It has been a testing time at The Mother-in-Law’s House. My funny, bright and beautiful daughter had her fourth birthday; a time that inspires a mother with bountiful joy and endless happy, watery memories of her child’s wonderful beginnings on this earth. And yet whilst I was icing her NOT-PINK cake, and wrapping her NOT-PINK bicycle, and sewing her NOT-PINK Robin Hood costume (chosen by her, thank you), I became completely and utterly overwhelmed by a sadness for my little girl. And for all little girls who live in a modern world bursting with fuschia-coloured, gem-encrusted princesses; the trappings that embellish their environments and are perpetuated by the people who love them the most, daily. No, hourly.
I can only say this because once upon a time, I was a little girl. I played football, wore shorts, arm wrestled, and played knock-down-ginger. And then I grew tits. My parents asked that I not play cricket, my peers pushed glossy magazines my way that told me I should be kissing boys and dieting, and my world became a very confusing place. I didn’t want to kiss boys; instead I wanted to play with them. And I liked eating.
Fast-forward a few years and I’d given up sport, was attempting to make myself throw up (unsuccessfully), suffered from anxiety about my body image, and was – like all my girl friends – trapped in an unhealthy routine of self-flagellation and self-sexualisation that was being nurtured by the world around me.
So imagine my horror last week when The Mother-in-Law brought home a PINK box of PINK LEGO for her granddaughter’s birthday – AFTER I requested she not get pink LEGO. And imagine my daughter’s disappointment when her LEGO didn’t have any wheels to construct an aeroplane or a car or a moveable monster, like her male cousin’s LEGO. Instead, she can build a coffee shop complete with mini croissants and yellow-bodied ladies wearing red lippy. Yes, these are the building blocks for future female engineers. (And we wonder why there aren’t enough women going into the sciences!)
Cut to The Mother-in-Law and I having a ‘discussion’ about said LEGO. And then, with The Husband and The Psychotherapist Boyfriend looking on, gripped by fear, I embarked on a crazed lecture about ‘skorts’ (the new skirt for girls that hides the shorts), the problem with pink (you should read this wonderful article about it, written by a MAN); and why it is so fucked-up that Page 3 actually exists in the real world. Et cetera, et cetera.
Needless to say, I offended The Mother-in-Law. And don’t think that I didn’t feel whiffs of guilt when I saw Zippy in the playground looking longingly at another girl’s candy-floss-coloured bike adorned with Disney princesses draped in diamonds and swathes of pink taffeta with sparkly ribbons and a heart-shaped bell. Phew. But that look – and my shame – lasted for a fleeting moment, before my little girl was back barefoot in the sandpit and swinging from the monkey bars.
Raising children is a bit like making food: you could read a thousand and one cookbooks or parenting bibles, but it’ll be your innate instinct and your inner confidence that will really carry you through the journey. So throw out the growth charts and the developmental milestones, the measuring spoons and the weighing scales, and go with your gut. Spring is the time for new beginnings. And Spring Rolls!
6 Vietnamese rice paper spring roll wrappers
A couple of handfuls of sprouts, such as alfalfa or broccoli (bean sprouts will do just fine)
A couple of spring onions
A couple of handfuls of watercress
A handful of mint leaves
Nori seaweed (optional)
A handful of fresh almonds in their skins
1 heaped tablespoon of sesame seeds
Sea salt and pepper, to season
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced/finely grated
1 red chilli (birds eye) sliced finely
Wash your veg.
Finely slice the spring onions and toss into a bowl. Roughly chop the watercress, grate the carrot, and chop the mint finely. Add these to the bowl too.
Roughly chop the almonds and toast for a couple of minutes in a pan along with the sesame seeds. Add the nuts and seeds to the vegetables.
Make the dipping sauce by whisking together all the ingredients. Set aside.
Fill a wide bowl with cold water. Take a spring roll wrapper – it will be firm (NOT papery) – and submerge it in the water for around 10 seconds, checking it with your fingers as it softens up.
Remove from the water and lay the now flimsy wrapper on a chopping board.
Take a couple of spoonfuls of the filling and place in the middle of the wrapper.
Fold both the bottom and top of the wrapper over the filling.
Then fold the right side over this.
Now roll the whole parcel to the left until it is completely enclosed in the wrapper. Set aside whilst you prepare the rest of the spring rolls.
Then serve immediately, dipping each mouthful into the moreish sauce. Alternatively you can prepare the rolls in advance and refrigerate overnight.
Note: You can just about fill these delightful parcels with anything: raw or cooked veg, mango, fine glass noodles, avocado, egg, seafood or chicken. They make excellent lunch box fillers or dinner party starters.