Breast-feeding, according to the child experts, is to be recommended. It isn’t only a matter of nutrition. A child’s future personality is also nurtured by it. It helps, apparently, with confidence-building. But what about when you’ve been weaned and are confronted with food you dislike?
Quite a few foods shook my four-year–old confidence in the possibility of survival and I am, to this day, apprehensive when friends invite me home for dinner. Suppose the hostess has prepared some cordon bleu dish I simply cannot eat?
I wonder if most people disliked certain foods when they were little. Movie stars don't look as though anything could have fazed them. Did spinach ever shake the confidence of any of the famous actors? Did Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and Shakira, for instance, like rhubarb and custard when they were three or four? What was Brad Pitt’s tolerance for broccoli? Did Johnny Depp relish eggs? My guess is they took everything in their stride as they seem to do today.
But, as one of the rest, I hated eggs as a small child. A cousin of mine, whom I knew when he was three and I was fourteen, just didn’t want to eat anything. “Naah!” he would yell when a plate of food was put before him. Then, he would jump off his chair and dash for the garden.
His mother would run after him, the plate in one hand and, as often as not, his pyjama jacket, which he had wrenched himself out of as she grabbed at him, in the other. They would run several times round the garden. It was a futile exercise. He never ate whatever it was he was supposed to. He seemed only to drink milk.
I sympathised with him. I also envied his getting away with such behaviour. My mother would have given me a resounding wallop.
But it was my grandmother most of the time who presided when my brother and I were eating at breakfast and our parents were downing coffee and hurrying off to work. Gran was more tolerant and, for whatever the reason, I never thought of escaping into the garden.
There were several foods I couldn’t, or wouldn’t eat. Spinach, okras and semolina pudding were high on the list, but those didn’t appear on the table every day. Eggs, however, were another matter. We were confronted with them almost daily at breakfast.
Gran fried them, boiled them, poached them and scrambled them. No go.
Fortunately, Gran didn’t sit at the table, eagle-eyeing us all the time. She busied herself between the dining-room and the pantry fetching this and that. So, when her back was turned, I was sometimes able to throw a fried egg under the table, or put it on my knee for Sam or Suzy, one of our Labrador retrievers to slurp up.
My younger brother, Yazeed, seems to me to have been exceptional. He could—and did—eat everything put before him. Gran sometimes said: “Yazeed puts himself outside the food. He surrounds it. You barely put it inside you. ” He later turned into a self-confident Gulliver of six foot among his 11-year-old peers.
In desperation, one day, Gran chopped up a boiled egg, melted butter into it, and tried to spoon-feed me like a baby. The humiliation was great, but the block to eating wasn’t that. It was the smell. I threw up.
Then, one day, the family went on holiday. My mother ordered a baked egg at breakfast the first morning at the hotel. To my amazement, it smelt really good and I ordered one myself the next day. The egg was buried under a crust of melted Cheddar and Stilton cheese and under the egg were chopped onions, olives, tomatoes, basil and garlic cooked in butter.
Ah, the aroma! The taste! Scrumptious! My egg problem was suddenly solved. Gran was delighted.
Many years later I discovered why grownups are so insistent on children eating eggs. My children were never fussy about food, thank Heaven, but a paediatrician once told my wife: “If you can get them to eat an egg in the morning, you needn’t worry about what they eat the rest of the day. Eggs are an almost perfect food. ”
Incidentally, just in case you want to try a baked egg on your kid, you need to know it takes 17 minutes at 180 degrees C in my pre-heated convection oven to get the yoke into a non-runny state. Maybe you can improve on the speed by raising the temperature. I keep it at 180 C in line with the instructions for my ovenware. I hope, though, you only want to give your kid a change of fare and that you have a beautiful child who likes all food and will become a star.
(C) Copyright Yasseen
Yasseen Yasseen is the author of a coming-of-age book called Emigrating Home, which was sparked by his being called into both the British and Egyptian armies when the two countries, were in conflict. A dual national, he was caught up in an almost insoluble dilemma since he loved both countries. This is the story of his journey from his birthplace, Jamaica, a British colony at the time, to school in Britain, to his father’s country, Egypt. Told in fiction form, the tale ends with Yasseen in Cairo trying to get a grip on things that seemed to spin out of control because, while he spoke no Arabic, he looked like a national and nobody took him for a tourist.
Yasseen has spent his working life in radio, TV and newspaper journalism, in the Middle East - in Egypt, Oman and Dubai.
He is currently working for a newspaper and is trying to find time to write a novel and a sequel to Emigrating Home.
You can visit his website at: http://www.emigratinghome.com/