Earlier in the year, I had the pleasure of meeting Adam Shaw, also known as At Dad's Table. Ever since we met, I said he would be a great to kick start series two of inspiring interviews and bish, bash, bosh...here is it! I adore his family friendly approach to cooking with At Dad's Table being featured in Selfish Mother, The FMLY Man, Mumfidential, Mother of Maniacs and more.
1. So, Adam, please can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you started ‘At Dads Table’?
I’m in my mid thirties and have been living in Tunbridge Wells for almost 3 years now. I’m married with a two year-old at home and another on the way. I first started At Dad’s Table when my wife was pregnant, I’d just finished a qualification at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London and was wondering what to do with it.
I have a full time job working in the events industry but food has always been a passion of mine and I’ve always wanted to do something more than just cook at home. At the time of my wife’s first pregnancy we were both looking forward to finding out what food she should be eating and when. Food to make her feel good and pass on good nutrition to our unborn child. I was really disappointed therefore to see that all advice focussed on what you shouldn’t eat, rather than what you should. I decided therefore to create my own recipes to accompany my wife’s pregnancy, and started posting them online.
2. Tell us about your family- how do mealtimes work in your home?
My son normally marches into our bedroom at 6am shouting ‘Mummy, Daddy out out’ so mornings are a bit intense! I’ll put on some wholegrain porridge for us all but will make it a bit more tasty by adding a spoonful of nut butter, ground nuts, mashed banana or some blended up fruit. I do all the cooking in my house so we either eat the same thing together before my son goes to bed at night or if we want some adult time I’ll make a dish whilst my wife puts my son down.
3. Why is it so essential for mums to eat properly during the pregnancy? How do different trimesters differ in the foods we should consume?
You’re spot on. It’s not about eating just healthy food, or obsessing about it too much, it’s just about eating properly. During pregnancy there are enough people telling you what to do, it shouldn’t be like that with food. As long as you respond to your body’s needs and do everything in moderation there’s really no special rule. In general, the first trimester is a time when your body is creating a life, rather than growing one.
That obviously takes a huge amount of energy, which is why it’s normal to crave carbs at this time. Adding in leafy greens like spinach or broccoli to dishes is great due to the amount of folate they contain, but for a lot of people this is a time when a lot of fruit and veg just turns their stomach. If it does, don’t worry about it. My wife was the same and I’d try to sneak some veg in through hiding greens in soup, pesto, scrambled eggs, casseroles etc. It’s also a good idea to swap white carbs for complex carbs such as wholegrain bread and pasta and sweet potatoes.
In the second trimester the body tends to stabilise a little and the appetite for fruit and veg returns. If yours does, just enjoy it and treat yourself to all the foods you didn’t fancy previously. It’s also a great time to eat more fish, specifically cod, salmon and tuna once a week as well as iron-rich foods like red meat, beans, pulses, spinach and so on. In the third trimester your body is gearing up for due day so again, energy-rich foods are what you need so lots of meat, carbs, fish and so on.
4. Many women suffer from morning sickness in early pregnancy- are there foods that are safer to eat than others at this time?
If you’re suffering from morning sickness, the best thing you can do is know that in the vast majority of cases this will pass by week 12 or 13. Not eating any specific foods during the first few months will not harm you or your baby. The worst you can do is force yourself to eat foods you really don’t want to eat. If you are just craving beige food, potatoes, sandwiches, eggs, pasta and so on, then go for it, enjoy it. Just think about small changes you can make to get a bit more nutrition in you. Using hummus or guacamole instead of butter, have sweet potato mash instead of white potato mash, making your own pesto with a bag of spinach or broccoli, add in a few bits of vegetables to a chunky winter soup or a bowl of scrambled eggs.
5. How do we maintain eating the best foods we can when the excitement of a new-born enters the home? Why is this so important?
This is all about preparation and batch cooking. Yes it’s boring and none of us have the time these days but sacrificing one evening to make a load of bolognese, stir fry, chilli, risotto and so on is an absolute lifesaver. For the first few months of my son’s life I used to make all of our midweek food in one go every 2 weeks, so 3-4 dishes divided into 10 tupperwares for the freezer. It wasn’t the most exciting culinary period of my life but each evening whilst I was racing home from work and my wife was caring for my son alone I knew we would both be eating healthy, warm and nutritious food each night. Energy-wise, good food is also invaluable, especially if the mother is breastfeeding.
6. What about pregnancy cravings? Is this healthy and is there a way to incorporate weird cravings into a healthy diet?
If you’re craving something and it makes you feel better, then eat it. Don’t beat yourself up about it but also don’t make it a routine. My wife’s cravings have gone from Pret croissants to cinnamon snacks cereal to bowls of onion and tomatoes. None of that is going to kill you, and none of the above lasted for more than a few weeks. Accept it for what it is, have a laugh at yourself if you can and just enjoy your pregnancy.
7. Can you tell us about food prep? What’s the best way to pre-prepare our food for the week?
My best piece of kitchen kit is a hand food blender for £20. Now that we have a toddler I’m not doing as much intense food prep as when we had a newborn but every week I’ll make a batch of fresh pesto (basil, spinach, rocket, walnuts, parmesan), fresh hummus (chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice) or a lovely mix of cannellini beans and spinach. It takes literally 5 minutes per dish and is a great way of having some ready made food available in the fridge. Big batches of veggie friendly muffins and scones are good for toddlers when you are out on the go too.
8. Can you share any top tips you have for cooking meals fit for the whole family?
For young children especially, it’s so important that at times (not always) they see you eating the same food. They see you picking up your cutlery and eating the same food that they have in front of them and they are inclined to try it. For those reasons don’t bombard them with 100s of different tastes, keep it simple and make sure there is at least 1 thing on the plate that they recognise.
9. Have you got any advice on fussy eaters? Both parents and infants?
I only have experience of cooking for toddlers and babies but I’d say involving them from the start is key. From when my son would sit in a bouncer he’s been watching me cook. Now he stands on a stepladder next to me whist I chop food and I can’t wait for when he is able to help me. The more involved your kids are with different looking and tasting food, the more likely they are to eat it, or at least try. Beyond that, have your 3-4 go-to dishes and make sure you’re cooking at least 2 of them each week so they have that familiarity. Pick your battles too. Food is fun, mealtimes will get messy, fingers will be used instead of forks. Yes it’s a pain cleaning the kitchen three times a day but as long as your kids are seeing, tasting and hopefully eating different foods does it really matter if they get messy? Also, don’t over complicate things. I’m a trained chef yet my son adores cheese sandwiches and fish fingers and beans so he has them at least once a week!
10. Finally, what’s your favourite family meal?
My favourite family meal is something simple we had over the summer actually, quesadillas filled with shredded chicken, guacamole and melted cheese. It’s my favourite family meal because I have a really happy memory of making loads of quesadillas, cutting them into thirds with a pizza cutter, pilling them high on a plate and just sharing it with my family outside on a summers’ evening. It was messy, we were outside in the sun and my toddler loved the food, I’m sure mostly because we were all smiling and eating from the same plate.
Find out more at https://atdadstable.com/