It’s been a weird food day. It started off with Adrian cooking soup at breakfast time. Green soup. Very green soup – as in wild garlic and ground elder soup. I blame Jo (ragrug) who told us, when we visited her in Wales, that it was very tasty. ‘Rather like spinach,’ she said.
Honestly it looked more like the kind of thing you concocted when you were five years old, brewing up something to go with the mud pies. It tasted, well, green. Very green.
‘Your mother would approve,’ said Adrian.
‘What? As in it tastes foul but does you good?’
We are still trying to work our way through the industrial size sack of milled linseed my mother (aka Size Zero Mother) pressed upon us at our last visit.
‘It’s incredibly good for you,’ she said. ‘I’ve put in a leaflet so you can read all about it.’
‘Does it taste nice?’
‘Oh no,’ she said triumphantly. ‘You add it to your quinoa porridge along with all your other nuts and seeds. I use rice milk.’
Er, we don’t eat quinoa porridge.
But apparently linseed (of this precise milled variety) will do everything – sort out your heart, your blood pressure, your sex life, your gammy knees. Really it’s clever stuff – I reckon, given half a chance, it could sort out Afghanistan and solve the thorny issue of fortnightly rubbish collections.
Anyhow, back in the kitchen I snuck in a glassful of sherry and a tweak of nutmeg to the soup and it made it just about edible (or should that be imbibible?).
My mother has had issues with food all her life and she has succeeded in passing them neatly and totally on to me and my two siblings. My sister is a classic yo-yo dieter – one moment she’s a svelte size ten, the next a bosomy eighteen. My brother on the other hand lives on a diet of pork pies, Maynards wine gums, Cote de Beaunes and ginger wine (I am so TOTALLY serious).
The other day I found a batch of letters Mum had written to me when I was at university. Every single one, even the short notes, had some mention of dieting or losing weight. A new diet, a yoga posture that would shed the pounds, some wonder-food or supplement that could melt fat. Needless to say, all this ever achieved was me ballooning, slowly, gradually over the years. I have never found a diet I can stick to and I am grown-up enough to know that dieting is not the answer anyhow. It all lies with self-esteem and boundaries and all the psych-stuff. One day I will just do it but I’m beginning to wonder when.
This morning my Internet connection was down and I positively steamed through work without the endless distraction of emails/blogging/websites. So I felt quite vindicated in sloping off for a lunch to celebrate my friend Linda’s birthday. We met in the Quarryman’s Rest, a pub in Bampton, which has undergone a bit of a makeover. Very good it was too – fresh young Exmoor asparagus risotto, thank you very much – with pine nuts and parmesan and drizzles of truffle oil. Followed by white chocolate and Bailey’s cheesecake.
So, feeling plump and just a little overfed, I walked down the road to drop in on Size Zero Mother. I needed to drop in a ‘juicing for health’ book she wanted. She was looking even thinner than ever – a stiff wind would seriously blow her over. We sat in the garden and I offered to make tea.
‘Now. I only want a drop of milk in it. I’ve read that the milk interferes with the goodness of the tea.’
Now the problem is that Mum reads so much (every health magazine and quack publication going) that she has read herself into a very small meagrely stocked corner. She fully believes she is intolerant, allergic or unable to eat virtually everything going – and has been subsisting for the last couple of years on rabbit food. The more I try to persuade her to eat, the less she will eat.
Anyhow, today took the biscuit (or not, as it happens). As we sat admiring her ceonothus, she said:
‘Now, Jane. I need you to tell me how to put on fat. I’ve read that if you don’t have enough body fat it stops your body being able to take up calcium.’
Deep breath. Then I try to explain that really, as a lifelong dieter, Mum knows all too well how to put on fat. Simply eat all the things that she has spent her entire life avoiding. This of course fills her with horror.
‘But I have a square of Green & Black’s every night.”
‘Eat a bar.’
‘Oh, I couldn’t. I’d be sick.’
And so it goes on. I have an 83 year old mother who is, I swear, anorectic while pretending she wants to put on weight (is that possible?). But who also - and how weird is this? – really and truly wants me to be fat (while claiming she doesn't). As I leave, I notice the bar of G&B. She follows my gaze and says, as she always does:
‘Go on. Have a bit. It's lovely.’
But for once, I don’t. Stalemate in the food wars.
PS - don't panic - I know the pic is of Solomon's Seal and not ground elder!!