This blog has never been a hugely controversial space. I don’t tend to talk about politics, haven’t voiced my opinions on Europe or the horrors of what’s happening with the American presidency. Since having Nino there’s been plenty of parent chat; on birth, sleeping, eating, breastfeeding, but although I have my opinions on all of the above, I’m not going to go out of my way to pass judgement on others. Parenting is an incredible, but also incredibly tough, gig, and the last thing any mother needs is someone criticising the myriad choices she has to make on a daily basis. So when, last week, a blog reader compared giving a mouthful of cookie to my one year old with offering him alcohol and cigarettes, I was more than a little bit miffed.
Ok, I was annoyed. Really annoyed. So annoyed, in fact, that I almost deleted the comment and got on with the daily business of raising my (happy, healthy, in case you’re reading, Pete) family. But that would be to let his comment slip, to allow this criticism and to accept that someone I’ve never even met can cast aspersions on the way that I bring up my child. Which I’m simply not willing to do.
If you read this blog, certainly if we’re friends in person, you’ll know I’m the first to admit that too much sugar in a child’s – in fact anyone’s – diet isn’t brilliant. I’m the mum who wouldn’t allow her son sugar before his first birthday, I don’t buy processed foods and Nino thinks steamed carrot sticks for his morning snack are simply dreamy. Yes I’ve got a sweet tooth (this is, after all, a baking blog people) but most days the only sugar in our family diet is the naturally occurring kind you find in things like fruit and milk. I don’t buy processed foods – the pasta sauces and cereals and even bread – with hidden sugars and I try to treat pudding for Nino (most often yoghurt or fresh or dried fruit) as something commonplace rather than a reward for good behaviour or finishing up a main.
Nino is nearly fourteen months old and around the time he turned one we went to a lot of first birthday parties. Nine times out of ten there would be cake, and although I was never going to let my baby go to town on a great big wedge, I’d always allow him a little taste. Food isn’t just calories in and out, it’s social currency, sharing with others, making memories. I’m under no illusion that cake is a sensible toddler food group, but I truly believe that a tiny taste isn’t going to rot his teeth or lay the foundations for obesity any more than a packet of raisins or a bowlful of cereal (even Weetabix contains a tiny bit of sugar). Rather than deny him sweet treats entirely and put them on a pedestal of forbidden, desirable foods (don’t get me started on the pernicious term ‘guilty pleasure’) I’m trying to foster a healthy relationship with all food groups. And just as he won’t get a huge pile of presents to unwrap and miss his nap every day of the week, cake isn’t always going to be on the menu.
While there’s no denying that sugar is the source of some serious health problems, and an excess is to be avoided, I think society has gone a bit mad in our current quest to demonise the white stuff. If I’d made Nino a date and maple sweetened cake, would I have received the same comment? Yes these less processed forms of sugar have benefits in the form of additional nutrients, a slightly lower glycemic index, but at the end of the day, it’s all still sugar.
When Nino’s a little bit older, I cannot wait to get him in the kitchen. He’s already a dab hand with a whisk, some flour and water (doubling up as a painter and decorator as it coats our kitchen walls), and we’ll be baking cookies and cakes and treats together. Some (likely most) will have healthy ingredients, but others will have sugar and chocolate and all the good stuff, because life is about everything in moderation, including moderation (thank you, Julia Child). I’ll probably even let him lick the bowl, just don’t tell the salmonella police.
- butter, for greasing
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 85g soft light brown muscovado sugar
- 3 large courgettes, coarsely grated
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 300g plain white flour, sifted
- ½ baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- pinch ground cinnamon
- 150g raisins
- Preheat the oven to 180 C/160 C fan. Grease a 1 kg loaf tin with butter and line with baking parchment.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and sugar until well combined. Stir in the courgettes and vanilla extract. Sift over the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and stir to combine. Fold in the raisins.
- Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 55 - 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin then remove and serve in thick slices.
- Delicious as it is, or slathered in butter. Will keep in an airtight container for several days and tastes even better the day after making.
