HOLMSEY: Food fighters!

As a child, Christmas was the highlight of my year. Frankly, for the other eleven months in our house, there were usually too many days left at the end of the money. All the kids I knew were in the same boat and also grew up grateful for what we were given.

Like many people of my age, I believe kids should only tell you what they’d like to eat when they’re old enough to pay for it. Forty years ago, I overheard a woman describe how, after a long workday, she would return home to cook at least three different meals for her picky husband and sons. Even in the early ’80s, that seemed incredible, bordering on abusive. Italian chef, Gino D’Acampo, hosts the TV show ‘Family Fortunes’ and has landed himself in hot water for saying kids should be made to eat whatever you place before them and, if they don’t, they should go to bed hungry. He also says that having sent them off to bed with empty bellies, when they wake up, you should serve them whatever they refused again for breakfast. It’s a refreshingly old-fashioned view and, I’ll wager, it will make some of you feel uncomfortable.

Because he’s a TV chef, Gino says parents often ask him about their children’s fussy eating habits, and he’s more than happy to offer advice, although what he has to say is not what they hoped to hear. Gino believes, “There’s no such thing as fussy eating children, but there is such a thing as moronic parents. What I mean is, a child doesn’t grow up fussy, it’s not possible; it’s the parents.”

I don’t ever remember being asked what I’d like to eat, food was usually something familiar, served with potatoes and vegetables.

In his view, parents are the cause because they’re unwilling to fight their children at mealtimes; it’s easier to just let them get away with it. No parent likes confrontation, and I can certainly remember sitting at our dining table, and everyone did sit and eat in those days, staring at something on my plate I couldn’t eat. As the long minutes passed, my delaying tactics meant the foodstuff became less and less appetising – until finally it was indisputably inedible. Thankfully, in our house, these battles were very rare; we loved most food and were always hungry. Not for us the constant grazing or snacking that’s enjoyed by today’s pampered darlings, and chocolate was for Easter and Christmas; crisps were something you got on holiday, waiting outside pubs.

To start each weekday, we had a bowl of cheap cereal, followed at noon by a usually tasty school ‘dinner’ and finally something at home around teatime. Weekends followed a similar pattern, always with a delicious roast on Sunday, the standout event of our food week. I don’t ever remember being asked what I’d like to eat, food was usually something familiar, served with potatoes and vegetables. Only when we visited Grandma would she ask what we wanted, but as she knew what we liked, that’s what she cooked.

My Mum and step-mum both worked, and there were always lots of hungry mouths to feed; economy and speed probably determined their choices. Food shopping was done once a week, expensive midweek convenience store top-ups were unheard of. By the time we were teens, eating at friends’ houses became a thing, and what a treat that was. I soon sussed out whose Mum cooked the best grub, and shamelessly (virtually) moved in. Thank you, Moira; you set the high standards

I still expect at mealtimes!

I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, enjoy your turkey, but please make sure your kids eat their sprouts before you allow them any pudding or selection boxes. See you in 2022.