Today fast food is available at any place we go. Driving home after a long journey or a marathon shopping trip, how easy it is to pick up something for dinner. That way, when you get home you have no preparing to do, just eat what you take home.
This was unimaginable when I was a child. The only thing that could be considered “fast food” would be the local chip shop. Fish and chips or a steak pudding and chips was to be had either at lunchtime or from around 7.30 in the evening. However the cost of this convenience was rather prohibitive to most families so was a rare treat. On the rare occasions when we bought fish and chips, grandma took them home and we shared one single portion, usually bulked out with home made bread.
Those were the days of eat what you were given or don’t eat at all. I’m sure that most of today’s kids think this is an old wife’s tale, and that we were given the option of other foods, but not so. If you turned your nose up at a certain meal at lunchtime, it would reappear at dinner time, and the following day, until your resistance wore thin and you were too hungry to refuse the meal.
This didn’t seem cruel to us as we were genuinely poor and food was a source of nourishment. If it was pleasurable, that was a bonus, but most kids in my neighbourhood were used to eating what was offered. There was nearly always some kind of dessert to follow and this was the carrot dangled before the donkey, don’t eat dinner, don’t get dessert.
How many of us sat listening to the woes of children in foreign lands who would love to have what we were complaining about, they didn’t have good food, their stomachs rumbled with hunger, while we just complained. I remember once getting a smack and being put to bed without dinner when I suggested that my grandma give those poor children my horrible boiled corned beef and cabbage. To me the suggestion made perfect sense but grandma sa my waste of food as a sin. Grandma saw lots of things as a sin, especially wasting food.
My gran had a hard life, raising six children with a husband who spent all his wages in the local pub. She always had to do various jobs to keep her family fed. Unfortunately, she could not change her habits as she grew older. She now received a weekly “old age” pension but she saved this for some future emergency. When grandma passed away, my aunties found all sorts of bank notes tucked away between the pages of gran’s meagre book collection. This included many US dollars that my mom sent weekly. She had gone to live with cousins in the United States, when I was sixteen and regularly sent money to gran for treats.
There were probably hundreds of elderly people who didn’t adapt to the welfare state that came into being after WW11. Health care was now free and government assistance for the poor and elderly, was easily available. However many people couldn’t accept what they considered charity.
Many English children were considered undernourished so, after the war, the school meals plan came into effect. I grew up with this system and we had our main meal of the day at school. This would consist of meat or fish and two veg, usually with gravy. Some food would be yummy and enjoyable but certain meals were revolting. I could never eat most meats but especially liver. Some meat I could force down with the mashed potatoes but liver just wouldn’t go down my throat, without rebelling and coming up again. This was considered being wilful and caused me to miss many playtimes in the outdoors as kids who didn’t clear their plates were made to sit there the whole of dinner time.
The “dinner ladies” who came to work just for that occasion, were all mothers and all of the same opinion that you eat what you get, so many of us were forced to sit there and stare at our plates of congealing food, while our playmates enjoyed the school yard. A note would be sent home telling of your disobedience, so I would receive another instalment of the starving children in Africa speech, when I got home. Luckily, the rejected school meal was not brought out the next day and a new item would be available.
My mother did not approve of the way I brought up my children, she considered them spoiled as they were allowed a choice of foods. My children, of course, thought I was mean as I insisted they sit at the table until everyone was finished, even if they couldn’t clear their own plate. I followed through with the no dinner, no dessert rule, as I figured they could only get away with so much.
I sat tight lipped during mealtimes with my grandchildren, it wasn’t my business what their mothers did or did not make them eat. I figured this was not my fight so stayed out of it.
Of course, when I take any of my grandkids out they can pick and choose what they eat, if they want dessert, I am happy to buy it, whether the main course is finished or not. I do not have to be mean and lay down rules, they have parents for that. If there is a call for fast foods on the way home from outings, that is great. I can enjoy a side of fries and a milk shake as I drive, and I often do. I am a grown up and can please myself, isn’t life great?