16 RESPONSES TO Courgette & Raisin Loaf Cake
Insecure, angry people often seem to feel the need to bring others down to make themselves feel slightly better. Don’t let it get to you. Everyone is different, every parent and child is different, and I have no doubt you’re bringing up a happy, healthy amateur baker! Plus, if science has taught us anything over the last few decades, it’s that no one really has a clue what is and is not good for us, least of all some random blog commenter.
Love how green this is, btw. Often vegetable cakes/breads just look like cake and you can’t tell there’s any veggie goodness inside.
Well said! Life is about balance, and a treat every now and then is something to be savoured and enjoyed.
Hear hear! “Food isn’t just calories in and out, it’s social currency, sharing with others, making memories” – I love that, and I think you’ve just created a proverb! Please don’t stop with the sweet recipes.
Note to self…add “Pete” to the list of names I can never call any unborn child of mine!
This looks delicious- and would probably translate well to gluten free as the courgettes would keep it moist.
I think your parenting standards are impeccable and your gorgeous son is all the proof you need that you’re doing things correctly.
I really enjoy reading your blog Kate, and getting inspiration from it for my own kitchen adventures with my girls.
After reading the first paragraph of this post I went back to see what this “Pete” had to say. Like many of your other readers I was shocked (and disgusted) by his comments. But I can’t help wondering, what was he doing looking at the site anyway? I mean, if he’s THAT anti sugar, why was he looking at recipes for cookie bars?… He is either a hypocrite or has too much time on his hands to go trolling and making nasty, snide comments.
I agree with you that dates, maple syrup, white sugar, it’s all sugar and not needed in our diet, we can get our sugars from other (healthier) sources. But, sugar is not inherently evil. It doesn’t have an agenda. And, as you say, food is so much more than just sustenance for our bodies. Sharing food is of social and cultural importance, and a piece of birthday cake is embedded with so much more meaning than sharing a platter of raw veges.
And to get back to the post at hand, now I have a great new recipe to try with the zucchinis going crazy here down under.
Well said Kate! What a ridiculous comparison for someone to make (even worse someone you’ve never even met and doesn’t know you!). Pete’s children will be those poor ones at the party who aren’t allowed to eat anything apart from their packed lunch. You’re raising a strapping young boy with a love of all food groups. An excellent success! Keep up the good work. This cake looks scrummy and might even keep the “Petes” of the world happy (sorry to any normal/rational people called Pete!).
Great post and my sentiments entirely.
One reason I don’t much like social media is that it seems to encourage some people into thinking they have a right to pass judgement, and confuse dialogue and discussion, with very personal criticism or worse. No thought or comment appears to be off limits.
I am so glad you responded in this considered, thoughtful way; perhaps more ‘commenters’ should take a leaf from your book and follow your example, both in life and food matters!
Perfectly put. I have had some comments I consider to be ill conceived and judgemental too and its hard to ignore them but that is what you should do. Happy baking. To both of you.
Pete is clearly a nut job. And I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about sugar, I can’t see what is wrong with the odd home made (or even bought!) cake or biscuit. Both mine didn’t taste sugar until they were one, and thanks to being a fussy eater (definitely worth it in this instance) my 6 year old has avoided the almost ubiquitous onslaught of juice and haribos from when he began preschool. And by the way, I was the child who had sugar severely restricted, I have a great teeth but guess what? MASSIVE sweet tooth
Message to Pete. You clearly have an obsessive/irrational hatred of sugar, yet you seem fatuously to be browsing baking sites, where sugar will – well, you know, surprise, surprise – happen, and leaving inappropriate & offensive comments. Shame on you.
Another keyboard warrior, best ignored. Press the delete button and enjoy the positive comments of the balanced majority. Bake on…
Couldn’t agree more, Kate! I can’t imagine there are many mothers out there who are more conscientious than you – or whose babies are lucky enough to be fed as well as Nino is! Don’t let this idiot troll get to you. You’re doing a fantastic job.
Good for you, keep going you are doing well.
Kate, people like Pete does not deserve your beatiful blog (your writing and your recipes are really nice), so do not waste your time giving explanations and feeling annoyed.
The cake looks absolutely delicious. Please share few more recipes like this 🙂