Wednesday 26 September 2007

Feeding Size Zero Mother (with no help whatsoever from Nigella Lawson)

I have been a bit down lately. Nothing warranting hugs or pictures (honestly, truly, please don't), just a low-level not-as-good-as-I-should-be. Partly it’s because I’ve had a recurrence of the reactive arthritis I developed after catching a virus in Italy three years ago. But mainly it’s because Size Zero mother is doing her level best to drive me demented. Her weird eating habits have been getting so extreme of late that Something Had To Be Done. I tried to get her meals on wheels but, faced with her incredibly long (and in many parts totally inexplicable) list of culinary pass-nots, they shrugged their shoulders and ran for the door. Supermarket read-meals are a no-go area for much the same reason. So now I am cooking for her, running up batches of food, freezing them and racing them over every so often.
This is, shall we say, challenging as the list of ingredients she is ‘allergic’ to or ‘intolerant’ of runs to, at the last count: red meat; wheat and all wheat products; dairy produce (cow); potatoes; onions; tomatoes; celery; nuts; seeds; corn; mushrooms; kidney beans; cauliflower; peas; fruit; dried fruit (apart from bananas and occasionally plums). And that’s just this week. Also, everything has to be cooked until it more or less falls apart in the pan so her teeth can cope. When I try to tell her that this severely limits what I can cook, she more or less tells me I lack imagination.
‘Have you watched Nigella?’ she asks imperiously.
Er, no Mum, I’m too busy catching up on work or cooking to watch TV. Obviously I don’t say that – I just shake my head mutely.
‘Well, she uses leeks instead of onions. She says they’re much easier.’
‘Don’t really see that, Mum. After all, what could be easier than onions? Leeks need all that cleaning to get out the gritty bits.’
‘Oh no. Absolutely not. Nigella says you can get them ready cleaned.’
‘From where? Waitrose?’
‘Oh no. Everywhere does them. Nigella says so.’
Does she really?
‘Anyway. There are positively tons of things I can eat. I love vegetables.’
‘Yes but Mum, it’s pretty hard when you don’t eat tomatoes, onions, potatoes or mushrooms – most recipes seem to use those.’
‘Well, I gave you a book with recipes I could eat.’
Er, yes. Like ratatouille for example, with spidery writing dictating: ‘No onions, use peppers not tomatoes’. Hmm, so not really ratatouille then.
‘Well, you should watch the programme, Jane. Nigella knocks up these wonderful meals in next to no time. It’s really easy. She does it with all her friends round too.’
I’m not sure who I want to murder most – mother or Nigella. Truly, it’s a nightmare.

Yesterday I had to take her to the doctor’s as she has come off all her medication and is ‘feeling weird.’ Small wonder really as most normal people a) talk to their doctor before merrily stopping taking Betablockers, Digoxin, Co-amilofruse and Prozac and b) when they do come off them, they do it slowly. Not my mother.
So did it matter that she wasn’t on the meds?
The doctor shrugged. ‘When she had her last cardiology assessment she scored 150 beats per minute for 30 seconds. Most 83-year-olds would be dead after that. So I reckon her heart is pretty strong.’
‘So you’re happy that she’s not taking anything now?’
He shrugged again and gave me a look that said, clear as day, that my mother was a total nutcase in his eyes and that he heartily wished she were not on his list, and what was he supposed to do, go round and shove the tablets down her throat personally?
‘If she can’t take the betablockers, shouldn’t she be on something else? Like calcium channel blockers, for example?’
‘Would you take them?’ He looked at Mum and she had the grace to look sheepish.

Did he agree that we needed to do something about her anxiety?
‘I’m taking chamomile tea,’ says mother brightly. The doctor gives me ‘the look’ again.
Could she have CBT or CAT? No, but she could see ‘Geoff’, the counsellor. OK, now this is cruel and I don’t know Geoff from Adam but immediately I had a vision of round-toed sandals and socks, baggy cords and a stripy tank-top. Still, it’s a start. If he can stop her worrying about what to do if the phone rings while she’s answering the door, or can make her realise that it’s not the end of the world if someone sees her without full make-up, then it will be a Good Thing. If he can maybe persuade her that avoiding wheat while eating cake (er, yes, the normal wheat flour type of cake thing) then I will probably marry him and have water-birth babies with him.

