The Blog

Dining With Despots

I would like to like to point out what a sheer bloody grind it is feeding my two small children. For context, this means two kids who have no allergies or any excuses not to eat, but ensure that the process is as labour intensive and as unenjoyable as possible.

Image: Anne Richardson

I would like to like to point out what a sheer bloody grind it is feeding my two small children. For context, this means two kids who have no allergies or any excuses not to eat, but ensure that the process is as labour intensive and as unenjoyable as possible. The younger child eats most things because he can't speak yet and disagree with me verbally, but he can still throw it across the room or over me. I then have to cook a separate thing for my eldest - so that's SIX separate meals daily before I get to eat anything myself.

Some days the process throws me so much that I stand paralysed in front of the fridge for sheer lack of ideas of what to actually serve them. My brain freezes over, and my mind starts to tick-tock through all the vegetables my eldest will refuse to eat, while trying to marry it up with what we actually have skulking around in the fridge, mixed with what is safe to feed my youngest, and how will he get it into his mouth without dropping it, flinging it all over the wall, grinding it into his hair or choking. It often takes all my mental energy to serve them meals that have any nutritional boxes ticked (eg, not from a packet, not endless bread and butter, and not leftover Xmas tree chocolates) and for said meal to make it over to the dinner table and get ingested without me swearing or completely losing my sh*t.

Usually it goes like this:

Me: (in bright, enthusiastic voice, since I've actually managed to think of a meal) So we're having chicken and sweetcorn and rice for supper. Ok?

E: I want chicken leg. Is it a chicken LEG, Mummy?

Me: No, it's chicken pieces. With rice and sweetcorn.

E: (starts to cry) I want a LEG. I don't want rice. And sweetcorn smells of gross. I don't want it!!!

Me: That's all there is, I haven't got anything else. And anyway, you love chicken and rice!

E: (throws self onto floor, dramatically) Noooooooo! Don't want it!

Me: (sighing) Eat your dinner, or there won't be any TV tomorrow. Or pudding.

E: (more dramatic flouncing) Don't want pudding. I'm not hungry.

Me: (tight lipped) Fine. You'll go to bed hungry...

E: (still lying on floor) I don't care! You're a bum-bum Mummy...

Meanwhile, my youngest has managed to empty a lake of water all over his crotch, tip a bowl of rice over his head and throw all the chicken pieces onto the floor. He will then begin to shriek for a very long time. It feels like my brain is being pierced by a long needle, at which point I break resolve and start to boil up some pasta for eldest. THE DESPOT HAS WON AGAIN. But the idea of her waking up in the night hungry (and waking us up) is actually worse to deal with than anything else.

Image: Anne Richardson

I have to observe rules for my eldest, which, if I dare break, means that the food will always end up in the bin. It's a bit like what I'd imagine dining with Kim Jong Il would have been like - dare to serve his pastry swan stuffed with foie gras on the incorrect serving china and you'd be screamed at by someone quite short and wearing small shoes, then locked in a metal-lined torture dungeon. Eldest child's rules include:

- Sauce for pasta must NOT touch the pasta, it must be served in a separate bowl. But pesto on pasta at a friend's house is somehow acceptable.

- Carrots will sometimes be tolerated if they are raw, but not if they are halved or grated. They must be whole.

- Butter on toast must remain UNMELTED. If any part of the butter has dared to fade into the bread, the toast is deemed unsuitable.

- Any stew must NOT have any discernable bits of onion or tomato in it. If I blend it up, it is too suspiciously 'paste-like' and is immediately rejected. A beef stew must contain large lumps of meat, but sauce or vegetables induce persistent whining.

- Chicken - see above.

- Sandwiches will only be eaten if I have made them at home, on HALF a pitta bread. A whole pitta will be rejected. Any sandwich bought in a cafe causes unspeakable terror and loathing.

- Any food served at another person's house will induce great shaking sobs for at least 20 minutes until eldest has decided we are not trying to poison her.

- No peas, under any circumstances. They are too 'green and small' and must be obliterated.

- Satsumas will only pass muster if every atom of white pith has been removed. But if the skin of the satsuma segments has dried out at all, once peeled, the fruit will be flung across the room.

- Cake cannot have any bits in it, i.e. fruit or nuts. It cannot be vanilla. It has to be chocolate, but only the plainest sponge. Icing is better than the whole cake.

- Mashed potato is evil. Potatoes can only be in chip or crisp format. Occasionally, a roast potato slips through the net.

And so on, ad nauseum. The minutiae and stringency of these rules are complex and constantly shifting. I can never keep up. It's like living with two tiny (drunk) angry pop stars with impossible riders. All I can say is: thank God for chips and crisps in pubs! Without these solid and reassuring carbohydrates, E would be an invisible husk of a being. Look - I know that I'm having a middle class moan, and that my kids are genuinely very lucky, and I don't live in a hideous conflict zone with genuine and real food shortages, but this is my set of experiences for now.

Anyone else having any trouble?

Image: Anne Richardson

The full version of this post appears on Toast & Butter.