"Look at my chicken lumps Daddy!"
My wife is a better cook than you. I'm sorry to break that to you, but she is. She can cook food that makes your mouth think that the food you've just put in your mouth is secretly having sex with your tongue. She's the sort of good cook that - up until pretty recently (say 5 or 6 years ago) we didn't really buy snacks. Mostly this is because we're both cheap (I don't think we bought a bag of potato chips until we'd been married for 5 years first) but really it's also because she makes snacks out of empty cupboards that are just much much better. Even more importantly she's the sort of person who would watch those TV shows where they'd take some guy who only ate microwave curry and show him how to make "real" curry - and then they'd say that they preferred the $1.99 frozen one.
That used to drive her nuts because it didn't make sense. I still remember an animated conversation she had with me a good 6 or 7 years ago where she expressed bewilderment that someone she knew ate great food when his wife made it, but was perfectly happy to eat a bun-less microwaved hotdog for dinner if she didn't. I seem to remember my response being, "....ketchup sandwich." With me then pointing out that for the periods of our relationship where we lived in different countries that at least fifty percent of the time my only food for the day was a cheese sandwich - or if I had no cheese - a ketchup sandwich and I was perfectly content with that. In other words crap food is just another type of food that's not inherently inferior as far as taste goes (nutritionally and often-times ethically it's a completely different story). It's just a choice.
Basically this is a long-winded set up to the fact that my wife likes to pile all her food up in the middle of her plate, mash it all together to make some sort of lumpy paste and then eat it that way. All those individual foods - with their own tastes and textures - plopped together in a fat multicolored hockey puck. Like a hotdog patty. To me that's barbaric. I am more proud of my wife than you can imagine - but this is one of a few things that I actually feel embarrassment, shame and (sometimes) anger about. The other main one being ashamed of someone who has just had at least eight hours of sleep being completely non-functional even an hour after they've gotten up. But the slurry-ball of food is just strange. But then I'm so rigid about how to eat that I have to eat foods in an order - starch, vegetable and then meat if there is one is generally the routine. I didn't use to mix food at all - the very idea of eating two things of different textures was just anathema to me. Even crap food - like beans on toast - was eaten so that toast and beans would be eaten separately. Which itself fetched disdainful judgmental looks from my wife as she watched me pile beans on the toast only to scrape them all off again two minutes later.
So my thinking on how I'd like my kids to eat their meals pretty much involved the notion that they eat in a civil manner and recognize they have opposable thumbs. As any British expat will tell you - watching some Americans eat like they're trying to stab a flag into each item of food (it's a national DNA thing that extrapolates out to foreign policy as well) is an appalling thing to witness. Especially as they hold a fork upside down like an ice-pick in the right hand with the other hand free - presumably to reach for a concealed pistol to shoot furriners with. There are even videos celebrating it as a cultural plus - although the detail in it makes it look like a human eating as opposed to an angry chimpanzee infected with the Rage Virus from 28 Days Later trying to stab someone to death. This is pretty close but still looks too human and doesn't show the handover of fork to the other hand and being held in the same way to stuff massive hunks of flavorless beef steak into a mouth.
But for some reason I see my way of eating as a model of some sort for my kids. I assumed they'd hold their cutlery correctly and then go around their plate eating food like a civilized human being. Not that my wife doesn't apart from the tendency to pile food like a dragon piling gold. So it was with some surprise that yesterday my daughter took the pile of rice on her plate, the other pile of chicken and white bean chili, and the splodge of sour cream and mashed it into an unrecognizable blob. At which point she asked me to look at her chicken lumps. Oh I gave her a look alright. And then said something like, "and you claim to be English...." with a not-really-fake look of pity. I can even admit that I was more ashamed of my daughter at that point than I was later on when my daughter was having a bath and asked if I wanted to see her, "play this water flute with my willy." Obviously I pointed out all of the ways that was wrong ethically and biologically. To which she simply answered, "I know I don't have a willy Daddy. I have a trolley instead."
And yet all I could think of was her vile chicken lump.