Saturday 22 July 2017

Eight years ago my son was heading into an eating disorder, but I was blissfully unaware...

Eight years ago this summer, my 15-year old son, Ben, was beginning to descend into something that was way, way beyond anything that had ever entered my psyche; something worse than my worst nightmares. But of course I was blissfully unaware that he was developing a potentially deadly eating disorder: anorexia. What I was aware of, however, that Ben was getting increasingly fussy around food. Ben, who used to eat anything and everything, had suddenly become mega health-conscious and an expert on 'healthy' nutrition. He'd also developed a passion for cooking which, at the time, I applauded. I even found it amusing as can be seen from the following blog post which I wrote on the 22nd July 2009 (8 years ago today!!) as part of a series for a regional newspaper and which I was reminded of this afternoon as Ben pummelled the dough for pizza:

Hubble, bubble, Ben is in trouble…

There’s something horrible in my kitchen. It ‘pops’ every so often and smells like… well… to be totally honest… like baby sick. Well, worse, actually.

The reason is that 15 year old Ben has suddenly decided to start cooking stuff.

The other week he made me buy a River Cottage cookbook on bread-making and ever-so-wholesome goodies have been coming out of my kitchen ever since.

As you can imagine everything smelled divine.

Until he got to Chapter Six.

Here the book introduces the concept of ‘wild yeast’. Now, I naively assumed this must be a bit like wild garlic. Something you pluck from the hedgerows, add to flour and water and - hey presto - you get bread.

But apparently not.

You ‘grow’ it at home which, of course, is bound to appeal to any man’s ‘chemistry experiments in the shed’ instinct.

The only problem is this stuff isn’t being grown in the shed; it’s being grown in my kitchen.

And it stinks.

It also makes noises as it occasionally ‘pops’, a bit like home brew, threatening to bubble over across my kitchen floor like some kind of swamp-like alien life form.

Basically it’s flour and water that’s been left to ‘ferment’ until it looks like a cross between Weston mud and volcano lava.

And the more it ferments, the worse the smell gets.

“So how long is this stuff staying in my kitchen?” I demand.

“Oh around 12 years or so”, he replies nonchalantly.


Apparently there’s a baker in Dorset that’s had his for 30 years. Worse, the book warns that “it may be with you for life”.

Oh brilliant. That’s going to make me really popular with visitors, not to mention business clients that visit the house. Me, trying to quickly explain what it is before noses begin to twitch and they start looking at me…

But meanwhile this stuff is gurgling away in my kitchen and smelling to high heaven.

And I’ve a feeling it’s going to get worse.

Apparently you’re supposed to ‘feed it’ every three to four days, then discard some and keep the rest, presumably making bread with it at some point.

And if the smell is anything to go by, goodness only knows what the bread will taste like…

Or indeed what colour it will be.

But hopefully the novelty will wear off and he’ll go back to baking nice-smelling bread with the more visitor-friendly fast-action yeast.

Otherwise as soon as he goes back to school, that stuff is going down the sink.

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