Doing battle at dinner (again)

Despite having not lived in the UK for just under 10 years, I’m still pretty English.

DH (who’s American) would agree: You can take the girl out of England, but not the English out of the girl, we say.

Mostly our different backgrounds complement each other, but if there’s one thing that DH does that annoys me, it’s when he CORRECTS me in everyday conversation.

For example, I’ll ask him (politely) if he can take something out of the boot, and he’ll shrug his shoulders and pretend he doesn’t know what the boot is. “The trunk, you mean?” he’ll say, in a soft mid-Atlantic accent.

And I refuse to back down. The way I speak, my British spellings and British tastes are so deeply ingrained, it’s like I’m holding onto them for dear life – and living in an expat society such as ours, I’m sure they define me.

This theory also applies, to some extent, to food. We’re lucky enough in Dubai to have access to all kinds of restaurants, from Lebanese to Vietnamese, sushi to Indian. While I enjoy most of these cuisines very much, occasionally all I really want is a shepherd’s pie, or fish and chips.

If only they'd open one in our compound
If only they’d open one in our compound

Or bangers ‘n’ mash, or a greasy spoon …. a proper sausage roll. I could go on.

What has become glaringly obvious, however, is that my expat children are having none of it. To my dismay, they reject nearly all my favourite English foods.

Case study: Chez Circles, yesterday evening
I’m in the kitchen, making an old staple: beef stroganoff with mashed potato and broccoli. It’s bubbling away nicely, smells delicious and I’m just waiting for the potatoes to cook so I can add butter and milk and pummel them to fluff with the masher.

BB comes in. “Mummy, are you cooking?” [clue no.1 as to what’s going on]. “What are you making?”

Then, “OH.NO. Not pie. Oh please Mummy, not pie.”

I made shepherd’s pie last week and the two of them sat at the table for a whole hour while DH and I practically force-fed them in a culinary stand-off.

BB’s eyes actually start shining with fright. “No darling, it’s not pie,” I say glumly.

We sit down to eat, I tuck in. DH politely does the same. I have a hopeful look on my face that this meal will be a success.

“WE.DON’T.LIKE.IT,” they wail, wiping the smile off my face in an instant and leaving me grinding my molars in frustration.

“Maybe you should have done rice,” says DH, quietly (clue no. 2).

Through clenched teeth, I tell them I used to eat potatoes every day when I was a girl, that mashed potatoes are yummy and that they’re being ungrateful. And then I try shock tactics and tell them (for the hundredth time) about the starving children in Africa.

BB eats slowly and silently. LB fidgets on his chair.

I go back into the kitchen to pour more wine, pondering to myself how my children could possibly dislike food I grew up on (the answer, of course, is that their taste buds lean towards Asia rather than England, because our Filipina helper cooks rice for them more often than I care to admit).

And that’s when I heard the yelling: “Mumm-eeeee, QUICK. EMERGENCY!” shouts BB.

His brother has reluctantly taken a few bites…and vomited. Everywhere. Bringing the meal to an unceremonious end.

[Thinks: it might be time to reclaim the kitchen – and use ear plugs at the dinner table.]

7 thoughts on “Doing battle at dinner (again)

  1. I’m sure it’s a virus and has *nothing* to do with your cooking! There’s really no accounting for taste in expat kids, is there? When Son#1 was here for Christmas, he wanted to go out for Korean food every chance he got. Son#2 (who has it all the time) preferred Pho. We spent most of Christmas vacillating between Korean and Vietnamese restaurants.
    PS – and keep right on with using your own language, I say!! Maybe you should use your DHs tactic back on him every time he says ‘trunk’ or ‘hood’…..

  2. Oh no! What a disaster. You just know they will bring that incident up every time you cook something they don’t want to eat! Kids have memories that store all that stuff up, don’t they?

  3. I shall consider myself very fortunate then that my daughter loves Tex Mex! Poor you, that must be really frustrating. As for the husband correcting British/American English, harrumph to that! My English husband does that do me all the time. Well… I tell a lie. He used to, now it’s less frequent after I gave him one too many Looks.

  4. Pretty Eyes says:

    Hmm I do strongly believe that there are starving kids everywhere in the world and not just in Africa you know?

    Having toured several continents and lived in the UK for awhile, I can definitely tell you that there are starving kids in the UK as well.

    Perhaps next time you should try using that as a reference instead of Africa.

    Yes, i’m African by origin.

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