You don't have to be the best mother or girlfriend or homemaker. You just have to look like you are. I was at a friend's house when my first-born was around three months old and he was staring at me.
"What is it?" I asked.
"I'm just trying to figure out how you're going to fuck her up."
At the time I laughed but it is true. Somewhere along the line I am going to do something that I will consider a minor incident that years later will be brought up as a traumatic moment in my childrens' lives. I shall endeavour to do my best but these things happen. Now, 10 years on I am aware that there are measures I can put in place when I think I'm going to lose it with the kids.
Step one is to invite another child round - I won't yell at them too loudly in front of another child. However, if I'm feeling really frazzled I'll invite another grown-up over. I'm so keen for them to think that I'm a good mother I might even do some painting with them. Who cares what my motivations are? The kids still benefit.
Continuing my "faking it" theme - Sunday Lunch. Now, I am a professional show off - you probably figured this out ages ago but I've only just got it - so are chefs and cooks. Anyone who puts a meal down in front of you and sits back and accepts the praise for being all clever and marvellous is a show off. I used to think I cooked to unwind but I think it's just to show off. With that in mind I thought I would share my secrets for the Sunday Lunch of a Faker.
You need to make as much as you can in advance. I like to start with soup that you can make on the Friday. Soup is easy. Just chuck some vegetables in a pan with some stock and it's done. Also - if you serve soup, when people ask if they can bring something, get them to provide the bread. People like to bring something and if you say; "Bring wine" and they're not drinking, you'll feel bad. Similarly if you ask them to bring dessert they will stress over making it so asking for bread keeps it nice and simple.
Decide what you are cooking during the week, that way if there is any preparation to be done you can do it in advance. This is about keeping Sunday as stress-free as possible so that you can glide around the kitchen with your make-up in place looking like Wonder Woman.
Now, your roast should look amazing. Any numpty can stick a chicken in the oven but Horseradish encrusted roast beef? Or maple-glazed ham? When you bring those to the table everyone goes nuts! Get the recipe online - there are hundreds. My only tip with the meat is to go to a proper butcher and buy the best you can afford. I don't mean the spotty teenager behind the meat counter at the supermarket - I mean a proper butcher. They can tell you how much to buy and how long to cook it for. If you are doing ham or lamb you can prepare them on the Friday and keep it in the fridge until you whack it in the oven on Sunday. Then you have all Saturday to feel smug. It's done.
When you get up on Sunday, the first thing you have to do is set the table. Make it look all nice and lovely so that if the food isn't ready you still look like you have done something - remember your soup is good to go. Put the oven on and start preparing the dessert. Trifle is quick and easy or roll out some (shop bought) puff pastry and bung some sliced apple on top of it. Brush over apricot jam and sugar and it's ready for the oven. You can put it in the fridge until you've finished your starter. Cook it until it looks like you might want to eat it.
That means all you have to do is wait for the meat and do the veg. I like to do the easy basics - peas and sweet corn. I have them frozen and they take about three minutes to cook in the microwave. Roast potatoes are a must. I par boil them, drain the water, then give the potatoes a shake in the pan 'til you've roughed up the edges, coat them in goose-fat, then cook them for about an hour or until they are all lovely and golden. I used to put them in the roasting tin with the meat but I find they mop up the gravy so cook them in a separate tin. A sure-fire crowd-pleaser is cheesy leeks. I've yet to meet someone who refuses them. Sweat the leeks in butter, make a cheese sauce - whisk the sauce to get rid of any lumps - mix them together, pop in a dish, sprinkle the top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs and heat through for about 15 minutes.
The last thing that goes in the oven are your Yorkshire puds. I buy them frozen. The same as puff pastry. I am sure I could make them but this meal isn't about being amazing, it's about looking amazing. Frozen Yorkshire puds take about four minutes to cook. Do the gravy whilst you are waiting. By saying, "do the gravy", I mean get Bisto gravy granules and pour hot water on top, then add the juices from the roasting tin. I think it's very important to know where to take short cuts.
I am sure some proper cooks would be horrified at my slap-dash approach to cooking but I view it very much like dressing. I'd love to be top-to-toe in Vivienne Westwood every day but sometimes I have to mix it up with Topshop and New Look. I also think a relaxed hostess makes for a much more enjoyable meal and spreading out the workload means you can enjoy your food and still have time to feed the baby.
By the time you are ready for dessert, you'll have had so much praise heaped on you for a delicious dinner you will feel like you are ready to rule the world come Monday.
Oh and my final tip? Only invite people for lunch on Sunday that you know well enough to be able to say: "I've screwed up lunch. Is pizza ok for everyone?"
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