When I was a little girl there were two families I desperately wanted to be part of.
First: The Waltons. I loved the dependable, kindly wise Daddy Walton. Oh how I wanted him to be my daddy! I also loved Livvy, nurturing, teaching, gentle, fair and firm Mummy Walton. Oh how I wanted her to be my mummy! I wanted to sit at that wooden kitchen table and be a part of the mealtime conversations, and I dreamed of calling out "Night John Boy".....et al.
Actually I can see that there could be awkwardness if I were in the family because, young as I was - I had a mighty crush on John Boy. He was kindly, good and caring, he said "Darlin'" in such an awesome exotic accented way (to a 10 year old, anyway). He would have written waaaaay cool love letters to me....
Second: The Oxo Family with the wonderful, quietly confident Linda Bellingham, cooking something deliciously mouthwatering.
I so very much wanted to be like her. The attractive mum, bringing something marvelous to the dinner table, the awesome super-goddess type, adored by her husband, watching her previously noisy family tuck into the meal in rapturous silence.
My own married experiences bear little resemblance to the two ideals I had in my mind. I learned very quickly that the ONLY way to have such successful family meals is to have a script and a paid actor/actress family. Real life was more, much more, what is the word? Barbaric? Hopeless? Crushingly dispiriting? Yes all those will do quite nicely.
I felt more like poor Ria from the show Butterflies....
Mealtimes with little children is often like feeding time at the zoo, with tantrums, tears, spillages, pouting, throwing of food - and that's just me!! No, seriously though, it can try the very best of us.
Then, it seemed that when the kids were good, my husband would do or say something to upset one or both or everybody! He had a knack for it, which, actually he is still able to do with our grown up children and grandchildren too. *Sighs* ah well.
One of my children would call pretty much everything I cooked 'gunge' and refuse to eat it. So he grew up on cereals and Marmite sandwiches! This is the same child who would eat anything put in front of him at his friend's house.
Two of my children have a strong dislike for potatoes in any form! How weird are they?! That was a challenge to say the least. And the pitiful faces which I beheld as they painstakingly poked and picked out any sign of onion in a meal.
I once served up a little salad on each child's plate along with the main dish, to which one of their friends looked up at me and said, "I don't eat flowers." He was a turkey drummers and oven chips kid, which is fine.
I persevere as much as I can, because I still want to be like Livvy and Linda, and add to that Nigella for good measure. Sometimes it's been successful and it has filled me with joy, and sometimes it's been a disaster and it's filled me with despair.
Now I have grown up married children who enjoy most of what I cook with the enthusiasm of starved athletes, especially my son in law, who really loves his food. I also have a teenager who will eat mostly anything (bar the potatoes) and lots of it, because he's always hungry. It's my grandchildren who follow in their parents footsteps, causing chaos, not liking stuff and spilling stuff.
But that's just how it is.....it will end, and it will happen to them too.
I really needed it.
16 hours ago