Saturday 11 February 2012

Daddy or chips ? (one for the teenagers)

When I was growing up we didn't get to see a lot of my family as they lived in India. Visiting them was an extravagance that we couldn't really afford so it was not often that I got to see my Grandmother or my aunts and uncles. We visited when I was 11 and I remember being really surprised that they all had photos of me and my siblings on display. It hadn't occured to me that people who lived thousands of miles away would have a school photo of me on the shelf. Any news was passed on by letter or telephone calls conducted at high volume in the front room - a running joke in any Indian household is a father shouting "Hello, calling from London."

We have far more options now so if my mother wants to see her beloved grandson we either fire up Skype or use facetime on the iphone. She can enjoy watching him eat his dinner or running away from me and his Daddy as we insist it's time for bed. The pure joy on my parents' faces as they watch their grandson do the most mundane things is truly inspiring. Of course we think he is fabulous, funny, handsome, clever and many other things. He is our son so it's almost arrogant to pay him compliments ourselves, but when our parents do it's adorable.

It's always interesting to meet other peoples' families. I recall visiting my friend Nicola as a child and being very excited that we were having lunch at someone else's house (my parents did not go in for socialising with other people much). Nic was baffled that we hadn't eaten meatloaf before and I was mystified that this was such a big deal. It was around this time that I also went to the birthday party of a schoolfriend called Amber who (sharp intake of breath) has her own double bed. It was also when I learned that everyone else's family seems more interesting than your own.

The main difference for me has always been in the approach to food that my family has compared with any other I've ever seen. As soon as you walk through the door my Mother proffers food and will not stop until you accept and are stuffed. On one occasion I warned her in advance that we'd be eating lunch before we came so not to cook for us. I reminded her in a phone call before we arrived and again when we got to the house. She left it at least half an hour before she asked if we were hungry yet and persisted the entire time we were there until finally we did indeed eat something if only to stop her worrying.

My in-laws have a more relaxed approach to eating (which is why they are slim and my family are not) and I remember being struck by the difference the first time I met them. I wasn't offered a cup of tea until the designated tea time and (unlike my family) the table was not heaving with cake, biscuits and and assortment of other treats. Of course as soon as we pull up on the drive now they put the kettle on - I have them trained.

For years I believed that English people just didn't like food and had no appreciation of eating as a family and socialising over food. Come Dine With Me does nothing to disabuse me of this notion, but at least it shows people willing to try and feed others. Cooking for someone you love is such a warm and caring act (even if it isn't strictly successful) that I'd rather have a piece of toast made by a loved one than a fancy meal with strangers. 

Early on in our courtship Hubbie was cooking something and I asked what he'd done with the remainder of the stock cube he'd used. When he told me he'd thrown it out I launched into a diatribe about how in his middle class household it was probably fine to waste food, but I'd never heard of such flagrant wastefulness in my life. I've since realised that mother-in-law finds no joy in cooking and is legendary for her jellies that don't set, overcooked everything and on any given day we are told 'well of course we don't have dessert normally…' despite father-in-law having a thing with the bun lady in Hythe. (Please don't ask !)

I mentioned to Hubbie the other night - while shouting at Heston Blumenthal cooking chips - that my Mum used to make the best home made chips ever. He told me he grew up eating oven chips - what kind of child neglect is that I ask you ? If you can't have real chips as a kid what else is there in life ?

1 comment:

  1. Will it be mushrooms... Fried onion rings?

    Anyway. I've always thought it was an ethnic thing, because I have an image of my Jewish grandmother making us EAT! EAT! and offering us four different desserts and we had to have a little bit - or even a big bit - of all four or she'd be offended.

    But then I thought about it, and my other grandmother, who was very Anglo-Saxon, was forever pushing cakes (especially her shortbread, which was fab) on us. We always came into her house via the kitchen door, so there was no escape. And then there'd be a full meal, and then pudding, and then cheese (always runny Brie, and we had to finish the whole wedge, because it would be a shame to waste it). And then more cake or a few biscuits to take with us in case we got a bit peckish on the way back.

    We had real chips as well.