The cookbook for the varannanvecka-life is here!
Creating a new sense of family and routines in the new home is something that cookbook author Johanna Westman dives into in her new cookbook “varannan vecka”. How can good food and cooking create closeness and joy, both with the children and when you are by yourself for a week?
We’ve talked to Johanna Westman who shares her insigths on separation, children in the kitchen and food like our modern campfire.
Hi Johanna! How did you get the inspiration to write a cookbook for the varannanvecka-life?
– I’ve hade the idea for a long time but it took a while before I got around to writing the actual book. I have three children and separated 7 years ago. I started hanging out more with others who had separated and was in the same phase of life as me. We talked a lot about breakups, parenting and other things that we went through. It became clear that the common image of what a family “should” look like is still a bit old-fashioned. We need to talk more about different families and the cookbook is my contribution to that.
What role would you say food played during your own separation?
– Food is my way of expressing myself and showing love and consideration so it felt natural for me to continue with that. But it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. I think the important thing is that you try to be there and maybe chat a little every day, even though it can be difficult when you yourself are having a tough time as an adult. I also think food and rituals around meals can help kids land and transition faster from their other home after a change.
You talk about change and rituals, do you have any more thoughts on that?
– For me, it became important to dare to break with the old and try new things. Like dinner at a restaurant on Christmas Eve if it feels hard to celebrate Christmas at home by yourself. Or opening your home for a potluck party. Food is like a campfire that everyone gathers around. You can help each other or invite that friend who is great at cooking! Then you also show the children that you take care of yourself and that you are there for them – and yourself!
It is also important to put effort into getting a good collaboration with the co-parent even though it can be hard sometimes. In that sense I think the Varannan Vecka-app can facilitate collaboration in a new way. Communication and information sharing flows easily without having to talk directly if you think it is difficult. I think that knowing that your parents communicate have a soothing effect on children even if things are not hunky dory during the separation. That’s a good thing.
Do you think that cooking can give you better self-esteem and self-confidence when you yourself are not feeling your best?
– Yes, I think so. My experience is that it is common that one person in the relationship cooks more food than the other. If you then separate, one may be a star-chef in the eyes of the children while the other one is quite inexperienced. It can be hard to have to familiarize yourself with cooking too while you may be negotiating your own mortgage and trying to get everything together. I hope the cookbook can provide some inspiration to start cooking in a simple way whether it’s children’s week or if you are by yourself.
You write about cooking together with the children, but quite a few parents find it difficult despite good ambitions. What tips do you have for starting to cook more together?
– I’m really passionate about bringing the kids into the kitchen and getting them involved. It does something to children when they get to decide. We need to give children wiggle room in the kitchen and encourage them even if the onion pieces in the sauce are way too big. The important thing is that there will be food at all, not that it is perfect. The children are usually happy and satisfied regardless!
It sounds like adults need to practice being a little more permissive and kind in the kitchen maybe?
– Yes, I think so. Emotions are contagious and if children are constantly told how hard it is to cook, it becomes boring for them too. You simply have to guard your tongue. And if it’s still hard, you have to take on the cooking with a little curiosity, “How eciting! We are taking a trip to Morocco tonight at dinner!”. And dare yourself to allow a little chaos in the kitchen, in worst case, you as the adult may have to leave the kitchen for a while, haha!
Do you have any other tips for a good varannanvecka-life?
– Yes, I wish I had spent less time trying to arrange the practicalities as best as possible and instead had more time to talk to the kids and check in with them. But it’s hard when there’s a lot to be fixed and you’re struggling a bit yourself. I also think it is good if you dare to ask your family and friends for help for yourself. It’s important to be able to say to your best friend ” I’m coming over to sleep on your couch because I don’t want to sleep by myself”. It creates a closeness that I think a lot of people need!
Read more about Johanna Westman: