This is a reflective and rambling post that contains strong language and brussel sprouts. You have been warned. As usual the spelling is attrossious.
Nothing like a home counties upbringing to lock you into a life of uncomplaining routine – I call it the Brussel sprout syndrome. There’s my friend Joan – prim proper home counties middle class, moderate, reasoned in her veiws, values and excesses, almost the grin and bare it type. We worked together for years. Every Friday we’d have lunch togehter in the company canteen and every Friday she’d have fish because we always eat fish on Friday, and always on offer with the fish – Brussel sprouts. She’d always take the Brussel sprouts.
« I don’t actually like Brussels » she confessed after five years of tête à tête Friday fish and brussels lunches. « I hate the damn things just as much as I hate the fish. »
« Why are you eating them then ? »
«Because they’re good for you. »
A jaw dropping révélation from calm suburban Joan, who never voiced much of an opinion on anything.
I would say to everyone, never make jaw dropping revelations at lunch, or even dinner for the simple reason that when jaws drop, so too do the contents of the drop jawed person’s mouth. As Joan revealed her révélation, a large, half-chewed chunk of steak dropped out my mouth and plopped on to the table.
All these years eating stuff you don’t like simply on the pretext that it is good for you. The fault of parents, grandparents, teachers – those guardians of our childhood who make us, then break us and then make us up again into smaller version of themselves.
«But I don’t like it miss » – the pathetic protest of a small boy in a school hall, rank with the stink of sweat, damp, and cabbage. The small boy shuffles up to the fat teacher on lunch duty, he holds up his plate for inspection asking if he can leave the green, sloppy, boiled to death school dinner cabbage. YOU MUST EAT IT, booms the teacher in a voice that is almost as fat as she is. « But … » whimpers the child.
YOU MUST EAT IT . IT IS GOOD FOR YOU. And then the fat custodian of childhood rants on about « poor starving children in Africa who would be glad to eat this. »
« Well put it in a f***ing Tupperware box and f***ing well send it to the starving Africans. I bet they wouldn’t eat it either. » Of course a whimpering seven year old in short trousers wouldn’t say this but, just imagine, if all those sloppy, shitty school dinners we had to endure were bagged up and sent to feed the starving millions ? Oh, could the world ever pardon such an inhuman act ?
Joan is pushing her brussels round her plate. As she toys with the offensvie food, I just want to ask her why she does stuff she doesn’t like. « If you don’t like it, don’t do it. Come on, throw those bloody brussels away and let’s go to McDonalds – now there is shit that everyone likes. »
Joan won’t bin the brussels beacause that is wasting food and there are so many starving ….
We’re back at the fat teacher and the Dickensian cabbage scenario, though, unlike the fat teacher, Joan doesn’t say that it is « a sin to throw away food. »
« A sin ? A sin ? » says mum, who then rushes up to school at the first opportunity to tell the fat teacher that her son doesn’t sin and he shouldn’t be forced to eat what he doesn’t like and anyway the school dinners are crap.
But every time the fat teacher is on school dinner duty, she stands at the serving hatch and ladels cabbage, brussels and boiled veg of this ilk on to the plates of the kids because « IT IS GOOD FOR YOU »
Joan tells me that she has laways hated Brussel sprouts, ever since she was a kid, but she was forced to eat them and in the viscious infant nutritional circle you must eat what is good for you even if you hate it , and you must finish everything on your plate.
« I can’t finish it Miss. » sniffles the small boy « I don’t like it. »
WELL WHY DID OU TAKE IT IN THE FIRST PLACE ? thunders fat teacher
« erm … you made me take it. »
WHAAAAAAAAAAAT she roars in Dickensian Beadle mode.
There’s that Philip Larkin poem « This be the verse » (Everyone likes it because it contains the F word, and Philip Larkin looks like the calm and reasonable sort of chap whose lips the F word would never pass)
Mr Larkin maintains that parents screw up their kids, but it is only out of love and good intention. Of course as kids, our parents were also screwed up by their parents and … so after générations of parents f***ing up their kids and then the kids f***ing up their own kids when they become parents. BRUSSEL SPROUT – This is going to be very unpleasant, but it is for your own good.
« Do your kids like brussesl » I ask Joan.
« No they hate them. They leave them every time I make them. I tried to make them eat brussels but»
Joan gets Brussel sprouted up by her mum and dad and the, she treis to brussl up her kids. That’s a lot of brusselling.
« DON’T DO WHAT YOU DON’T LIKE. » Joan – and a few Friday lunchtimes further on our paths crossed again. Joan had steak and chips. « I’ve just got divored » she announced in jaw dropping and gob smacking very un-Joan style. Double whammy révélation – jawsmackedgobdroppingly I was.
Do we follow our parents ?
Are we made of our parents
Joan’s parents got divorced and apparently they also both hated Brussel sprouts.
It’s Friday lunch again.
An autumn Friday the in October country I used to love so much. October, my birthday month was always about watching the world turn to glorious gold, kicking up leaves in the park, gathering huge fistfuls of conkers and … It was carefree, i twas nonchalant, it was always my childhood and until I lost mum it still was because I was somebody’s child and no matter how much my mum might have f***ed me up, the process was complete and as a dad, I as trying hard not to f*** my daughter up.
1) NO BLOODY BRUSSELS IN THIS HOUSE.
2) LIKE WHAT YOU EAT AND EAT WHAT YOU LIKE.
3) DON’T EAT THAT, IT IS BAD FOR YOU.
4) NO, I’M NOT BUYING THAT BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE IT (even if you like it)
5) OH NO, YOU’RE NOT HAVING THAT FOR LUNCH, IT’S HORRIBLE.
No. In no way am I Brusselling up my offspring, it’s just that I want what is best for her and until she knows what’s best for her, then, I know best – THEY F*** YOU UP YOUR MUM AND DAD.
Back at Friday lunch.
A small downtown café in my small town downtown. I’ve ordered fish. I hate fish, but after a vitamin D deficiency last year, I started to eat the stuff because it’s good for me. My table mate Tim is ploughing his way through a plate of steak and chips. Hey, I want steak and chips, but I’ve ordered fish and anyway I’ve decided to have steak and chips for my evening meal. I can’t eat steak and chips twice in one day can I. Why shouldn’t I though. IT WON’T BE GOOD FOR ME. As my wife reminds me, too much red meat is bad for you, and I know that she is right – and I won’t have a glass of wine either because it will Knock me out for the rest of the afternoon, and then I have three cups of coffee and I sit outside after lunch in the sweet October chill in the sweet october sun, smoking countless cigarettes and I talk about giving up smoking because it will do me good. With Tim, we talk about teaching, because such is our accidental profession and you know that teaching can seriously f*** you up.
Brussels and issues.
I shall continue these vegeteable parenting thoughts later on. My steak and chips are ready and for once, my daughter is quite happy to eat what dad had imposed on the family for dinner.