately, my sons are human Dysons and so vacuumed up as much of their friends' refusals as possible, but their bellies are actually bigger than their eyes and they could only devour so much.
So now I'm left with a mountain of leftovers with which to conjure up some Ready, Steady, Cook meals over the next few days.
What is it about fussy eating kids? I don't get it. When I was growing up, if we refused to eat our tea, we'd get it for breakfast the next morning. And after you've had liver and cabbage instead of cornflakes for just once, you make sure you never have it again.
My kids are the same: they eat EVERYTHING I put in front of them. And as they're getting older – aged 11, nine and six – the more adventurous they get.
This week, for example, they've had chicken korma, mahi mahi coconut curry, chicken, lemon and Parmesan linguine, Chinese spiced pies and – last night – kangaroo sausages. Kangaroo! I kid you not. They loved them so much, they were hopping with joy. Are my kids freaks, I wondered? Apparently not.
According to a new survey, parents like me are encouraging their children to try more adventurous foods. As a result, children now eat a much broader variety of ingredients, such as soy sauce (63 per cent), chilli (63 per cent), salami (60 per cent) and smoked cheese (50 per cent) and indulge in dishes such as curries (72 per cent) and hummus (52 per cent) – a far cry from the 'meat and two veg' generation that I come from.
Nutritionist Annabal Karmel, author of 27 children's recipe books including The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner, said: "Children don't want to eat bland food and in fact they love more exotic flavours. They love stir fries and curries and as you can't add salt to children's food, adding a touch of cumin or teriyaki really gives it a great flavour.
"When I was growing up, a mango was really exotic food but there's a lot more choice available now. Parents often just give their children the same five or six dishes and so the children can grow up to be fussy eaters as that's all they are used to but if they tried more adventurous food then they would really giving their children a great introduction to food."
So what do you reckon? Are you up for encouraging your kids into a land of culinary adventure ? Here's my recipe for PAN-FRIED KANGAROO SAUSAGES – which are widely available online (I sourced these from Alternative Meats), live free-range lives and are culled to control their population and to protect other wildlife and their habitats.
I've mixed them with mini-roast potatoes, peppers and green beans for a healthy, filling, mid-week feast.
2 tbsp olive oil
4 kangaroo sausages (or use good quality pork sausages, if you prefer)
4 medium-sized flour potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into chunks
Handful of green beans, trimmed
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and cook the sausages for 15 mins, until browned all over and cooked through.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the potatoes for 8-10 mins until the potatoes are tender, but firm. Drain.
3. Remove the sausages from the pan and chop into chunks. Wipe the pan clean and add another tbsp oil.
4. Add the potatoes to the pan and cook until browned all over, approx. 5 mins. Add the peppers and beans and continue to cook for approx. 3 mins.
5. Return the sausage chunks to the pan, mix through and increase the heat until everything is piping hot. Serve.
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