That gravy’s not right, you know…

   My father is a foodie.  Embark upon a conversation with him and no matter what the topic, within a few sentences the subject will turn to food with an inexorable inevitability unmatched by either moon or tide.  The vittles referred to will not necessarily be a culinary masterpiece; even the most mundane picnic might elicit enthusiastic reminiscences.  That egg sandwich in Portaferry.  The mussels from Polbain pier.  The succulent melon in Aix en Provence.  Those chips from the van at the side of the road on the way to Chalons-sur-Saone.

“Now they were de-li-cious chips.  Frites. You don’t get chips like that over here.  You see they don’t like using fat anymore…”
And he’s off.  His nostalgia will prompt a long soliloquoy regarding some aspect of the food in question, of little or no interest to his despairing audience but entered into with unquestionable gusto on his part.

Sitting down to a meal with guests, our mother will throw topics for discussion out across the table with a kind of wild-eyed desperation; be it horror stories of maimed patients brought into the Recovery unit where she worked as a nurse, or the colour of the buttons in the lift at the new shopping centre.  Anything to prevent my father broaching the subject of the meal on everyone’s plates.  And despite her best efforts dad will wait no more than a few initial mouthfuls before blundering in with a culinary interruption, unrepentant of its irrelevance to the conversation.  Like a drunk rugby player bursting through the doors of a playgroup, clutching his slopping pint glass and bellowing about the consistency of the gravy.

Dad can spend hour upon hour in Tesco, to the point that he is now dispatched alone to do the weekly shop because my mother simply cannot bear it.  Boy will on no account enter a supermarket with Grandpa unless there is a strict promise of toys en route, and even then the trip will be punctuated with heavy sighing and pantomime bored faces as Dad agonises over which piece of fish to select.  My father’s food compulsion has haunted all of our family holidays,  particularly in Germany where he tried gamely not to let the language barrier impede his foraging.  With the single-mindedness of a truffle pig, he sniffed out giant olives at the market in Freiburg, which with one bitter suck were identified as something to cook or make oil with, certainly not carry around in a tub with a toothpick and nibble at.  His strawberry jam from the Netto was selected for its higher price tag, the reason for which was later identified by its bland taste and the large Für Diabetiker label stuck to the front of the jar.  And his delicious soft cheese, with  its unpleasant, grey hue, elicited some raised eyebrows as he sunk his teeth into the crusty bread; my dad, it transpires, does not know the German for ‘yeast’.

In the end, we have learned to ignore dad’s obsession.  One or other of the family members at a meal may still get embroiled inadvertently in his food conversations, realising too late that they are discussing the merits of soda farle over pan loaf.  At this point the unwitting victim will look beseechingly toward the rest of the diners.  Their response, however, will mirror that of a group of friends in a tube carriage trying not to acknowledge the existence of the psychotic-looking chav sporting a Burberry hat and a bottle of Buckfast: they will continue talking animatedly with each other and – at all costs – avoid eye contact.

However, what is both an annoyance and a joke to his family and friends, is a clear and unswerving passion for my father.  And having no passions of my own, bar the kids, I can’t fault him for his.  I don’t doubt that the dates of his children’s and grandchildren’s birthdays remain a mystery to him, but at the end of the day I bet he could describe in minute detail each and every one of the cakes.

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2 Responses to That gravy’s not right, you know…

  1. mrshev says:

    Great post! Last paragraph says more in four lines about your relationship with your father that the previous four paragraphs. Excellent work, lady!

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