Fussy Eaters And The Fine Art of Food Deconstruction

The old man has gone back to the Motherland for ten days and of course I will miss him desperately. With NC still cavorting in Thailand, however, this has allowed me some respite from the domestic drudgery of cooking.

Fussy Eaters and The Art of Food Deconstruction
Kurt has proven that man can survive on cereal alone

Or to be precise, it releases me from the thrice weekly trek to our local Thai to pick up something the whole family will eat without gagging.

As you can imagine, I’m not exactly the stereotypical fifties housewife waiting for the old man to walk through the door with a homemade casserole steaming on the kitchen table, pinny on, a beer in one hand and the other hand free to take his jacket off.

Which is why we tend to support our local community of restaurants rather more than we should.

I’m not really sure why the onus of cooking fell to me, in what I consider to be an equal partnership – Oh, that’s right, he’s even more crap at it than I am and the clearing up afterwards requires working a night shift.

But as every true domestic goddess knows, being the cook of the house is not just about clattering a few saucepans, breaking a few plates, heating up a ready-made sauce and overcooking the vegetables, is it?

There’s the whole fucking tedious process involved of having to THINK about what to cook, having to BUY the ingredients, having to CREATE something edible out of them, and then having to listen to the family MOAN about it afterwards.

These days, I can’t remember why I got so worked up about the kids eating five fruit and veg a day when they were little. They survived didn’t they, without developing some ghastly mineral or vitamin deficiency disease? Where did I find the time to be so anal? I’m lucky now if they eat five home-cooked meals a month.

Admittedly, my family is not the easiest to cater for.

In the planning stage of each meal, I also have to work out how I can customise the meal to suit the palates of four very fussy, different diners.

You see, there are two camps of eaters in our house – for simplicity’s sake, let’s label them the ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ camps.

These two camps  can then be subdivided still further by dividing the unhealthy camp (NC and the old man) into ‘bland’ and ‘fussy’ and mine and Kurt’s camp into ‘processed’ and ‘perpetual (with no-true-conviction) dieter’. In reality, Kurt is a bit of a hybrid – his choice would always be ‘processed’ food but occasionally he develops food obsessions for healthy things like Barramundi without realising and I get all excited and buy a whole school, until the next time I catch him eating Tandoori pizza for breakfast.

Sadly for NC, she inherited the old man’s physiological deficit of possessing no taste buds, which leaves them both highly wary of new food groups – particularly those with any flavour.

They both eat to live.

Their favourite foods all have the same E number flavour, which is where they have a connection with Kurt, because obviously processed food is particularly popular in this camp. Any new food is treated with extreme caution and suspicion, however, and food that has not previously been tasted, dissected and fully evaluated must pass quality control before it is tried.

This generally involves someone other than me telling them that it’s really good.

Up until about the age of two, NC outrightly refused to eat solids and would retch if I dared place any mass in her mouth other than yoghurt. It was very awkward in restaurants and I wholeheartedly agree with those people who want to ban small babies from posh restaurants.

I do wonder how the restaurants in Koh Samui are faring with NC and her culinary whims. I imagine they would happily exchange the political unrest in Bangkok for NC, given half the chance.

Perhaps I’m being harsh. She has improved a little with our move closer to the city, a more cosmopolitan lifestyle and a bit of growing up. She has widened her horizons culturally in terms of what she will allow in her mouth and has discovered that she likes three Asian dishes now – subject, of course, to being allowed to prod, identify and remove any foreign objects first; which obviously include all Asian vegetables.

Top of her hit list are tomatoes and onions, followed by any rogue vegetables that she cannot identify or are just plain fugly.

Inevitably, sometimes she gets caught out when she strays too far from her safety zone of scrambled eggs on toast, which is where the art of food deconstruction comes into play.

This is a lamb and tzatziki wrap, post-deconstruction by NC’s food disposal unit, (Special Ops). The pile of ‘healthiness’ on the right is what she discarded.

Fussy Eaters and The Fine Art of Food Deconstruction
NC ate the bread on the left hand side.

It’s not pretty, is it? Nor was the bill of over $10 for what essentially evolved into a wrap with two mouthfuls of lamb.

Long may this cooking sabbatical last, is all I can say. I am dining on fresh fish, a smorgasbord of different salads and the most foreign-sounding, smelliest cheeses I can find in our local cheese shop, while Kurt is supporting my break from the kitchen by proving that man can actually survive on eighteen bowls of cereal per day.

Teenage Sibling Love

English: Indian Naan bread and curry served in...
English: Indian Naan bread and curry served in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I haven’t decided whether my teenagers are simply not interested in food, or just MY food .

Nerd Child has been fussy about food since she was force-fed her first solid at the age of five months, where from deep within the recesses of some internal quality control system her bodily response to lumps was decisively negative. In fact no lump was to pass down her oesophagus for the first five years of her life.

Fortunately, her taste buds have evolved with time, (a little), although they are still distinctly immature and distrustful of my cooking. Irritatingly, now that she is a scientist in the making, she has also begun to apply her newly acquired research and dissection techniques to my culinary creations.

