Friday, 19 February 2010

My poor mother

When I was a child my mum used to tear her hair out with worry about the possibility of me being malnourished. (There's certainly no sign of that now). You see there was loads I simply refused to eat. My most severe repulsion was towards brown, chewy lumps of meat - something my mum seemed to cook every other day. Being the 70s and having parents with war rationing deep in their psyche meant a) it was considered good fortunes to have brown chewy lumps of meat (in the large scheme of things I can see that) and b) everything definitely had to be eaten.

My mother's way of dealing with my refusal to eat was to leave me sitting at the table for hours insisting I could not get down from the table until I had cleared my plate. I would remain at said table chewing the same morsel for what felt like hours. I could usually hear other kids playing out in my street and that would twist the knife a little further. I could, in fact, chew a single piece of meat until it no longer had any flavour. I just could not bring myself to swallow it. I remember my sister once taking pity on me, sneaking into the kitchen and asking me to spit out the contents of my mouth. Brown chunks of meat turn grey after you've chewed them forever. I remember my nan also taking pity on me and once saying to my mum,
'have you seen the state of what is in her mouth, it simply can't have any nutrition left in it.' But it didn't save me. Chewing was my childhood sentence.

This process went on for years.

Then, when I was twelve, we got a dog. My younger brother, who also turned out to be a tricky eater, and I soon realised what a boon this addition to the family would be. My mother's cooking had not evolved much and aside from the odd lasagne (positively exotic in our house), she still managed to regularly serve tough chewy brown lumps of meat. The dining table was sort of 'tucked under' the stairs and pulled out slightly at dinner time. My brother and I sat with our backs to the wall, under the stairs. The table cloth got in the way a bit, but we became incredibly skilled at feeding the dog under the table. I was amazed we were never discovered. Especially as dogs don't tend to worry about making a noise when they eat. I do remember being asked now and then,
"are you feeding the dog?' The answer 'no' and a look of innocence usually prevented any further investigation.

I have to send an apology to my mum into the ether here because I can still muster up some guilt when I think of this one time. My brother and I were sat at the table when she presented us with a meal of cabbage, mashed potato and - you guessed it - brown chewy lumps of meat. She left for the kitchen to fetch her own. Our dad was still in his 'study'.

Almost at the same time exactly, with one flick of our knives, my brother and I scooped the entire meal off our plates and onto the floor. I can remember it splatting a bit on the wall behind us. The dogs (for we used to look after a neighbour's dog too at this point) could then be heard devouring both meals. My mother returned, we must have looked guilty and we were cringing from the noise of the dogs woofing the food down. But all she said was,
'You must be hungry, would you like some more?'

In hindsight, I think she might just have ceased being bothered to care about our nutrition!


  1. Oh you poor thing! I had the opposite problem - my mother was a gourmet cook (she learnt whilst living in Paris during the war) and every delicious morsel was polished off with cries for MORE. Watch how those fat cells just clung (cling) to me.

    Hurrah for dogs - I love dogs.

  2. Now you've done it, I can SMELL that brown chewy meat. My mother obviously graduated from the same school of culinary arts as yours. I could gag thinking about it. Sadly we didn't have a dog but (luckily) my dad would clear off the plate of any one of his six children who couldn't (wouldn't) eat their dinners. He would always say endearingly, "ye's want a bliddy good starvin'"
    I feel his moral lesson there was that if we knew true hunger we'd be only too glad to eat it.
    I still doubt that.
    p.s. Your mother knew about the dogs obviously. Bless her.

  3. I guess I was lucky, although i never did quite get over gagging on teh fat on pork chops, or my dad's love of boiled sausgaes, and tripe with onions, what was that about.

  4. FF - nothing but jeslousy from me...I would like to re-write my childhood cuisine.

    CM - my poor mum never did (and still doesn't have) any pleasure in cooking food but she still was a martyr to it. My dad would say - let's eat out and my mum would we need proper home cooked food (that the children can feed to the dogs).

    Mr T - that's lucky?

  5. Generally lucky yes, My mum was a pretty good cook, tried things we had curry at a point when it was more or less unheard of, slightly austere in places, but good, I always refused tripe. All my kids are faddy with food or have been, they all tend to grow out of it. The boy now likes curry, so long as I make naan bread with it, chilli is fine, I personally hate a lot of pastas, and carrots are evil in general, Daughter 1 doesn't eat much meat, Daughter 2 dislikes noodles and sprouts, daughter three hates mashed potato, spinach and cabbage. So occasionally they all get something they don't like and leave it.

  6. I was once told by a scientist from John Innes that there was speculation as to there being a gene that meant we tasted brassicas differently - thus why some people adore sprouts (me!) and othere are repulsed by them. Those that are repulsed are meant to be tasting a bitterness that others' aren't. It is quite a remarkable thing personal one thing that's delicious to one person, can be revolting to another (marzipan - hate it) - a genetic input makes sense to me!

    My daughter is not fussy at all but my son is. He's naturally drawn to pale carbohydrate but we have managed to coax more variation into his diet. he does love all fruit and will eat carrots - by the bucket! how different they come out!

    I am not a fan of pasta either, much prefer potato and then rice.

    I can't do fatty meat, offal, game, bones, fishy fish(!)...and am generally a bit pathetic about meat (deep scarring)and I can't do marzipan. I think I like everything else and I believe I do get vitamins now.

    Oooo I got lost in a finking food foray.


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