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Frites belges

Eating glorious twice cooked Belgian chips with loads of mayonnaise out in public (no wonder I like them)

I’ve covered this before but no doubt will have to cover it again until I’m done.

No “childish” foods: mash potato, ice cream, too much gravy, nuggets and the like.

No common / working class foods: the label might be inappropriate but no tinned baked beans, no brown sauce, no salad cream, no fish-fingers.

No pre-prepared foods: I don’t remember ever having any type of ready made food and that includes jars of sauces. My mum lies about using stock cubes to my dad.

No sweets: my mum used to make puddings: stodgy filling crumbles and a superb lemon and meringue pie. Proper puddings for dinners with guests. But that all stopped. My dad likes lemon sorbet (with a shot of vodka), lemon tart and the occasional tarte tatin. But no overdosing on chocolate or sweet stuff or cream. My mum used to make her own yoghurt which again, wasn’t really sweet.

Diet foods: my mum was on endless diets and we definitely had naughty foods. If you’re going to eat empty calories, make them high quality foods. Other than some of the summer fruits my parents always had a fruit bowl with oranges and apples that they forced themselves to eat because it’s good for you.

Eating rules: no eating outside on the street (it’s common); no eating with your hands (it’s just bad manners) and I still horrify my parents by eating chips with my fingers; even picking at bones should be done with a knife and fork; use the correct utensils (fish knives, chopsticks, cob holders, whatever).

I have never known my father to drink more than 2 pints in a pub (other than finishing my mother’s off). He’d exclaim if I wanted to drink beer with a meal out as wine is the proper accompaniment although he did soften to eating beer with Indian food. The last time we went out for a meal my parents had cider and I had a cocktail (two, actually). That got comments. My dad used to prepare a sort of cocktail as an aperitif, but not the sort you’d buy. I stuck to beer when he started including Cinzano.

So these are all my parents rules. I’ve added my own:

  • cook from scratch (it’s healthier and tastes better as long as you cook)
  • no artificial additives, flavouring, sweeteners
  • consider the environment; use up leftovers

I have genuinely lost the ability to enjoy puddings and yoghurts. I love lemon sorbet but I’ve gone off chocolate ice cream. I’ve started forcing myself to have jam or peanut butter on toast in the mornings in the hope that I’ll stop feeling guilty about rule-breaking. I’ve narrowed my food choices down so far that I rotate through a very limited choice which is boring. I have noticed that as I’ve got older I’m loving the vegetables that my mum used to eat for herself and rave about them without trying to force me to eat them: spinach and spring greens. I love courgettes and mushrooms. But these don’t feel like guilty pleasures.

It’s actually quite terrifying how I’ve absorbed some of these rules so much I’m not even aware the rules are there. Which is of course what therapy is there for.