When I was about 32 weeks pregnant with our first child, we made the decision to have a homebirth. Alex’s conception had been accidental and at 5 weeks in our local GP told us we had better take a tour of the local hospitals pronto and make our decision quickly. We had no idea what we were doing and were quickly sucked into the vortex of obstetric processing, testing and generally over-medicalised fear mongering that characterises publicly funded maternity care in Australia. I remain ever grateful to the friend who suggested that we opt out of hospital ante-natal classes and instead attend an intensive weekend session by birth educator Rhea Dempsey, the result of which was the decision to pursue homebirth. Shortly before my due date we went to collect a birth pool that we were renting from a couple who made such things. These lovely people helped us strap the pool to the roof of our tiny car, gave us a delicious fish pie for an easy meal after the birth and informed us that people who start with home birthing tend to end up in home schooling.
The home schooling thing hasn’t happened (although I can’t deny I’ve thought hard about it) but I often think about this comment becuase that woman sure was on to something. I am a powerful advocate of birthing rights, which are currently under sustained and pernicious attack in this country. Its not just that I am concerned by the medicalisation of the natural (if entirely epic) journey of pregnacy and birth. It’s that when a woman truly stands in the power of her own birth, however she births, she stands in the power of motherhood. Women who have stood in the power of homebirth are questioners of authority. They tend to trust themselves and their children. They don’t fret about feeding schedules or sleeping patterns, or the minuteae of developmental milestones. They do not entrust their understanding of their child to the experts. They strap that little mammal to their milky breasts and get on with their lives being with their children.
Some weeks ago I came across a business that will, for some undisclosed amount of money, send someone into your kitchen and teach your child to cook. I find this unspeakably sad. Cooking with your child is not something that should be farmed out to a suitably qualified professional. Cooking is not a technical skill, it is a labour of love. It is you spending time with your child, licking the beaters, peeling carrots and opening the oven door way more often than you should. It is being in front of the oven on a rainy day, making messes and mistakes. What do you want your child to remember? Time with Miss X learning to make the perfect pie crust, or long afternoons with you in the kitchen up to their elbows in cake batter? It was a public holiday today and I spent all afternoon in the kitchen with my 5 year old girl wondering in and out to help with banana bread, muffins, a meatball soup and a chicken casserole for tomorrow night. It was delightful. She cracked eggs and mashed bananas and got very sticky. These are the times I will remember, and the times I hope she remembers, too.
Persimmon and quince muffins
This recipe is great if you have some poached quince left over. To poach quince, you simmer the slices in a light sugar syrup (1 part sugar: 2 parts water) and a split vanilla bean until they are a deep rose colour. Alchemy, magic, beauty. Don’t move them around too much early on or they will break apart, but after they have been poached they “set” and are fairly sturdy.
- 4 slices poached quince, cut into thirds
- 1 cup of persimmon puree (if you are using the sweeter, hard variety of persimmon you will need to stew the pieces in a little water before pureeing)
- 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups self-raising flour
Preheat the oven to 180 celcius and line a 12 muffin tin with muffin cases. Sift the flour into a bowl. Mix the persimmon, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil until well combined and add to the flour. Stir until only just combined. Drop a dollop of batter into the bottom of each muffin case. Place a chunk of quince into each muffin and fill up the cases with the remaining batter. Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the muffins are soft and springy to the touch.