How did I first develop my tastes? I don’t really remember food as such, until I was about four or five, by then I had already established likes and dislike, as have all children. No doubt I followed all the stages from infancy to child as other babies and toddlers do. However, food wasn’t the issue, back then as it is now. Out tastes were not so pandered too as today’s children. Britain was still in the throes of rationing and shortages; memories not only of the war but of the Great Depression beforehand. Food was essential, choice was limited and you ate or went hungry. Snacks were almost non existent, sweets still rationed.
Spending more time outside than in, living in unheated houses, attending schools relying on open coal fires to warm draughty cold rooms, we had appetite to spare.(They never succeeded in heating those rooms, but schools never closed because of the cold, we put on our scarves gloves and coats.)
We burnt our edible fuel efficiently and an overweight child was a rarity. However, it didn’t stop the children having strong likes and dislikes. Disliking the admonishment that we had ‘eat up’, ‘clean our plates’, ‘eat your bread and butter before the cake’. To think of the ‘starving children of Africa’ or ‘China’. When you are learning about taste and texture these strictures fall on deaf-sh ears. Left to their own devices children, who are not actually starving, will develop a taste of their own.
My earthliest bad memories of food are the ‘eating everything up’. I wasn’t keen on root vegetables(with the exception of potatoes) didn’t like anything to do with swedes, turnips, onions, fish, or tomatoes. We had a plethora of roots for family meals, carrots, parsnips, Mum and Dad were keen on turnips and swede as well. I would push them around my plate until they were dizzy.
The pudding would be brought out, demolished by others, the family would leave, and I would still be there pushing those vegetables around. Not allowed to leave until they were finished. To be fair to Mum, she never gave me huge amounts, she knew I didn't like them but, to my mind, the small amount was an insurmountable mountain.
Term time was the worst, I had to finish them on my own. Finish them I would eventually, and maybe I didn’t exactly ‘clean’ the plate but the veg would be gone, in time for tea. I liked teatime and if lunch wasn’t eaten teatime never came:(
During the holidays my sister would creep in and help me eat them:)
I liked all greens except spinach but, as Mum didn't like spinach either, I was never served it at home. The thing is now, all those vegetables that plagued my childhood are firm favourites of mine - all except spinach!
It is not necessarily a kindness to let children eat only what they like. Familiarity helps to form enjoyment and tastes.
After meat greens were firm favourites of mine, from the start, with the added bonus they were ‘good for you. Unfortunately and to my outspoken disgust I now have to restrict them because of medication - that’s not fair!
Meat and milk are my natural choices, apparently from weaning on. One step away from cannibalism they used to say. I could have eaten whole platefuls of meat if offered them. Remains of the roast would not last long in the meat safe, I couldn’t resist peeling off lumps of it.
The free milk at primary school was wonderful, mainly because so few other children liked it, so I was handed theirs to drink. On a good day I could demolish four or five bottles. Wonderful.
It was still a fairly limited palate, the country had not yet begun their love affair with foreign travel. This was going to change and Mum was ready for it, she was an splendid cook and with an adventurous spirit (frustrated by the war) she took on the culinary and homemaking changes that were to sweep in.
I struggled until I was eleven to accept new tastes but as you will see after ‘C’ I suddenly ‘got it’. The Ideal Home Exhibition was our entrance to new foods, until I was old enough to accompany Mum I had to wait in anticipation for her return from that year’s visit to see what new goodies were for us to try. When I began to accompany her she and I would graze the food hall for or lunch and try tastes from all over, bringing back the best of them. I have been informed one is o longer allowed to do that. All good things end!
I began to read recipe books, began to plan my ideal meals in notebooks.Design picnics and future dinner parties. What did I know of dinner parties? Very little I was still a child and life hadn’t changed that much.
When I took off travelling a whole new world of taste was beckoning, and thanks to ’Clean your plate’ and - ‘Try a bit’ admonishments, I was more than willing to try whatever was offered. I didn’t like everything but everything was given a chance.
There is very little now I do not like. Which the constant struggle with my weight shows. Life has changed now and those lessons of the past have left their mark, ‘clean your plate’ has been scorched on my mind , it is difficult to leave food even when I have had enough. ‘Waste not, want not’ is the same, I cannot throw food away easily, as with most of my generation, I know how to re-use left overs.
Was it my misfortune that Mum was so good and I grew up with the taste of good food. I have never wholly embraced the idea of ready cooked meals (what I refer to as non-food, canteen food or mass produced food. I want the fresh, the taste of it, without a back-taste of chemical and gloop. The last few years of hospital visits I have had a friend bring food in. Hospital food is not good.
However, as I grow older I fear I am going to have to get used to ‘non food’ and ‘eat up’, ‘try a bit’ or even ‘it’s good for you.:)
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