14 Dec

Book Review: Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family

Feed Yourself Feed Your Family is an attractive La Leche League book packed with information and useful tips. The chapters are ordered chronologically, covering pregnancy, new parenthood/breastfeeding, starting solids, and feeding a family. Each chapter includes a selection of recipes considered appropriate for that particular chapter of your life.

I was concerned that a chapter on eating for breastfeeding would fall into the trap of implying that breastfeeding is demanding if you don’t eat special food, but in fact the book explicitly states that this is not the case (however it does mention the need for 350 extra calories, which is not supported by evidence). This section is brimming with suggestions for food you can eat with one hand, and food you can get other people to cook for you. I especially liked the comment that “you are passing on your culture through your milk,” (p68) and have quoted that in antenatal classes and see the parents nodding.

The book has a slightly american tone, although it’s clear that much of it has been ‘translated’ into British English. Some of the food standards given are american, though this doesn’t detract from the clear, factual approach. My biggest concern with the book was the amount of salt added to almost every recipe, some of which included salt in the cooking, again before tasting, and then a garnish of bacon. The Starting Solids section could have had more emphasis on baby-led weaning, good finger foods, and how to work family meals that baby can eat too.

I didn’t think I could review a recipe book without trying out some of the recipes, so we tried five of them last week. Here’s how it went:

The Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup (p182) was very convenient for such a busy day; all the ingredients went into the slow cooker at lunchtime, and it just smelled more and more delicious over the course of the afternoon. Recipe books for me are inspiration rather than instruction, so most things get altered in some way. I added pancetta to this vegetarian recipe, to make it more acceptable to my partner and son, both of whom like veggie food but are sometimes a bit tentative when it comes to pulses. The soup went down an absolute treat, and there was enough left for lunch next day. Both of them said they would like me to make it again.

Tortilla Pie with Black Beans (p48) was another hit. This was tasty and cheesy, though it was a mistake for me to plan it for swimming night when I had one hour to cook and eat before rushing out to teach. This vegetarian dish slipped through the net no problem, though it was suggested that we could try it with chicken as well.

We were less enthusiastic about the Chicken & Sugar Snap Pea Saute, which seemed like an odd combination of nice things that didn’t really go together. It was also quite tricky to figure out what would go with this, as it didn’t lend itself well to pasta or rice, so ended up being served with chips.

The plan was to make Froelich Family Rice (p137), however on reviewing the recipe at 5pm on Thursday I realised that it involved over an hour of cooking just to produce minced beef with rice. So I’m afraid I cheated completely, got out a packet of rice with vegetables, and cooked up the beef with some herbs, mushrooms and tomatoes, and mixed it all together. The end result was much the same, and they just stopped short of licking the bowl clean.

I try to include fish in our diet every week, despite not really liking it much myself, so on Friday I made the Fish Chowder (p229), using white fish instead of salmon which I cannot stand. This was the added-saltiest of all the recipes I tried, with salt added twice in the cooking as well as a stock cube and a bacon garnish. This seriously undermined the promise that the book is giving the reader “a blueprint for a lifetime of healthy meals” (p8). As I had forgotten to get the bacon out of the freezer, this was a moot point. My partner and son enjoyed the chowder, though my son as usual when bread is available did mostly eat the bread. I tolerated it and felt virtuous.

I would recommend this book because every chapter there has sensible information and guidance, including practical ideas for cooking while your baby or toddler is around. I would not go out and buy it just for the recipes.

To order Feed Yourself Feed Your Family with a 25% discount, just follow the link and use the discount code KH25 at the checkout.

10 Dec

Running 10k

I can’t do it.
I’ve never done it before.
It will hurt.
My mum couldn’t do it.
It will be really time-consuming.
It’s tiring.
I’m not sure my body’s up to it.
I don’t know how to do it.
I don’t want to do it in public.
I have to do it all, my partner can’t do it for me.
It might be better to drive.

Oh well, I’ll give it a go. But I won’t beat myself up if I can’t do it.

The British 10k, 14th July 2013

05 Dec

Book Review: Vaginal Birth After Caesarean

Vaginal Birth After Caesarean: The VBAC Handbook, by Helen Churchill and Wendy Savage, is a neat little book absolutely packed with useful information for mothers considering a VBAC, and those supporting them.

It is worth reading just for its forthright introduction explaining exactly why the authors choose not to adopt the tentative and controlling jargon often used by health professionals. The careful use of language in the book is in itself empowering.

Reading this book, I learned that 70-80% of VBACs are successful; that the risk of VBAC is lower than the risk of a planned Caesarean; and that the reasons commonly given not to “try” to have a VBAC do not appear to be evidenced across the board. Even the section dealing with higher risk groups shows that in most cases a VBAC can be possible.

The second part of the book includes several VBAC stories, not all of which were successful; however the stories demonstrate and affirm the wide range of experience even within this segment of birth and labour.

This is a useful and succinct guide, and I highly recommend it.

To order aginal Birth After Caesarean with a 25% discount, just follow the link and use the discount code KH25 at the checkout.