Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Miss Q had pureed bok choy for dinner last night. It looked like what I imagine a frog would after it’s taken on the wheel of a car and lost.
Didn’t seem to bother her though. Which is good because my chef-for-a-husband has already loudly proclaimed that he’s not having a fussy eater for a child, but hasn’t yet told me how he plans to stop that from happening.
I grew up in the country where most people had some sort of vegetable garden and some evil mother discovered that if you went away on a holiday, and left your zucchinis on the vine, when you came back they were the size of nuclear missiles. Mothers around the town began sneaking zucchinis into everything – our mother even tried it in spaghetti Bolognese once. But only once. We sure told her.

About the only thing I truly hated as a child was orange haddock. Boiled orange haddock. I don’t reckon they even serve it in gaol. Our mum used to dish it up on a Friday night, Friday night being ice cream night, but you only got ice cream if you choked down the boiled orange haddock. She learnt it from my grandma, who by all other accounts was an excellent, excellent cook, but ask her to deviate from the bounty of the land and she was as lost as a sheep that had strayed from its flock.   
Grandma grew up between the two world wars on a sheep farm in rural Australia, where vegetarianism was as common as a Hindu. The concept of a meal without meat was like good shoes without pantyhose. You just didn’t do it. Except on Good Friday. In memory of Jesus’ death, you were not to eat red meat. Fish, however, was allowed. 
In my grandmother's defence, part of the problem, I suspect, was that the selection of fish in the middle of the country was somewhat limited. But grandma’s Good Friday meal stands in my memory as the worst dish I have ever had to endure. Orange haddock boiled until it resembled a roof tile - crusty on top and mouldy underneath, the disintegrated flesh covered by the stretched and sticky skin, and vegetables steamed until their colour had leeched into the water cooking them. The only redeeming feature was the bread and butter, but of that you were only allowed one piece until you’d cleared the rest of your plate. If we were doing it out of sacrifice, I would gladly have chosen to skip the meal entirely, but that was not an option, and neither was arguing with my grandmother. Hundreds and thousands of vegetarians enjoy delicious meat-free meals every day of their lives and yet there we were, suffering through a meal even Jesus would have complained about. 

I dare say though, Miss Q will do just fine. She’ll eat brussel sprouts, but when her father fries them in oil with chili, fish sauce, garlic and mint I dare say she’ll like it. Cauliflower too, when it’s pureed and mixed with butter, salt and cheese. Even zucchini tastes ok when it’s steamed with heirloom carrots and served in a balsamic reduction. Yes, Miss Q’s diet will be delicious indeed.
But I do vow, here and now, never to serve her boiled haddock.
I just couldn’t hack it.

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