I wonder if other parents of modern teenagers have this problem.
As our delightful children were growing up we had to live with their tiresome food fads. The oldest, from a very early age, insisted that she could only eat pasta. Number two wasn’t too bad. He always loved meat (unless there were any fancy sauces). Offal, obviously, was out of the question. Funnily enough, the youngest went through quite a healthy stage of being prepared to be daring and eat such dangerous things as shellfish, but he soon learned that he was letting the side down and had to insist on nursery food.
I always assumed that, once they became teenagers, they would discover good food. How wrong I was.
They are now 16, 17 and 18. The middle one has left home to serve in the Royal Navy (as a chef). I hope he is learning that food can be wonderful, even if it is not the sort which is thought to be suitable for children. The other two, however, remain with us and are horribly fierce whenever it is suggested that we might try something other than hamburgers, pizzas or pasta. To be fair to them, they are prepared to eat fish and chips (so long as the fish is battered). But they are adamant, as they put it, that “young people don’t like fish” (the youngest, due no doubt to peer pressure, has forgotten his earlier love of seafood). Liver, kidneys, brains (oh how I love brains) are all forbidden. Crab or lobster would require the children to be referred to the social services.
The young, you see, can only cope with a very limited diet. Indeed, as I understand it, it is thought to be “child abuse” to ask a teenager to eat anything other than a hamburger, a pizza or a pasta dish.
I have had dreams in which we all sit at the dining room table and tuck into delicious seafood or offal. But then I wake up and realise that we can’t eat decent food again until the children leave the nest. But I don’t want them to do that. So I must just put up with their refusal to try any dish they have not eaten before.
But I rebelled yesterday. It was a small rebellion, but from little acorns etc.
I had an overpowering desire to have kedgeree for supper.I have occasionally suggested that we might have kedgeree. Every time, it has been made plain to me that that, were I actually to dare to put a dish before my children which included smoked haddock, Esther Rantzen’s Childline would be immediately contacted and I would be taken into custody, never to see the light of day again.
Yesterday, though, I was brave. I don’t think I had had a lot to drink. I just somehow found inner courage. We would have kedgeree for supper! That was my resolve. And I stuck to it.
We had all the ingredients except the haddock. I set off for the shop. “Where are you going, Dad?”.
“I’m just going to get us some supper.”
Was it really OK? Would that child ever deign to speak to me again?
I didn’t waver. I strode up the road. I went into the shop. I found the smoked haddock. I bought it.
Honesty requires me to admit that there were moments on the walk home when I thought of giving the whole thing up, of throwing the haddock into a bin and going home to find a pizza or two in the freezer. But I didn’t. I brought the haddock home.
No one was around downstairs (a bit of a relief). I started poaching the haddock. I chopped an onion. I softened it over a low heat with butter. I added some curry sauce. I boiled some eggs. I added rice to the onions and curry sauce. I used the poaching water to add to the rice. I flaked the haddock.
And then child number one appeared. This would be the moment. Would the police be called, or would I be given a second chance? I put my hands behind my back to conceal the shaking. I waited for judgment.
“Hi, Dad,” she said, “I’m off to do some babysitting.”
“What about supper?” Did she notice my terror?
“No, I’ll have some there. They’ve got sick [a word which means “good”] pizzas.”
She left. But there was still number three to cope with.
He came downstairs, staring into his portable telephone.
“Hello, darling,” I trembled, “supper will be ready soon.”
“Sorry, Dad,” he looked up for a moment from his telephone, “I’m going out with the guys. I’ll get a burger or something.”
My wife and I, feeling very guilty, tucked in to the kedgeree.
You may think you have not just read about a great victory. Perhaps you are right. But I went through hell. And I survived.