The description of my cuisine as ‘creations’ is obviously a hyperbole. I’ve documented the family’s preference for uninteresting, ‘bland’ food in several posts; this is a family that would dine exclusively chez Ronald Macdonald if I allowed them. When Masterchef airs in our house and the contestants whip up wonderful gourmet delicacies, the utterances range from ‘ewww’ and ‘gross’ to ‘how could anyone possibly eat that sh*t?’ from the philistines in my house.

The ADHDer struggles between several conflicting issues when it comes to food.  He is a growing boy in his teens, and at this developmental stage of his life should have that insatiable need to inhale food, but unfortunately his appetite is suppressed by his ADHD medication, so enticing him to eat anything ‘healthy’ during the twelve hour cycle of his meds is a daily challenge. There are also the added complications of neophobia and sensory over-excitability with new food, texture and smells, as well as the anxiety caused by mixing food groups on the plate.

These concerns reduce the number of meals that he will engage with enthusiastically. The simple question of ‘what’s for dinner?’ therefore evokes panic in my kitchen, especially because Nerd Child is not a fan of any of the three meals that the ADHDer has expressed a preference for, all of which comprise of mashed potato, peas, sweet corn and some sort of pre-packaged protein. Nerd Child detests mash and thinks that peas are the Devil’s food.

Funnily enough, junk food is not subjected to the same scrutiny as my cooking, and I am ashamed to admit that my son’s physical growth is being built on a foundation of Fruit Loops and hot chips.

This is how dinner fared last night.

I had decided to make a curry, (obviously by ‘make’, I am in fact describing the complicated cooking technique of opening a Patak’s sauce jar).The ADHDer is hyper-focusing on Naan bread at the moment so I figured that he might forget about the sly slab of protein I usually try to disguise on his plate, if I concealed it under a pile of bread. Forced into a tight corner because I only had chicken in the fridge, I chose to ignore the fact that Nerd Child detests Indian due to strength-of-flavour issues.

She is eighteen now, an adult, and has proven that she is more open to experimentation (in certain key areas of her social life), I justified, and as it was a mild Korma, (only one chilli on the label so not too spicy, no suspicious lumps and of an acceptable creamy texture. I was also using chicken breast so there was no bones, fat or sinew for them to wretch over), I thought it might be safe from her savage scrutiny.

Rookie mistake.

The preparation was not as straightforward as I had assumed it would be. I was obviously nervous at the prospect of trying to ‘get one over’ my daughter. Evidently, NO meal is simple enough for me not to fuck up.

Having grated most of my nails into the carrot, one of the Naan breads then nose-dived straight down into the internal machinations of the toaster and refused to pop back up. Forgetting that the new toaster had been cheap, (the previous one having died that week, fusing the garage door at the same time in its final throes, which in turn fused our garage door just as I was reversing out; meaning I was stuck until one of our ‘parents’ explained to us what and where the fuse box was), hence the smart stainless steel outer shell had become dangerously hot in the Naan-burning process, so when I lifted it up in frustration to try to eject the bread, scalding both palms in the process, I let rip of a long list of expletives that even the old man hadn’t heard before.

So I was already rattled when Nerd Child, without any consideration for the repercussions of her actions, began physically dissecting the chicken in full view of my other food critic, and suddenly shouted in disbelief, ‘MUM! THIS CHICKEN’S GOT FAT ON IT!’

I watched the ADHDer stop chewing mid-mouthful and Princess Spoodle begin licking her lips under the table.

I watched my son register the information and saw the fear set in.

FAT ON THE CHICKEN! GOD, NOOOOooooo! (How my children would survive living on the streets, I have no idea). I watched my son frantically push the chicken to one side of his plate and attempt to control the first wretch that was building in his stomach, whilst throwing me a disgusted, ‘how could you?’ look. I could see Nerd Child settle in for the battle ahead.

‘There can’t be any fat on the chicken, darling; it’s breast,’ I said soothingly, stroking the ADHDer’s hand gently to calm his building anxiety, whilst lobbing my best death stare at the witch opposite.

‘What’s that then?’ she smirked at us, triumphantly holding up what was obviously a very substantial piece of sinew in front of the ADHDer’s face. I watched him begin to turn white.

This was not about the chicken at all. Her behaviour was blatant revenge for the ADHDer waking her up that morning before 11am when she had a hangover, revenge for taking her earphones to school without asking and for devouring ALL her precious Turkish bread in one sitting.

This was sibling warfare.

‘In fact, I might be able to see some MOULD on it too,’ she carried on, viciously, as her brother gagged, ‘and I’m pretty sure this chicken was not washed properly….’

At which point the ADHDer pushed his chair back hurriedly and rushed to the bathroom to wash out his mouth, take his fourth shower of the day, and sate any residing hunger pangs with four ‘safe’ Up N’Gos from the emergency stash under his bed.

Nerd Child grinned at me victoriously. I sought solace in a bottle of wine.

Sibling love at its finest.