Tag Archives: Eating

Family Meals

Family meals mean something different to everyone, but for me it’s any meal that is taken sitting at a table, preferably with good company, good food and good conversation. No, the office desk is not a table and Twitter/Facebook/Instant Messaging is not good company, but will do in a push, there might be something to be said for video chat although I’m not so sure I want to be on the receiving end even if I’m eating at the same time.

There are a lot of reasons that this ‘Family’ style of meal has evolved in numerous different cultures through the centuries and not all of them are down to practical reasons like the lack of a microwave to re-heat a meal, or social reasons the human beings need to talk and bond.

For me the most important reason is the lack of distractions, this allows you time to think about what you’re eating; yes, you may be discussing the news of the day or the meal itself with someone but your attention isn’t focused on the television or your laptop or and without that distraction your mind will try to fill in the space by thinking more about what you’re eating, how it tastes and maybe even where your meal came from.

This has a number of benefits, not least of which is that you will experience your food rather than simply tasting it. You will consciously think about the textures, flavours and so on. I almost always find myself wanting to talk about how a family meal was cooked and it’s the discussion that slows down our eating (another benefit) and eating slower also means that we generally eat less (another benefit)

This is before we have even thought about the benefit of the social aspect of a family meal. The mere act of sitting and breaking bread together is something that helps bring people together. After all, one of the single best things we can do to improve our mental health is to talk, it’s as much a requirement for healthy living in humans as the food we eat.

You’d think that having a family meal a day would be standard practice for everyone with all these benefits but it’s unfortunately a tradition that is dying out. There are many reasons/excuses given for this, modern life and working hours, the hassle of actually cooking, timing the cooking so everything is ready at once and that old classic, I don’t have the time.

That last one always annoys the hell out of me, if you don’t have time to do something that is so important to your health and well being as eating, well then you’ll never have enough time for anything else.

Timing the cooking of different elements of a meal can be tricky and sometimes I find potatoes taking longer to cook than I expect or cooking much quicker, that’s why we have ovens. More importantly, that’s why we have one pot meals like stews and pies. With a little practice when timing isn’t as critical you will quickly develop skills to get it right more times than not and eventually every time or at least the skills to fake it 😉

The hassle of cooking? Please give it a rest, unless you plan on eating alone then you have people around to help, get them involved as you need. Most people will be only to happy to help and can do a task, like chopping the veg or stirring the pot etc. with only a little input from you. This not only makes the task easier for you, but it shares the skills with others, adds to the social aspect and people who help prepare a meal are far less likely to criticise it and far more likely to enjoy it.

The modern life one, can be a bit of a bugger though sometime people aren’t working the same hours so it can be difficult to schedule, but you should still make the effort to have a family meal as often as possible, if for no other reason than it helps to repair the damage that the modern life and weird hours can have on the human condition.

I’m a Picky Eater

I’m a bit of a picky eater, although not as bad as I was when younger, there was a time when I wouldn’t eat anything green (apart from peas and only if mixed into mashed spud with ketchup, I have no idea why) and was exceptionally choosy about the fish that I would eat, usually only deciding whether or not I would eat a certain fish when I smelt it cooking. So one day I would eat haddock and the next I wouldn’t. I’m still not sure how Mum put up with me.

Portobello Mushrooms
Image by ne* via Flickr

In truth most of my picky eating has disappeared as I’ve grown older, there are still some things I don’t particularly like and as a result avoid, asparagus jumps to mind, I’m just not fond of the flavour. To be honest, the more I cook and explore food the more I’m interested in trying things I haven’t tasted before and also re-visiting ones that I decided I didn’t like previously.

There is one food that is extremely popular and I simply will not eat it, if you’ve been following the recipes you may have noticed that I have never published a recipe with mushrooms in.

This is often raised as a topic for conversation, when I politely refuse them at dinner or pick them out of a dish. I really wish people wouldn’t ask me this when they’re eating as the reason comes from an experience I had as a child and it’s not really suitable for the dinner table. Invariably my reluctance to tell only makes people more curious until eventually I (reluctantly) tell them the story and then I’m the bad guy for telling the story at the dinner table.

When I was a child my family would at certain times of the year spend Sunday afternoons wandering the fields and hedgerows of friends’ farmland foraging for wild fruit, nuts and mushrooms. It was a great family pastime, we all got exercise, fresh air, no admission fee (other than the occasional few pots of wild jam mum made from the fruit, dropped on the relevant doorsteps) and effectively free (incredibly fresh) food.

Part of the excitement on the mushroom days was getting home, and selecting the choicest ones from what you had collected, giving them a quick rinse, removing the stalk, adding a nob of butter and throwing them directly onto the hot plate of the cooker. Where they would sizzle for a few minutes until they were ready to eat and we’d scoop them up with whatever was to hand add a sprinkle of salt and devour them.

It was after one of these mushroom foraging excursions when I couldn’t have been more than four years old that we arrived home and I was eager to get a few large ones I had found onto the hob. As soon as we were in the door I bolted into the kitchen and rinsed mine off, pulled the stalk, added the butter and threw them onto the cooker, I wasn’t about to be delicate about it.

As soon as the first one was done, it was handed to me and I took a big bite and while the butter was still dripping down my chin, I noticed something unusual about the piece still in my hand. I was trying to work out what it was when a small piece fell out of the remaining mushroom leaving behind an almost perfectly round tiny little hole and I started to know what the guy who discovered what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple felt like. There was spitting and coughing and I’m not ashamed to admit that four year old me burst into tears at the thought of having eaten half a worm.

That was the last time a mushroom knowingly passed my lips. It’s the weirdest thing because even the smell of raw mushroom now turns my stomach. It happened so long ago that I can barely remember the taste or texture of a mushroom and the part of me that has become adventurous about my food and cooking thinks, “Well you really liked them until that happened so why not try them again?” keeps getting overruled by the memory of that one event.

I have decided that this fear needs to be conquered – it’s irrational and too much like a phobia not to be confronted. So in the next few weeks I will be trying dishes with mushrooms, it may be a bit longer before I start adding them to the recipes but who knows.

So, are you a picky eater? Are there any foods that you simply won’t eat? Have your say below.