I am nearly 30 and my mother still cuts my fruit up for me. In this sentence is everything you need to know about our relationship. Indeed, it’s only twelve years since I discovered that mandarins came with pips in them. Mum used to carefully remove them before placing the fruit on the table. It wasn’t until I moved out of home that I discovered the horrible truth that I would have to extract my own mandarin seeds. That’s the first piece of background you’ll need today.
The second thing is that I am extremely petulant. When I’m told in hyperbolic extortions that I MUST watch [insert popular TV show here – yesterday it was The Wire] I instinctively reject the entire show (whilst simultaneously being so evangelical in my need to get everyone to watch Outlander that only my gender and lack of tie distinguishes me from Mormon proselytisers). My ego is so fragile that I want the discovery for myself, and the knowledge that my taste is a little outside the norm.
So combine extraordinary maternal devotion and a daughter’s petulance and you might go some way to understanding why I am nearly 30 and having regular arguments with my mother about not wanting to try new foods.
You see, my mother is on a quest to single-handedly cure my auto-immune disease. Growing up, our family debates demanded you brought peer-reviewed sources to accompany your statements. “I heard on morning television” would earn a red card straight away. Yet, when it comes to miracle foods, my mother – through a fog of love and hope – will take a punt on the word of everything from New Idea to New Scientist.
The foods I might have been happily eating one moment will become ruined the second I am told about their designation as a super food. That’s when I turn into a toddler.
Every couple of months, a whisper of incredible results! pain gone! cured! thanks to eating certain foods will reach my mother’s ears. From there, it is a very short trip to my fridge. It starts with carefully clipped columns earnestly pressed into my hands. Then starts the “you should eat…”, then little parcels mysteriously appear in my fridge.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of food that has elbowed its way into my fridge:
- purple vegetables
- apple cider vinegar
- raw honey
- fish oil (not capsules – which aren’t powerful enough, apparently – but oil that I was to drink which had lime flavouring that couldn’t possibly outstrip the horrible oily fish taste so just left the most vomit-inducing strong, acidic fish taste. And swallowing oil is awful)
Kimchi was my favourite.
Mum: I’ve just read about how wonderful kimchi is for inflammatory conditions
Naomi: yes, that’s because it’s a fermented vegetable and like sauerkraut (which I eat a lot of) it has pro-biotics that are good for gut health
Mum: (ignoring me) it’s fermented spiced vegetable dish…
Naomi: I know. I’ve had it often. In fact, I had it on my breakfast burrito last week.
Mum: … like a Korean sauerkraut.
Naomi: Dude. I know. This is not a mystery to me. I quite like kimchi.
Mum: SO I’VE PUT ONE KILO OF KIMCHI IN YOUR FRIDGE THAT YOU SHOULD ADD TO EVERY MEAL.
Naomi: I’m never eating kimchi again.
We are currently in the Age of Turmeric.
Mum’s efforts aren’t limited to food: every week I’m goaded to try meditation, try yoga, try mindfulness, try try try try. But every day I’m trying. Trying to get out of bed. Trying not to let pain and immobility and fatigue and sickness stop me from living. Trying to do all stretches/exercises/planning/resting that might mean I get through a day without collapse. Being told I should try harder, try more is soul-crushing.
My petulance is a protective mechanism against the fact that so far the only impact of a diet high in something has been mildly interesting wee. I need to not be disappointed every time something doesn’t work. If I were, I don’t know how I’d have survived nearly a decade of gradual declines, of failed trials. Not getting my hopes up is very different to giving up hope.
Mum knows this, but we continue to play our merry little game. Why? Because Mum is devoting to her cause – me – the energy, attention and positivity that I have lost. Because Mum is doing the hoping for two. Because I know her desperate attempts to do something are driven by the unbearable impotence of being unable to help. And, in return, to her I devote a grudging willingness to try. Even the bloody fish oil. Because I see her pain too, I see her efforts as the parcels of help and love that they are. Because I would do the same for her. Because one day they might decide that a nice shiraz and cured meat are the next cure for everything. Because I love her, and know she loves me.
And because I am nearly 30 and my mother still cuts up my fruit for me.