Eldest loves banana bread but he doesn’t like bananas. Youngest and Middle one don’t like either. Eldest loves risotto. Youngest and Middle one can’t stand risotto. Eldest and Youngest love sausages. Middle One says he hates sausages but he used to love them. Eldest doesn’t like pasta but he will eat lasagna. They all despise baked beans and neither Youngest nor Middle One will eat lamb anymore because ‘it’s cruel to eat a baby animal’. You get the picture. Mealtimes can be a fraught affair to say the least and thinking of something interesting and nutritious they will all enjoy isn’t easy.
“Not this again!” Are words every mother dreads as the little darlings approach the dinner table, especially when you’ve slaved over a hot stove for an hour and a half while they watched the Simpsons, or bickered, or played on the X Box, and they seem be uttered more frequent nowadays than they used to be. But I stick to my guns. We all eat together at about 6.30 or 7 when husband gets home (unless they have a friend over for tea) and we eat the same thing, in theory. Sometimes, I think the easiest thing would be to have a roast dinner every night because at least they all love that (as long as it’s not lamb).
But perhaps I should take heart because I recall a hovering and anxious mother informing me, as she dropped her child at our house for tea, that her son would only eat ‘breaded products’. It took me a while to cotton on: she meant fish fingers, or chicken nuggets, both with chips, and nothing else. And I remember another child informing me, as I served him fish pie with peas, “I don’t eat peas, man.” I don’t know what was more annoying, the fact that he refused his peas or calling me “man.” (Actually, I do.) Then there was the child who burst into tears every time I accidentally gave him juice instead of water, even when he'd reached Year 6. All of which just goes to show that however annoying ones own children are at the dinner table it’s never as annoying as other people’s.
The other great advantage of feeding the children the same meal as us is that it saves on the cooking and the eating, otherwise there’s always the danger that I might find myself eating twice: fish fingers are just so hard to resist aren’t they? A friend of mine once put her children’s delicious leftovers in the dog's bowl to stop herself from eating them, again. But then, ten minutes later and after a large glass of wine, she took them out and ate them anyway.