The Nine Circles of Stomach Bug: A Guide for Parents


Having children means you will spend much of your time vomiting. Not just while pregnant but throughout their childhoods. Indeed a canny dictator could use my second child as a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

In your life before children, you had the odd bug every two to four years (probably contracted from a selfish work colleague who had kids). So what did you do? You called in sick, got yourself a bucket and retired to your clean, king-sized bed. Maybe you wept softly. Watched telly. Read your book.

Well, along with every other personal and physical dignity you lose when you have kids, being sick alone is another one to add to the list. This is what will happen now, a dystopian nightmare unfolding:

Stage 1: Innocence              

There will be no warning. Your children are happily playing and the very next second they will be sick on you. You will inexplicably try to catch it in your hands and then run around with it in an attempt to save the sofa. This is futile, accept it.

Stage 2: Loneliness

You will beg other people to help you but they will shun you and daub paint on your front door. You are alone and trapped in your house, cast adrift on a sea of vomit. Your nearest and dearest have ditched you, as you would them in the same situation.

Stage 3: Fear

The fear is almost the worst part. They’ve got it, who is going down next? ‘Will it be me? I can’t cope if it’s me.’

Stage 4: Delusion and Realisation

Just when you think you are out of the woods (‘maybe I have had this one? I feel alright!’), your top lip will start to sweat; you realise you have been sitting in an uncomfortable position, an untouched glass of warm white wine in your limp hand, watching a documentary about sharks. You are going down my friend.

Stage 5: Action

At this crucial juncture you need to act fast, because the world you were holding onto with your fingertips will rapidly slip from your grasp.

You must command any other healthy adult who is responsible for your children to cancel their life. They will try to get out of it, mumbling feeble excuses about work. Firmly impress upon them just how bad you can make their existence when this is all over.

Stage 6: Brace

Get towels, comfortable clothing and ban any cooking of sausages. You only have six minutes at best to implement this.

Stage 7: Climax

You’ve got it, they’ve got it, everyone’s got it. Now, for the first time in your pampered life, you will be clearing up other people’s sick whilst being sick yourself.  You will be staring down the toilet while two fevered, puking goblins attempt to mount your back and claw at your eyes.

The last thing you ate before you descended into this abyss will reappear, first through your mouth then over and over in your mind’s eye until you make solemn, pleading vows never to eat food again. You will wish for a clean, swift death.

Stage 8: Acceptance

This is your life now. It will always be like this.

Stage 9: Re-entry

After two to five days you will emerge from this Orwellian hinterland, raise your withered eyebrows and think ‘ooo I’m a bit peckish’. But what do you eat? You have to be careful here. Any health-promoting food containing vegetables is out because the sliminess of cooked vegetables is unthinkable. What you need is salt, salt and more salt.

You have two options:

  1. Garage Bread toast and Marmite. Garage Bread is the cheapest white bread you can find in a petrol station shop.
  2. Chinese food. Either from a takeaway or this recipe for Chinese chicken. It’s nothing special but to you it will taste rapturous*

You can now pat yourself on the back, you got through it. Until the next time…

IMG_3914Serves 2    Prep: 10 mins    Cook: 10 mins

2 chicken breasts, chopped into thin strips

Bunch spring onions, sliced

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp mirin or dry sherry

1 tsp chilli sauce (I used sriracha)

Packet of microwave rice

In a wok, fry the spring onions and garlic in a slosh of oil. Add the chicken pieces and cook until nearly done. Mix the sauces together and add to the wok. Coat the chicken and heat through. Microwave the rice. Serve with extra chilli sauce, if you can stomach it.

*I realise that all my talk of being sick may have caused some unwelcome associations with this dinner.


A Drunk Vegetarian’s Kebab

IMG_4170 (2)Remember those days when you would pile out of an appalling nightclub and lurch down a pitta full of a dead man’s leg with chilli sauce and lettuce? Its rotating awfulness was mesmerising. Not wanting to miss out but certain of a 4am expulsion, I generally went for the gastro-intestinally safer ‘chip kebab’ instead, the memory of which makes me weak with longing.

I have sampled my fair share of Frankenfood (I recently discovered that hot dogs contain Mechanically Recovered Chicken. Google it, I dare you. Sorely regretting that foot-long now), but nowadays there are some food wastelands I refuse to traverse, drunk or not.

So this is my Drunk Vegetarian’s Kebab*, where I cleverly replace the floor meat with extra spicy falafels. If toting this vegetarian version of a pissed up ‘classic’ makes me a card-carrying soft Southern shite, so be it. You get to a certain age and you start thinking about chickpeas a lot, it’s as inevitable as being able to sling your tits over your shoulder and tuck them in your rucksack.

Fry these falafel burgers in lots of oil until they are hot and crispy, stuff into a pitta or wrap with plenty of hot sauce, garlic mayonnaise or yoghurt and lettuce. Feel past it but smug.


Serves 4 (I made a few more for lunch)  prep: 20 mins   cooking time: 10 mins


2 tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 fresh red chilli
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of ground coriander
1 tbsp of harissa paste
2 tbsp of plain flour
Handful of fresh coriander or parsley (if you have it)
Salt and pepper
Oil for cooking
To serve: pittas/wraps, lettuce, tomatoes, hot sauce (I used Frank’s Original), mayonnaise or yoghurt.


1. Roughly chop the onion. Put everything into a food processor. Whizz into a chunky paste, adding a splash of water.
2. Tip the mixture onto a board. Divide into 8-10 small patties. Chill for 20 minutes.
3. Heat a large slosh of oil (any will do) into a frying pan and fry the falafels for around four minutes on each side until they are crispy and heated through. Heat the pittas in the toaster.
4. Stuff into the pitta with the salad, mayo and hot sauce.

*You don’t have to be pissed to eat this.