Cooking shows have made their insidious way into our lives like those subliminal messages you see in the horrors, filtering into our dreams, sitting just on the edge of our consciousness, dictating our eating habits – or at least that’s what it’s doing to The Girl, anyway.
It’s started turning dinnertimes – or at least, pre dinnertimes – into a battleground. Now, just so you see where I’m coming from, this is no culinary aficionado we’ve got here. The Girl is no Marco White with all his gastronomic sensibilities; she’s no Heston Blumenthal flourishing his flair for the fabulously delicious, or Jamie Oliver with his relentless quest for culinary nirvana.
This is a girl who eats crayons; whose raids on the pantry leave the entire house stinking of raw garlic because the instant she’s sprung, she jams the entire bulb into her gob and chews to the point of no return. This is the person whose addiction to onions in both the raw and cooked states would make your eyes water and your lips knot up like a little paper bag. I mean, we’re discussing a person for whom Valentine’s Family Restaurant is the last word in fine dining.
And yet come dinnertime, food preparation in our house turns into a fullscale battle of wills – a contest of cunnings; a game of cat and mouse, if you will.
And how does a small person with limited language or reasoning wage such a war? Well, she does it on two fronts. On the one front, it’s full on howling, yelling and temper-tantrums. On the other, it’s an expertly executed stealth attack. Let me explain.
It all starts innocently enough. I’ve got all the ingredients for dinner lined up on the bench and ready to start but, Oops, I forgot the celery. This is mistake Number One on my part. Seems innocent enough, doesn’t it? I mean, forgetting an ingredient can happen to anyone, right? But it’s what happens next that turns this seemingly everyday scene into a house of carnage.
A quick check tells me The Girl is happily ensconced in her room listening to Pat Frikkin Benetar for the six zillionth time and playing Crash Bandicoot on her Playstation, so I figure it’s safe to make a quick trip to the garden.
You guessed it – that was the clanging of Mistake Number Two you just heard echoing down the data line.
Because the second I leave the kitchen, The Girl’s food radar goes up like a periscope on a German U-Boat and she’s on full alert. I come back from my foray in the vege patch to find the kitchen has turned into a scene straight out of CSI. Yes, it’s that bad…well, it is if you’re me and your life is slightly dull and you’re a thriller writer with a deranged sense of the macabre.
The onion I left chopped on the board is but a shadow of its former self, the garlic is nowhere to be seen and there’s an enormous bite out of the carrot. Worse yet, the raw chicken I left lying there has mysteriously changed position. My first reaction is to turn to The Girl to assess immediate reactions. You guessed it. Nothing, zip, nada. Man, she’s good….except on closer examination the evidence is damning. She’s got cheeks bulging like a chipmunk and the stench of onion about her. “What are you eating?” I demand. In response, she chews as fast as she possibly can, then swallows. Her eyes water and her mouth turns inside out, but that doesn’t stop her. She’s won and she knows it.
This isn’t the first time this scene has played out. I know for a fact that this exact scenario was responsible for a bout of campylobacter she contracted last year, and not my lousy cooking like the doctor implied.
But the winds of change are a’blowing, my little Chickeroo. You can quit throwing your wobs and demanding your fishy-wishy and your pork dumplings. You can cease and desist from banging your head against the wall and bawling that it hurts in an attempt to sway me.
Because it no longer works. Yes, I’m taking a stand!
I refuse to give in to your howling because you wanted peanut steak when you discovered we’re having mince. I don’t care if you take off one of your shoes and hit yourself on the head with it because you were looking forward to curried chicken and I’m doing spaghetti. And it’s a big, “Tough cookies, Sister,” when I turn around to find you half buried in the freezer section of the side-by-side, searching for Option 2 because Option 1 didn’t tickle your taste buds.
The curtains have come down and there’s a line in the sand. Because I’m telling you once and for all!
“When you’re the one doing the cooking, you can pick the menu. Until then, you’re stuck with whatever I give you. And that’s an end to it.”