(This new blog post is about catering for my fussy, faddy family – my vegetarian daughter who doesn’t count bacon or sausages as meat, and a husband who professes to be omniverous but prefers not to eat pasta, rice, fresh tomatoes, etc.)
“Mummy, can I please have some bacon for breakfast today?”
My nine-year-old daughter Laura’s request surprises me. She has been an ardent vegetarian for the last year.
“Bacon? Really? Are you sure?”
I know the smell of sizzling bacon is said to be the cause of many a vegetarian’s downfall, but ours is still in the fridge.
” Yes, because I haven’t had any bacon for such a long time.”
The way she says it suggests that it’s me that’s been wilfully depriving her, rather than her fussy, faddy eating habits holding her back.
In her carnivorous days , bacon was one of her favourite foods, especially the cold, crispy pre-cooked strips you can buy for salads, christened ‘sun-dried pig’ by my nephew. But lately no meat has passed her lips, save the occasional sausage or slice of pepperoni, which, I have to admit, doesn’t look like it comes from an animal. She also doesn’t care for nuts, cheese or any yoghurt with bits in. As such, it has been difficult to provide her with a full protein ration each day. I would therefore not object if she regained her taste for bacon, even though there are leaner, healthier meats that I’d prefer her to eat. But she is specific about which bacon she wants.
“I don’t want to eat any bacon that comes from a pig that I actually know personally,” she declares, tucking into a couple of rashers from the Black Farmer, whose livestock are strangers to us.
Living where we do, hers is not such a far-fetched consideration. In a field a hundred yards from my house live several large pink pigs. Some Gloucester Old Spots reside at the far end of the village. We’re on first name terms with the two big pigs at Severn View, a small organic farm just down the hill from us. We’re frequent visitors to their excellent farm shop. While practising humane animal welfare, the proprietors remain unsentimental.
“Meet Bacon – and More Bacon,” is their opening line by the pig-pen.
I can see Laura’s point.
They say parents get the children they deserve. I am a reformed fussy eater myself. I vividly remember bursting into tears at the age of 5 at a birthday party, when I bit into what I thought was a “safe” bread and butter sandwich only to discover it was filled with cheese. My horror of beetroot, acquired when a school dinner lady tried to make me eat it, will be lifelong, I’m sure. But otherwise, as an adult, I am pretty much omniverous. So how have I earned not only a fussy daughter but a faddy husband too?
“Do you know, I much prefer tinned plum tomatoes to these because they don’t have skins,” he says, disdainfully prodding some beautiful home-grown tomatoes, as sweet as the cherries that gave them their name.
“I don’t much like rice,” he says, pushing to one side an empty plate where previously a delicious curry nestled on basmati. He’s eaten the evidence.
“I don’t see why people make such a fuss about Italian food,” he declares, while I’m still savouring a delicious Pizza Express meal, all the more tasty for having been paid for by free Tesco vouchers.
“What’s the point of pasta?” he queries, dismissing a foodstuff that is God’s gift to busy working mums.
The complexity of my husband and daughter’s catering requirements is compounded by their both being Type 1 diabetic. This means all carbohydrates consumed have to be carefully weighed and counted, so that they can take the right amount of insulin to process their food. (They’re both on insulin pumps, which have to be worn 24/7 to keep them fit and well – and alive, in fact.) The insulin must be taken at just the right time to match the speed of digestion, which varies from one dish to another. There are easier diners to cater for.
Pondering pigs while I clear away the breakfast things, I consider their reputation for eagerly eating and savouring any scraps put down for them. It occurs to me that it would be much easier to cut out the middleman and just keep pigs instead of my family.
But then I don’t think I could train pigs to empty the dishwasher or put the bins out. So fair exchange – I’ll stick with the status quo. I have my aversions too, you know.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about the time I really did keep animals in my garden – not pigs, but chickens – in Recharging Battery Chickens.