Saturday, 22 July 2017

Another post where I was blissfully unaware of what was happening...

Here's another post which I wrote for that newspaper back in the summer of 2009 as I continued to be blissfully unaware that my son, Ben, was sinking into an eating disorder. Had I been aware that boys and men can get eating disorders, then the alarm bells might have been ringing, but it was a couple more months before they began to tinkle - purely and simply because I was completely ignorant of eating disorder symptoms, especially in boys. If you've read my book, Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia, you'll recognise some of this text which I adapted for one of the chapters.

What’s Ben cooking up now?

Wow! I think we’ve just moved into a Michelin starred restaurant. Since 15-year old Ben discovered he’s a 'natural' at cooking, you wouldn’t believe the dishes we've been served up for dinner!

Last night we had wine, oil and thyme roasted butternut squash stuffed with Moroccan couscous (17 separate ingredients) plus a watercress and tomato salad with horseradish dressing which he rustled up to go with it.

On Saturday it was melt-in-the-mouth griddled rump steaks with Scotch bonnet pepper sauce and mushroom and pimiento side. Accompanied by fresh aromatic herb and olive oil bread – and all made by Ben's fair hands!

Lunch was pittas stuffed with a delicious mix of tuna, peppers, cucumber and salad with marmite dressing. Desert was slow baked rice and sultana pudding infused with star anise and cinnamon sticks, served with warm apricot coulis.

There’s even a breakfast option of (low fat) blueberry and apricot muffins with chopped fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Comment: Although  Ben was serving up all this stuff, if I'd looked a little closer I would have noticed that he was avoiding eating it - or only eating a little, accompanied by tons of plain salad.

In fact the only thing that hasn’t been a massive success is the sourdough bread mentioned earlier in this blog. (Yes, it tasted like sourdough, but it was a bit brick-like. And I never could quite shake off the feeling I was eating that evil-smelling concoction that’s been gurgling away in our kitchen for over a month…)

Meanwhile cookery books are the new X-box as Ben makes long lists of what he’s going to cook next.

("You won’t have to cook for the next 12 months, Mum!" / "Suits me", I say, brain-dead from umpteen years of slaving over a hot stove every night.)

Plus, he's watching all those cookery programmes that seem to have come back into vogue recently. Hairy Bikers, Jamie Oliver, River Cottage, Levi Roots, Nigel Slater, Master Chef… he’s glued to them all.

He’s even started to love aubergines, courgettes and mushrooms which were the only three things he refused to eat.

I am now in the enviable position of having a teenager that will eat ANYTHING! And the healthier (and usually spicier), the better.

Comment: Although I thought he was eating everything, he wasn't - and the new passion for vegetables was all about reducing calories.

This of course has led to Ben become a kind of Food Policeman. If I want to treat myself to sinful stuff like cookies or chocolate I have to literally 'sneak' them into the house and hide them.

When he comes shopping with me he whips the offending items out of the trolley and back onto the shelf – Rolo soft-bake cookies being the latest casualty that never made it into my mouth. ("You don’t need that, Mum!" he barks. "Yes I do", I whine, "I’ve had a bad day…")

Comment: The start of the 'food police' insisting on coming shopping with me to the supermarket and policing what I was buying to ensure it fell within his increasingly rigid standards.

And woe betides if I suggest we take short cuts with ready-made sauces or spice blends. "That’s cheating, Mum!" / "Yes but it’s quick, Ben…")

But one thing Ben doesn’t seem to have mastered is the art of clearing up after himself.

The kitchen permanently looks as if a bomb's gone off and suddenly he's far too busy with school work to do the washing up ("It's GCSEs this year you know, Mum.")

And whenever I need something from the cupboard or fridge it's vanished, absorbed into the latest culinary delight.

So what's on the menu in the future? Sushi plus healthy things in filo pastry on Christmas Eve, and he’s even offering to cook Christmas lunch.

But no mince pies, chocolate logs, gooey creamy goodies or Christmas cake as, apparently, we're all going on a health kick…

Comment: He talked a lot about how we were going to 'eat healthily' at Christmas. But never in my worse nightmares could I have predicted that, by Christmas, Ben would be neck-deep in an eating disorder that was escalating out of control. Our lives were about to be turned upside down.

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