[by Róisín Curé in Galway] I've always loved urban sketches of food. A nice sketch of something good to eat that's been presented to us is an illustration of an act of generosity. Even if it's food that's been paid for - as most urban sketches of food seem to be - it's still been prepared with great care and thought. I love to draw food as it's being prepared (as long as someone else is doing the preparing) and after it's all gone, but not as I'm about to eat it, as I prefer not to let my food wait.
It was Mothers' Day on Sunday in Ireland. My younger daughter is eleven, and informed me that she would be bringing me breakfast in bed. She presented me with a menu and instructed me to circle what I'd like, which I did, while listening to someone else being busy for a change - the boys of the family were getting ready to go sailing. The day was already shaping up to be a success. After a while my daughter brought me a tray with my choices on it: chopped kiwi and pears, a glass of juice made to her own recipe, a nice cup of tea and a boiled egg with wholewheat toast soldiers. Everything was perfect. After the lovely breakfast, the house all quiet by now, I sketched the tray and the remains of the breakfast because I wanted to keep this memory forever, and I've taken to illustrated journalism à la Sketchbook Skool.
"She's showing us up," he said. "It's not fair."
"You have plenty of time to redeem yourself," his dad told him. "You can make dinner if you like, or clean the kitchen afterwards."
"I'll make a cake," he said.
Trouble was, he is a terrible procrastinator, and by 8pm on Sunday evening he still hadn't started his homework, as usual. But he was determined to make a cake before he began his homework. He found a recipe from his very own cookbook for teenagers and off he went. Then my husband told him to substitute coconut oil for olive oil, as he's fallen in love with it since his newly-discovered health drive. My son said he wouldn't. He's the sort of person who follows a recipe to the letter. They argued back and forth. It got heated. I got fed up with the cake idea. It got more heated, and I told my husband to let the lad do what he liked in the kitchen, for right or wrong, if we ever wanted him to learn, but I was too lazy to get up and intervene (the sofa was comfy and it WAS Mothers' Day). Then the commotion got even louder. My husband had put coconut oil into the bowl with eggs and sugar when my son's back was turned. There were tears of frustration (my son, not my husband) and who could blame him? - and I had to get up from the sofa anyway to calm him down. I told him I could use the mixture with the coconut oil for the breakfast muffins in the morning and to start again. So he did.
By about 11.30pm the cake was done (the homework took until 1.00am) and we all had a piece of cake and a nice cup of tea in front of American Hustle. The cake was lovely, warm and crumbly with a crunchy cinnamon and sugar topping.
"I think Mothers' Day should be banned," she said. "It's too fraught with emotion. Trying to be good, and not fight - it's just too stressful for the kids."
"Like a mini Christmas Day," I said.
"Just like a mini freaking Christmas Day," she agreed. "Now you realise you have to sketch the cake, and put it on Facebook, too, like you did with the breakfast."
I said as much to my son, thinking he would forbid me from so doing.
"Okay!" he said. He seemed enthusiastic.
So I did, and lots of people said some wonderful things, which I read out to my son. He was thrilled with all the lovely comments.
In the end the whole episode was a happy and positive, if somewhat emotional, experience. I'm writing it here because I believe that the small, domestic things that make up our life can be every bit as dramatic - and often very much more dramatic - than those which we encounter outside the home. While raising teenagers can be extremely exhausting and daunting, it can also be very funny, and full of nice surprises.
Fathers' Day soon...