Aria has reached that age in infancy when babies start eating solid food - with their own tiny hands - with such gusto that the food, whatever it might be, spreads itself some several square metres around the baby diner.
Should the baby be sitting on you (in this case me) you end up wearing most of it.
Natalie had brought Shanra and Aria over for an early Friday night dinner. Their dad, my son, was working late. I had picked Canisha up from school so she was already here. T. had made up a hearty batch of pikelets - dainty little pancakes half an inch thick and four inches in diameter and when she came in, Canisha had demolished seven or eight with jam.
At eight, Canisha is mostly past the 'I don't like that' stage. Shanra, four, is at the height of the 'I don't like that' routine.
Aria, 10 months, cannot yet talk, has one tooth and not much hair, and likes everything.
She sat on my knee and her mum set a plate before her with some plain fettucine on it. Just warm, lightly olive oiled, and chopped into manageable lengths. She picked it up with dimpled hands and ate it, dropping only a few pieces. She slurped the fettucine like an expert. OK, let's try some of the seafood, shall we? A scallop. Ate it. A tiny piece of fish, being very careful to remove the cartilage. Ate it. Some more fettucine, now with some of the tomatoey marinara sauce. Ate it. The tiny dimpled hands are tomatoey and fishy, there's a scallop on the floor and tomato on my clothes. No matter. She's gurgling perfection with a one-toothed grin that lights up the room. Make all the mess you like. You're God's miracle. Here, have some more. You dropped the last piece.
Now an olive from the salad, being careful to remove the pit. And a little piece of fetta. Ate them. Then a purple piece of pickled turnip. Loved it.
Meanwhile Canisha's eaten her fettucine and is enquiring, to nobody in particular - just idly posing the question - to maybe the air in the room or the picture on the wall, - is there ice-cream?
- in the freezer? she adds helpfully, as if to clarify any confusion about whether the first question was merely a rhetorical one about the existence of ice-cream; and to reassure the air, the picture on the wall, anyone who might be listening, that she meant was there actual ice-cream in the freezer and perhaps more specifically, could she have some? Please?
Shanra still didn't like what she was eating. But she seemed to get through most of it nevertheless.
Fettucine marinara: A dozen large prawns, a dozen calamari rings, a couple of dozen scallops, roe attached, a dozen baby octopus, a dozen mussels in the shell, a large piece of skate, chopped into bit-size pieces.
A pack of fettucine. A can of tomatoes, diced. An onion. A couple of garlic cloves, scored. Cup of white wine.
Cook the onions in olive oil, add the white wine; when it boils add the mussels, when they open up add half a can of diced tomatoes, then add all the other seafood except the scallops. Simmer five minutes then add the scallops. Cook a few more minutes. Serve over cooked, drained fettucine.
Fettucine with ricotta and fresh tomatoes: Fold ricotta and tomato slices through cooked fettucine. Dust with parmesan and a little pepper.