Phi ding children

It’s not always easy when grandchildren come for a meal. To start with it’s fine – Zerlina, at 15 months, tucks into whatever she’s given. But Pugsley has reached the cautious age when he’s reluctant to put anything in his mouth unless he already knows he’ll like it. Squiffany is willing to try anything, but still tends not to like it if it tastes slightly different from what her parents cook for her. This can be frustrating.

I don’t remember ever being fussy over food when I was a child. I ate very little, but that was a matter of appetite. My mother was tolerant about it, knowing that I couldn’t help it and would eat until I was full, then stop. When food was being served, I might be carved a single slice of chicken, for instance, a small roast potato was added to the plate by the carver (my father) and then my mother asked what vegetables I’d like. I distinctly remember asking for “five peas and half a sprout, please” and being given them without comment. When I was out and given more food than I could manage, my mother advised me to try to eat the meat “it’s protein and good for you, and it’s expensive so it’s a waste to leave it” and I dutifully did my best. I observe, at this distance, that she didn’t need to persuade me to eat vegetables, I liked them, including sprouts, spinach, turnips and other things thought of as difficult foods for children.

I liked almost everything in fact, and if I didn’t, I assumed it was my childishness – after all, if I saw grown-ups eating something with enjoyment, it must be good and I just couldn’t appreciate it yet. My parents were very interested in food and very good cooks, though my mother did nearly all the cooking. She preferred it that way as my father used dozens of different utensils and never washed anything up.

I think of myself as having a very small appetite, and yet I must have packed away a reasonable amount of food, because so much was provided. When I was a small child, we always had a cooked breakfast, then we’d have a meal, not a snack, for lunch, and a cooked dinner in the evening. No afternoon tea, usually, as I mentioned the other day. Tea was usually tea. There was always fruit, however, and a biscuit, cheese or whatever if it was wanted. Sweets were rarely seen and snacks such as crisps (potato chips) were even rarer. I remember when I was about 11 and very ill with flu – my mother brought me a tray with little dishes containing treats, including a few crisps. I looked at it, dismayed, unable to touch a mouthful. When I was getting better it didn’t occur to her to give me the treats again (some of you have read this snippet before, it’s hard not to repeat oneself occasionally after a few years when readers have come and gone, so my apologies). We never had puddings, as my parents didn’t eat them. We had ice cream sometimes, I suspect my mother reckoned that was reasonably nutritious, so okay. There was often cheese as well as a well-stocked fruit bowl instead of puddings.

Apart from ice cream and bread, and the occasional tinned soup, everything possible was made from scratch. I was 16 when I first had fish and chips from a chippie. The rare occasion when it occurred on the Z family menu, it started with whole fish, which were filleted, battered and fried, and with whole potatoes to be washed, peeled, cut up, washed and dried, fried until pale and cooked and then fried again until browned. We might have had frozen peas with it though. And I seem to remember ketchup. That was a meal my father would have cooked, my mother would have thought it a waste of time, chips being fattening anyway. She’d have been landed with a devastated kitchen to clear up though.

Today, Pugsley had been invited to a lunchtime party, so I picked up Squiffany from school. I’d been out at meetings all morning so hadn’t bought anything for lunch, and she’s very hungry when she comes out at noon (she will go to school all day after Christmas, but she’s still nowhere near 5 years old). Knowing what little I had, I asked her what she would like for lunch. I was very relieved when she asked for boiled eggs and toast soldiers. No problem in it tasting different from Mummy’s cooking. I checked how she’d like them done (firm white, runny yolk) and she managed to pack away most of three good-sized bantam eggs (that is, good size for a bantam egg is still small, so they equalled two large eggs) and three slices of toast from a small loaf.

We were playing when Dilly and Pugsley arrived back, so we had a cup of tea and then Dilly went home, leaving the children here. I took them back at half past four. It’s very quiet here now and the Sage and I are a bit lonely.

16 comments on “Phi ding children

  1. Z

    Look, need you ask? Baked beans started as rock-hard haricots. Soaked, boiled and then cooked with tomatoes, molasses, piece of bacon, whatever.

    We had a good butcher so didn’t need to make sausages, at least.

  2. Completely Alienne

    I ate everything that was put in front of me too, I don’t think we could afford to be fussing in those days as there was no alternative on offer. Lenin only refuses meat/fish, so I can hardly call her fussy, unlike Attila. I finally weaned Attila off chicken nuggets by refusing to buy frozen ones anymore and making her help me make them from scratch. I did think about making baked beans too but then realised they actually count as one of your five a day so left them on her menu!

  3. Z

    My children were pretty good. Weeza and Al’s prep school had dreadful meals, after which they were never fussy again. They appreciated, for example, bread and butter without toothmarks and jelly without entombed insects like flies in amber.

  4. Pat

    It’s very tiresome when the teen-agers go vegetarian. Now bless them they share the cooking.
    What cruel parents to deprive you of puddings because they didn’t like them. They are my weakness.

  5. Z

    Yes, you don’t realise at the time and fully appreciate it. I was too busy being hopelessly self-conscious and scared of being noticed.

    One of mine was veggie for a while, because she didn’t like lamb or chicken, which sounded picky, so she decided not to eat meat (except for the occasional bacon sandwich because they are irresistible). then she spent a summer in Greece. She came back eating anything as long as it wasn’t swimming in olive oil or, for a while, feta cheese.

    It didn’t occur to my parents that puddings were anything but a Bad Thing. When one was made it was lemon syllabub or something like that. And we had trifle at Christmas and for my father’s birthday. I wasn’t bothered, although I liked the school puddings, but I’d have loved to be allowed sweets.

  6. Roses

    Feeding the 5,000 teens when they descend upon Palais de Roses is fraught with difficulties.

    Fortunately, there is always pizza and chips.

    As for the rest of our diet…depends on my mood.

  7. Z

    I haven’t learnt any pronunciation, Christopher. I rely on more knowledgeable friends to correct me. Duly abashed, I’ll spend time in detention concocting another ‘phi’ post. How should it be pronounced? Fie? Fi (as in Fidelio)?

  8. Christopher

    Goodness, I wouldn’t know – I just remember being confused when Latin in school changed from the Old Pronunciation (mensay, mensay, mensam, mensigh, mensigh, mensay; mensigh, mensigh, mensarss, mensairum, mensairum, mensees) to the New Pronunciation (mensah, etc.) except in sung Latin, which kept a pronunciation of its own. This change meant that Caesar’s ob has causas (for these reasons) could no longer be pronounced ‘ob harss cow’s arse’ (cue nudge giggle in the back row) but became ‘ob hass cors ass’ and not nearly so gratifying. I should stroll out of detention tossing your head and whistling an insolent tune if I were you.

  9. Dave

    When I was taught NT Greek at college I was told it’s pronounced FEE. Mind you, as no-one from 2,000 years ago is around to correct us, who knows?

  10. Z

    Oh dear. Whilst it appears that I use New Pronunciation when it comes to mensa, I refer blithely to a cow’s ass, which seems to leave me somewhere in the Middle Ages.

    It took me years not to have to translate from New Money back to pounds, shillings and pence (I still squeak “nearly 8 shillings? For a stamp?). Imagine my joy when I was in the Seychelles and found that the rupee was, at that time, worth 1/6d. I was able to convert any sum instantly.

    Dave, so I can please you or Christopher, but not both? How to choose?

  11. luckyzmom

    My Mom made sphagetti sauce with chili powder. I did too until I made it for friends after I left home and was kindly given a new recipe! I always loved all kinds of food, as long as there was lots. Which I’m sure is part of the weight problem I have today.


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