Grandma’s dinner table rules for children come back to bite her | BBC Radio Solent's Alun Newman

I would imagine that most people, if not all people reading this, had dinner table rules growing up.

By Alun Newman
Monday, 25th April 2022, 1:18 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 1:25 pm
No, you can't get down until you've eaten every last morsel...
Picture: Adobe Stock
No, you can't get down until you've eaten every last morsel... Picture: Adobe Stock

The rules I’m referring to are those that stipulate whether or not you had to finish your food before getting down from the table.

Let me give you an example. I was brought up with this command.

‘You can’t get down from the table unless you’ve eaten everything on your plate.’

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It was a common, no-nonsense piece of parental legislation.

I’m not sure why it was so popular. I’m guessing it was a ‘post-war’ moment that could be translated into: ‘If you only knew how lucky you are to have this food, you’d eat it all with a thankful smile.’

It is because of this rule that now, even in my fifties, I have a ‘bit of everything’.

I can eat most things and I still get rid of what I don’t really like, first.

Brussels’ sprouts are an obvious example, although I admit I have warmed to these provocative vegetables.

We were lucky in the 1970s, as we could have as much salt as we liked.

Nobody thought twice about the white, Everest peak on our plate in which we dipped potatoes or used it to mask the impact of an offending vegetable (those sprouts).

Sadly the 1980s brought a slow end to our love affair with salt.

A friend of mine still recounts to this day crying at the dinner table as he wrestled with the mental torment of ‘peas’.

If he failed, then he knew they would reappear at breakfast.

My Aunty Ginny famously served my cousin 'last night’s' beef stew while we watched during our morning cornflakes.

It was a terrifying yet brilliant way to train consumption.

Part of this, is of course, about being polite. Grateful. Thankful that we had food on our plates.

For my own family, we redrew the battle lines.

Our family rule was this: ‘You don’t have to eat everything, but you can’t have pudding if you don’t.’

I felt it was a bit less ‘Herr Kommandant’ and a touch more empowering.

It worked a treat. Again, the purpose is a sense of grateful appreciation and driving out the fussy.

It’s never an inspiring moment when the ‘friend’ comes over for the school play date and you’re told they only eat chips, beans and triple-layered baked Alaska. You accommodate them through gritted teeth and you know that your own children have just realised they have an untapped source of power.

The reason for my reflections on food and manners this week is because of Easter.

We had a lovely family get-together hosted by my little sister (actually quite old but I can’t seem to move on). There were people everywhere and ages ranged from six to 78. Everyone was having fun.

The food was glorious. Roast lamb, potatoes and some delicious slow-cooked, Jamie Oliver beans and garlic.

When we were half-way through eating my brother-in-law announced. ‘Oh! Keep your eyes peeled for the herb tea bag in the beans.’

This was not of any real interest until my mum said: ‘Oh, that’s what it was. I didn’t want to be rude. So I ate it!’

Cue uproar and delight from the children.

There were two herb tea bags (bouquet garni) in the mix. One was found and shown to grandma.

Was it this? It was inspected. Yes, was the reply.

How did it taste? ‘Modern. Not something I’d choose, however, I thought I’d give it a go.’

It will of course never be forgotten in the recounting of family history.

I’m happy to say my mum survived the high herb intake. Most importantly she maintained her 100 per cent record of not leaving the table until she’d finished her meal.

THE RISE AND RISE OF ELECTRIC CARS

One in six cars now sold is electric. Caution is needed with those figures as they’re up against low car sales generally and also include cars sold to lease and hire companies. But the tide is changing, there's no doubt.

One of the key issues for electric cars is something known as ‘range anxiety’. Or, put another way, no-one wants to turn up at their mother-in-law's and ask if it’s okay to run an extension lead out of the bedroom window. Also, no-one is keen on the idea of staying an extra four hours while you wait for the battery to get up to 50 per cent.

The next wave of mid-cost electric cars should manage between 260 and 320 miles. I say mid-cost but who’s got £40-£50K so you can cart a sofa and two armchairs to the shop to get a pint of milk? I wonder whether the future of car-buying has to be the ‘as and when’ model.

Thought to be one of the first in the UK, a new company has started this on an app. It only has electric cars. You book for the dates you need. Its location is given to you. You collect with an entry code and then you’re off.

Owning a car may become a thing of the past or simply reserved for those with loads of money or a business to push it through. All that aside. I must confess. I really do fancy having one.

They are quick, quiet and super cool. They’re the closest thing to owning KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand) from Knightrider and that’s all I’ve ever dreamed of. If I can speak into my watch to summon my car to collect me, then my life will be complete.