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!