‘My world fell apart.’
Annabel Karmel is a household name in the UK, she is as big as Jamie Oliver in mum circles and her recipes have been filling babies tummies for over 20 years.
She has written 40 cook books since writing The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner and has sold over 4 million copies.
But the celebrity chef’s cooking journey started from a personal tragedy.
“I unfortunately lost my first child,” said Karmel.
She noticed something was “not right” with her new baby Natasha but her doctor dismissed her as a worried first-time mum. The next day, Annabel took her 3-month-old to another doctor for a second opinion. That doctor knew there was something seriously wrong.
“I got her to hospital and five days later she died. My whole world fell apart. You can’t come to terms easily with the death of a child.”
Her career as a musician suddenly felt meaningless but when she had her second child, Nicholas, she found her calling.
“Nicolas was not the easiest of children. He was a bad sleeper, he wouldn’t eat and I was feeling really vulnerable having lost a child and I was determined to get Nicholas to eat, so I started making recipes for him.”
At the time Karmel was running a playgroup and sharing her recipes with around 100 other mothers. They suggested she write a book.
Mother of three Annabel Karmel MBE turned her life around. Image supplied.
“I thought about it and at first I thought - ‘I'm not sure I'll be able to do that’ - but then I thought it would be a great legacy to Natasha and help me come to terms with her death."
The problem with chicken nuggets.
“I started to research child nutrition - which is very difficult because all the experts contradict each other - but eventually I worked with Great Ormond Street Hospital and I worked with researchers and scientists and The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner eventually got published.”
Her work in the field of child nutrition scored her an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2006.
“If you bring a child up on chicken nuggets, chips and hamburgers and pizza – they’re not suddenly going to become good eaters at the age of 13 or 14, they will tend to eat what you have given them in their formative years,” she said.
“It’s really important that we give them good food when they are young so they’re used to it and that’s what they eat when they grow up.”
Some of Annabel's baby food ideas. Image supplied.
Ignore bad eating habits.
But how do mothers stick to that with fussy eaters? What advice does she have for mothers - like me - that have a daily battle that's settled with yoghurt and bananas?
“The more you get attention for not eating, the more likely they won’t eat so I would transfer the attention to when they do eat something. Even if it's in infinitesimally small amount of something new - you give them heaps of praise and just ignore bad eating habits,” she says.