The Magic Helmet

In the name of love, some people turn a simple spoon into an airplane or ‘chew chew’ train to get their children to eat. Sometimes it works. Not always. Papa wore a helmet. It worked like magic. Do you remember what your loved ones did to get you to eat your food? How do you get your kids to eat now? 

Nana and Papa could get us to eat pretty much anything when we were little. It was probably one of the first examples of effective teamwork that I can recall. A bit like the Jamaican relay track team. Our meals were meticulously cut into tiny bite sized morsels by Papa. He could make perfectly symmetrical miniature dice out of any meat. Likewise, he could cut up spaghetti so fine that it resembled rice. Once he had finished and only then, he would pass the baton over to Nana who would make up our bowls of food, usually accompanied by rice, her very own unique macaroni pie or meat sauce. She would then return the baton to Papa who would in turn, work his magic on the home stretch. It was quite the ingenious process.

I am not exactly sure if all this effort was because we were picky children or if Nana was worried that we might choke on our food. I do know that everything they did was rooted in love. Nana firmly belief that fattening up a child was a worthy cause. Every bowl was stirred together with Nana’s secret ingredient: butter. I think when I was young I truly believed that dinner was meant to be shiny. Check my lips in the photo below if you don’t believe me.

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Me (right) being fed by Papa wearing the magic helmet.

Do you remember when my sister snipped off all my curls? I only mention it because the mangy photo above would have been taken not long after that haircut. My unqualified hairdresser of a sister is looking on in the middle, still feeling pretty proud by the look on her face.

Nana actually had two metal covers. We called them helmets because they reminded us of those old war time helmets worn by British soldiers in battle. They were the perfect prop for some of our shenanigans. One was missing the black knob at the top. No one wanted that one. Both were dented from falls as we ran through the house.

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Two decades later, on a trip home to Barbados, we asked Papa to help feed our first wearing the helmet. For old times sake. He happily obliged and took great delight.

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Papa wearing the helmet while feeding our daughter. Barbados. 2000.

Today, I still secretly prefer eating my food all mixed together, preferably in a bowl. Very unladylike but as the saying goes: old habits die hard. There is nothing quite like a one pot meal… chilli, stew, risotto, pilau, soup, porridge are just a few that come to mind. It’s the height of simple comfort. When no one is around, if I make spaghetti, I often attempt to cut up my spaghetti as fine as I can. And yet, I am never able to replicate Papa’s precision, no matter how hard I try. It’s simply what my brain remembers and loves.

*   *   *   *

It should then not come as a surprise that I used Nana and Papa’s chop, mix, and butter routine with our kids. I thought it worked pretty well until our fourth. I wish Nana and Papa were here to feed him a bowl of buttery food but he was born several years after they had both passed. Little did I know that despite my best intentions, including giving him David as his middle name, he would become my Goliath.

The day I let our son wear the helmet,  I unknowingly handed all the power to him. When dinner time rolls around, I am powerless and feel like all my batons have been removed. At six, he is my most determined child to use food as his control mechanism.  What will his brain remember when he grows up? And yes, the cliche is true: the baby of the family always gets away with…

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Not forever though. I already see change on the horizon. There may be value in a good old bribe. It works. I can get him to leave just about anywhere with a mere mention of a piece of bubble gum. Just the other day I got him to eat sliced cucumbers by offering him a juice box instead of the water or milk he usually gets. Bribery is my new butter and sugar is the new magic. I know. Not the best choice but for now, it is good enough. Mark my words, this Goliath is going down.

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2 thoughts on “The Magic Helmet

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Rachel,
    Cherish those memories. Haven’t been able to hook up with you on skype recently.
    Will be at home all evening so maybe you could give me a call anytime this evening.
    Love dad.

    Like

  2. Mum says:

    Beautiful story Rach, your writing is brilliant. You have such an accurate memory of your childhood which never fails to amaze me! xoxo

    Like

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