Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Food and being 10

I never used to eat as a child, I wasn't just a fussy eater, I wouldn't eat hardly a thing that my mother put in front of me, the best I could do were tins of Heinz pasta and turkey drummers, of course cake and chocolate were another matter, you can always eat sugary rubbish. The doctors couldn't understand why I wouldn't eat and mother was upset by how thin her 8 year old was, barely there really. Then at 10 I went on a week school trip to Edgemont house in the country, my mother didn't want me to go because she was worried I wouldn't eat anything and be sent home or risk starvation, but I insisted. and what nobody could get their head around was that I did eat. I stuffed myself! It's like I'd never eaten before that week, I ate everything. Because frankly, it's my mothers cooking that is inedible.

I remember the first night at that house and the tables sat 5 students and there was a huge serving area at the front of the room, squash was served in jugs on the table. They served hot steaming chicken and mushroom pie with potatoes and lashings of vegetables and gravy and bread rolls with butter. They didn't skimp on portions either, they loaded you up. I cleaned my plate. In the morning selections of cereal were served and you got to pour milk on it yourself (which is a big deal to me!) and after that had been cleared away hot breakfast came out, sausage and bacon and egg, and bread and beans and orange juice! Every day I munched my way through food for an army and by the end, when the coach drove us back to the school gates and my mother stood beaming and waving, I literally could have cried, I dragged my bag and dragged my worn out trainers on the floor and I sulked. Even my dad was there to meet me and walk us home but I was depressed. That's the first time I think I felt and was depressed.

I had been changed by that trip, it had been the best time of my life so far, and I was never again going to eat whatever my mother served me. Like the stew she tried serving that night, chicken legs cooked in a thin greyish colour gravy, with bits of mush and vegetables, the chicken was still on the bone, just sort of floating around the water like dead fish in a diseased lake, I still can't understand how one is supposed to eat soggy wet chicken drumsticks out of stew water, with a knife and fork or with hands that then get sticky? It was tasteless but the textures and appearance is enough the put you off eating that. I was transformed by that trip and its glorious meals. I decided I was old enough to cook for myself, and so just turned 11, I demanded that my parents give me the £20 a week they received as child allowance for me. (I had asked my brother how much child allowance was). I said either I bought and cooked food myself or I'd sit in my room and starve. So I got the child allowance every week. The first thing I did was walk to the supermarket.

Unlike my mother who insisted the 'good' branded stuff was better, I wasn't ashamed to buy the own brand items twice the size and a half the price of the 'good' stuff. I went into Iceland for the first time and then I lugged home bags of frozen pizza and breaded chicken strips, I bought mayonnaise! Ready made curries and bread! I bought butter, a tub of flora that would last forever, when my parents proper butter was untouchable and ran out after 3 days. I still had change which I used to buy a cone of chips that day and a cake to eat at home. My mother couldn't believe how much stuff I'd gotten out of a £20, but when you're not proud and you budget, even a skinny 11 year old who's bad at math can stretch money. I soon learnt I had to label everything with my name, and argue and get angry or risk it all getting eaten outside of my own mouth. Call me selfish or spiteful but I'd been hungry enough trying to swallow down my mothers grey dishwater stew for far too long, and I was a kid! They were adults. As far as I was concerned from the day I started high school, they could and should provide for themselves and as soon as I was an adult I'd do the same. If they insisted on buying small amounts of expensive brand stuff, never spending more than £20 themselves and so having next to nothing in a basket and living off chicken and rice stew water that was up to them and they could damn well be jealous of my pizza and chips.

At 14 I began to earn up to £20 a week babysitting my niece and nephew for my brother.
at 16 I went to college and got EMA.
at 18 I started uni, got a job and had loan money sent 3 times a year.

So you see, I have always planned for the end of one lot of money to spill into the beginning of another. Now Uni is coming to an end, and sometimes I feel like the only person who is worried about leaving on lot of money and having no other to slip into, I am job searching like a woman possessed, and I wont just lay back and 'go with it', I am dedicated. It's the thought of money that drives me and I'm not ashamed of that. Money buys food, and I hate being hungry. Food is my favourite thing in the world.

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