Lobster and mash to go...

Sue Nelson

Sue Nelson

First published in Columnists
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TODAY marks the 54th anniversary of the world’s first potato flake plant opening for business in North Dakota. Bet you were gagging to know that little nugget of useless information.

Gagging, it has to be said, is the operative word. For although I’m the sort of person who will eat anything, the thought of instant mash – for that’s what potato flakes end up becoming when shown some boiling water – makes me want to gag. I’ve never liked it and liked those banal martian puppets that tin can-laughed across our telly screens in the Eighties even less. In fact, whenever they appeared, I wanted to Smash their faces in…

Strange the things that make you dislike certain foods isn’t it? I was talking to someone the other day who can’t abide lobster, which given they were telling me this less than a mile from where some of the best lobster in the world is landed, was somewhat sacrilegious.

Not surprisingly it all stemmed from her childhood. Her dad used to bring home live lobsters for the pot, and she and her little brother used to want to play with them on the kitchen floor. Apparently, a live lobster clacking its way over the linoleum was the nearest thing her four-year-old mind got to having a dog…

Her dad would banish them from the kitchen, close the door and do the Dirty Deed with the lobster pot. She can remember hearing them clanking their claws against the pot from the other side of the closed door as he prepared to despatch them and it’s remained with her ever since. However humanely the lobsters were disposed of it didn’t matter – they were her friends and there was absolutely no way she was ever going to eat them…

I used to work with someone who felt the same way about lamb. Her mum would walk her to school each day past the local village abattoir. Not that she knew it was one until she happened to glance across one morning to see a lamb being led to slaughter. She’s never touched it since.

This is also the person who balks if a smidgeon of stalk is inadvertently left on a green bean. Her exceedingly unromantic boyfriend of the time finally got his act together one Valentine’s Day and cooked her a meal to mark the occasion. Steak was on the menu, along with sautéed potato and green beans, the candles were lit, the red wine was breathing away nicely in its open bottle, and all was well with the world. She took her first mouthful – and projectile-vomited all over the table. It was the stalk left on the green bean that did it. Clearly his luck most definitely wasn’t in that night…

Talking of steak, I heard of someone who refuses to eat it since the day she cut into one and a maggot popped out to say hello. Whenever she goes out for a meal with friends she’ll order chicken or fish while keeping a wary eye on her dining companions’ plates as they tuck in.

And on the fish front, there’s someone I know who won’t even eat fish fingers in case she finds a bone in one. That probably stems from day she did battle with a kipper bone caught in her throat. That happened to me once and I was carted off to the local cottage hospital by my dad after chewing on and swallowing lumps of dry bread had failed to dislodge it.

It was a bit disconcerting to hear the doctor telling the nurse to hold me down as he came at me with a rather large pair of forceps, but it didn’t put me off. Oh no – offer me a pair of smoked kippers and I’ll bite your hand off.

Not a lot puts me off it has to be said. Apart from instant potato, that is. Many moons ago my dad was a weights and measures inspector and sometimes used to come home with dodgy samples of food he’d found on his visits which were kept overnight in the fridge at home until he could take them to the lab for analysis the following day. It would never happen now but this was the Seventies after all and well before environmental health became what it is today.

Anyway, on this particular occasion he’d brought back a piece of liver which when we opened the fridge the following morning, was so riddled with nasty stuff – god knows what – that it had wrapped itself round a milk bottle.

Caused us to falter a bit, if I’m honest. We put off having liver and onions for tea until the following night…

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