Things I never thought I’d hear myself say …
“Crusts make me nervous.”
“If you’d given me this travel toothbrush for Christmas, it would have been my favourite gift – definitely.”
5 weeks and 6 days ago (not that I’m counting), I had my first set of orthodontic braces fitted and I’ve now entered a new world of dental
challenges excitement. My teenage boys are all too familiar with this world – Joe reckons he’s had more life with braces than without … I think he may be being a bit of a drama queen, but I can imagine how he could feel like that. Finn’s braces are off now, but if he doesn’t start wearing his retainer more often he will be back in the orthodontist’s chair before he knows it.
So why did I wait until now, in my 45th year, to do this? Why not do it as a bright, young thing when everyone else was doing the same? Well, for a start, back in the day, kids didn’t all have braces like they do now. In fact there was only one girl in my school who I can remember having braces. I don’t recall her teeth being SO bad but I remember how much ‘Jaws’ grief she got.
My teeth are not THAT bad, but what I hadn’t realised was that as you get older (it’s that over 40 curse again), the muscles and bones holding your teeth in place start to give up a bit (“like the rest of your body”, I hear you groan) and your teeth want to head towards the centre of your mouth (as opposed to southwards like everything else). I guess that can go unnoticed if you’ve been blessed with plenty of space, but me, I’m crowded. This means that as the years pass my OK teeth are likely to become less and less OK.
Now let me explain … I’m not one for nips and tucks or injections of this and that to keep the ageing process at bay, but what I hope for is to be fit and healthy as the years pass – and to have good teeth. Now I’m sounding like a ‘best in show’ at Crufts Dog Show. Just give me a shiny coat …
Having lived through Joe and Finn’s braces adventures, I had concluded that adjusting to my new dental friends would be a breeze. A day or two of weirdness maybe and a little discomfort following each return visit, but nothing more. “In a couple of weeks, Mum, you won’t even notice it’s there”, were Joe’s wise words. It’s been more like 6 for me. I guess when you’ve been used to the same mouth for 45 years, it’s quite unnerving when everything suddenly feels alien. But I think I’m nearly there now – just in time for the bottom ones to go on soon. Oh joy.
Even now that all in the braces department is feeling more normal, the whole eating thing is still pretty challenging. I really am nervous of crusts (and anything else that is remotely hard) and my travel toothbrush genuinely is my new best friend. If I come to dinner at yours, don’t be concerned if I keep disappearing to the bathroom – I’m just cleaning my teeth – nothing more rock n roll than that. And what has been the most troublesome food to date? Wilted spinach for sure. I looked like a swamp monster emerging from the deep. Yuck, yuck and double yuck.
So, I’m now one-eighteenth of the way through my journey towards dazzling nashers and I’m becoming a little clearer about the foods that I will need in my armoury to help me along the way. After a visit to the orthodontist for adjustments, on the menu for the first day or two will be smooth soups like ‘Normal’ Soup, wine, smoothies (the colder the better), wine and runny porridge. You get the idea. After that I’ll need a day or two of transitional food – ie slightly lumpy but not full on chewy – things like ‘Start of the Week’ Soup and Chickpea & Leek Soup will be perfect. And also today’s dish of Mixed Lentil Dhal will be right up there. Don’t think for a moment that you’d only want to eat this if you had a mouthful of wires and brackets – this is delicious, healthy comfort food for everyone. It’s a dish for all the family and it’s super easy and cheap to prepare too. Using 3 types of lentils gives the dish a more interesting texture and prevents the word ‘slop’ from springing to mind. It is fragrant and warm without being ‘blow your brains out’ spicy and will sit comfortably alone or as part of a collection of Indian inspired dishes.
I will be serving it with a simple cucumber raita (a.k.a cucumber, yoghurt, mint and a pinch of salt) and a small salad of chopped tomatoes, red onion, sweetcorn and coriander – perhaps with a drizzle of olive oil and a spritz of lime. There’ll be some arabic or naan bread for those whose teeth can cope and any leftovers will head into flasks for lunch the next day. Done.
And then in a few days, I’ll be back to normal food – or as Finn enquired, “Are you on solids yet, Mum?”!
There are moments when this whole thing feels like a bit of a palaver. My teeth will no doubt be gorgeous when I’ve finished, but it will have involved plenty of fuss along the way. Maybe one day when I’m in fine dental form, someone will mistake me for an American and then at least I will know it was all worthwhile.
Now, give me your best toothy grin and get cooking …
- For the dhal -
- ½ cup (100g) toor dhal (yellow split peas)
- ½ cup (100g) masoor dhal (red lentils)
- ½ cup (100g) moong dhal (split moong beans)
- 2 tablespoons oil, for frying
- 3 teaspoons black mustard seeds
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 3 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder (I used 'mild')
- 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 2½ cups (625ml) stock, vegetable or chicken
- salt and pepper
- a handful of coriander leaves, chopped
- ½ cup (100ml) coconut milk (optional)
- For the raita -
- ½ cucumber, cubed
- small handful of mint leaves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons natural yogurt
- a little salt, to taste
- For the tomato salad -
- 2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cob of sweetcorn, kernels removed from the cob OR a small can of sweetcorn
- ½ red onion, finely chopped
- a handful of coriander, chopped
- a drizzle of olive oil
- a spritz of lime juice
- salt and pepper
- Rinse each dhal, separately, under cold water and drain.Then put only the toor dhal in a small bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes.
- While this is soaking, heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan and cook the mustard seeds, stirring until they start to pop. Now add the onions, garlic and ginger and cook gently until the onions are lightly browned.
- Add the ground spices and cook stirring for 1 minute.
- Now add all the dhal, the 2 cans of chopped tomatoes and the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the the dhal are tender.
- Season and add the coriander before serving with rice or arabic / naan bread.
- Note 1 - If you would prefer a looser consistency to the dhal add some or all of the coconut milk before serving or alternatively add a little water.
- Note 2 - The dhal will freeze beautifully at the end of stage 4. Be sure it is thoroughly cooled before freezing.
- Note 3 - To prepare the raita and the tomato salad, simply combine the ingredients in 2 bowls, just before serving.