My mum would spend hours preparing lunch or dinner if she knew her children and/or grandchildren were coming over. For a Sunday roast scheduled for serving at 4pm, mum would start food preparation at 10am, that is to say, as soon as she got out of bed. She would potter around the sunny kitchen singing happily to herself as she cooked. The menu would often be fiddly dishes that would take her hours to prepare. Regular favourites include garlic carrots (smothered in sugar and butter), greens coated in cheese (because she felt sorry for my children who were forced to eat lots of greens when they were little) and pies with the blackberries that my dad had spent hours picking.
Mum would have nagged my dad about going to the local Waitrose for last-minute shopping that she had forgotten. In her 82nd year, she often forgets important things such as double cream. My dad would sigh in exasperation, sometimes in bad temper.
And I, too, have not always shown her gratitude she deserves for her efforts, to my shame. I would point out to her, in a high and mighty tone of voice, that her food is not healthy. "Too much sugar!", I would denounce. "For years, I was hyperactive because of YOU, Ma!"
Or, "OMG!!! How much sugar is in this?!"
I would parrot some research I read about the evils of her food to her - "Sugar is more addictive than cocaine, Ma!"
I did the same to my late mother-in-law, another woman with a big heart and zero ugliness in her. I would complain about the cheap food she used to buy, in particular, the six sausages for £1. I won't let my children eat those damn sausages. I bet they were full of bread crumbs, animal spare parts and additives.
My mum-in-law, unlike my mum, would bite back. "There's nothing wrong with my son, and he grew up eating them sausages, not your fancy food!"
Despite not being rich financially, my in-laws, when they were alive, would have the biggest, most raucous parties for the family. Often, tinned food was involved. Ugh. I would grimace, meat out of tins is terrible! I am a firm believer in the saying, you are what you eat. Awful food comes top of my list of pet-hates.
But read this paragraph:
I had been invited to dine in the "perfect" homes of two sisters, eating perfectly prepared food, served oh so properly in beautiful dining rooms. All very healthy too. Organic, cooked to perfection, with the best ingredients money can buy. The sisters knew all about healthy eating. Perfect, you would think. But in a blink of an eye, and behind my back too, they would say some of the most vicious, ugly things about me. What poison, concealed in their perfect food!
At the back of my heart there is always the memory of the sweetness of my Ma and my mother-in-law, they and their sweet cakes and jams and imperfect food. I am sorry, Ma and Mum, for not seeing what real poison is.
Photos (author's own): Just a simple cream tea in my mum's backyard.
First published in www.raisinghappystrongkids.com