Do working mums and dads know that their homes can be Temptation Central to their parents when they’re round doing childcare? I’ll come clean: my name is gran and I’m a chocoholic – p.s. I’m also partial to the odd sweet thing too. In the past I have tried to kick the habit, really I have – I once chucked a chocolate cake I’d half-eaten in the bin, but, like Miranda did in Sex and the City, I went and got it out and ate the rest – willpower have I none. And I have form in the snacking stakes: when my daughter was a child she used to keep her Easter eggs for months – she’s not keen on chocolate (gosh). Well, I could (and can) sniff out chocolate at 50 paces and you can guess the rest – I have no shame. Recently, I got into those clumpy bits in Harvest Crunch, my daughter’s favourite cereal, and she tried to hide it. I found it, of course – I am a bad mother – I can go through their cupboards like Phil searching for booze on Eastenders.
You see round mine we’re into a low fat, low sugar, low salt, low everything diet really since my partner had a coronary some years ago (he’s fine now) and, boring, boring, I’m on the blood pressure tablets plus statins for cholesterol. And even at my age (ie old enough to know better) I still succumb to that wee small voice in my head that says seductively: ‘Go on, just have one Tesco’s Ultimate Triple Chocolate Chip cookie – see if they still taste good.’ So I eat one and end up polishing off the whole packet so I don’t dare have them in the house. And that same wee small voice says ‘Go on, buy some Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream as a treat for the grandchildren when they come over’ and, of course, I go and finish it off later straight from the tub.
The other weekend, my partner was going away for the night to a friend’s 70th – oh goody, I thought, I’ll get in a couple of almond croissants for breakfast and I’ll sit in front of The Voice and Young Montalbano with a kfc or a pizza for supper – oh yes, I know how to push the boat out. Then my daughter rang. ‘How are you, mum?’ she asked. ‘Well, I’m so-ooo looking forward to having the house to myself with no sport on the tele and I’ve bought myself some almond croissants etc, etc, and I’m really looking forward to it.’ I said again for good measure as I didn’t want her to feel she had to invite me over because I was on my own – she’s thoughtful like that. ‘Would you like to come for lunch on Sunday,’ she asked, ‘but if you’re going to have such a lovely time on your own maybe you don’t want to.’ Of course I wanted to. ‘Yes, please,’ I said, ‘shall I come around 2?’ When they came to ours for lunch recently, they were aiming for one-ish, but made it about 2 – with four kids it can be tricky to get out the door, particularly with a GCSE-ridden teenager who needs her sleep. She laughed, ‘No, mum, around one is fine.’
I phoned to say I was on my way, ‘I’m passing Tesco’s, do you need anything?’ I asked, picturing granddaughter 2 already in the kitchen cooking up a sweet potato spectacular (she’s veggie like her big sis), granddaughter 3 doing dessert from the Nigella book she got for Christmas and their dad doing his roasties – yummy. ‘No, we’re ok,’ said my daughter. I arrived at about 1.15 and her car wasn’t outside the house. Inside, grandson was doing his moves to Let’s Dance and granddaughter 1 was just up. ‘Have the others gone out for a special ingredient?’ I asked their dad. There was a pause. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘they’ve gone out to actually get lunch,’ Oh blimey – you see for retired grandparents like me, like those aliens in Dr Who, are in a different time zone from their children and grandchildren – weekends are the same as weekdays and I wake up around 7, have breakfast at 8-ish and lunch about 12.30 so I was feeling a bit peckish. Although my daughter’s family are into healthy eating big time these days, very occasionally they have food about the place that I don’t get to eat at home. I clocked the remains of a cake in the kitchen. ‘What’s that?’ I asked granddaughter 1. ‘It’s something granddaughter 3 made,’ she said. ‘Can I taste a bit?’ I asked. ‘Of course, but it’s really old,’ she replied. Well, it looked very chocolatey and, stale or not, I’m not proud. So I levelled off a bit, then another – oh my, it was scrump-tu-ous.
The rest of the family arrived and I smelt hot ready-roasted Tesco’s chicken so, hurrah, we could eat pronto, I was thinking. But, oh no! granddaughter 2 started peeling carrots and parsnips and hand crafting them into chunky chips à la Pizza Express while her dad was par-boiling potatoes in readiness to roast them in the oven. Oh god, how long was all that going to take? Meanwhile the chocolate cake was calling to me, ‘Ee-eat me, eee-eat me…’ So I levelled off another bit and then another, as an hors d’oevre, you understand. ‘It’s fantastic,’ I told granddaughter 3. ‘It’s Chocolate Oreo Mousse Cake,’ she said, ‘a Nigella recipe.’ Of course it was – so chock-full of cream and chocolate, whoooa.
To cut a long story short, we sat down to eat the chicken dinner with stuffing and the works around 3 and I ate quite a lot. But, of course, I still had a space left for dessert, as you do – let’s just say that when I set off home later there were only a few crumbs of Nigella’s Chocolate Oreo Mousse Cake left on the plate. What was it that Mae West said? Oh yes, ‘I generally avoid temptation – unless I can’t resist it.’
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.