Anyhow, enough of all that. All part of life’s rich tapestry. But it did make me think about the long-lost homework on ‘what I do when I’m feeling down…’ otherwise known as the Mood-boosters. So here, for what they’re worth, are the things that make me feel better, no matter what.

1. Crying. Sometimes there’s nothing for it, a good bit of full-on totally feeling sorry for myself catharsis is just fabulous. It doesn’t take much to make me sob: certain pieces of music; certain memories; reading about women having a tough time in childbirth…..I’m off, wailing and heaving the shoulders and lunging at Asbo who usually wriggles away (unless it is a Really Important Cry in which case he will earn his Chappie by snuggling up and being sympathetic).
2. Alcohol. I know that it’s a depressant and not really ideal. But. But. But. When life is really crap, the sound of a glass being filled can be nectar to the soul. Gin & tonic; brandy mac; Fleurie; Crozes; Pinot grigio; something fizzy (couldn’t really give a toss if it’s posh poo or cheap cava) – all raise the spirits (and even more so if glasses are clinked with good friends – real friends).
3. A tough hard workout. It’s usually the last thing I feel like doing but I know that, if I can make myself go to the gym or do an aerobics class, after a while the combination of pounding music and sweat pushes the doldrums aside. Something to do with all those endorphins I suppose.
4. Get a massage. I love nearly every kind of bodywork going – the tougher the better. By tuning into my body, I find that my mind often lets go and stops being quite so pathetic. I have trained both Adrian and James in the fine art of the neck rub, the foot rub and a truncated form of Indian Head Massage so, if I can’t get or afford a pukka massage therapist, I’ll nag them until they have a go.
5. Read. But only if it’s a really good page-turner. The one thing I couldn’t live without would be books and if life gets really shitty, I just run away to a distant corner, curl up in a blanket and read.
6. Watch a really good film. When I lived in cities and got really low, I would take myself off to a matinee. Sitting in the dark, with a big bag of popcorn and a coffee, being transported to another world was sheer heaven. Now I have to resort to old favourites on DVD – Into the West is my all-time feelgood movie – even with Ellen Barkin’s cod Irish accent.
7. Do a bit of divination. I got my first pack of tarot cards when I was about twelve and have been doing the tarot, the runes and the I Ching ever since. I don’t do them as a fortune reading exercise really; more a way of asking advice. Is it a supernatural power or simply our higher consciousness? Don’t know and don’t really care. It works.
8. Bake. I don’t do much cooking (apart from Zero Mum’s) but there is something magical and alchemical about baking. I love the way that you plonk a sloshy pile of goo in the oven and it comes out as a cake or brownies or whatever. You get to lick the bowl (back to childhood in a second!) and eat the results. Definitely heart-warming, if not remotely healthy.
9. Make my gratitude list. This sounds a bit worthy but it really works like nothing else for me. I think of ten things that have happened that very day for which I’m grateful. Could be teeny tiny – like James slipping his hand into mine or the sharp grapefruit tang of my aromatherapy candle. I try to keep it specific as otherwise it can become a bit rote…. But somehow it puts it all in perspective. Life ain’t that bad.


bodran... said...

I really feel for you and your mum, you try so hard for her...
Love the film into the west may have to watch it tonight now..
As for a good cry it works

countrymousie said...

God almighty your mother makes my diet look positively normal - thank you for that it cheered me no end!!!!
Personally havent found a Nigella dish I can eat so dont fret on that one.

Keep up these wonderful diaries. They are a tonic to the rest of us, even though you are tearing out your hair. Sorry you are not up to par at the moment. love mousie

Suffolkmum said...

Was giggling away at your brilliant writing about your Mum but do realise it isn't funny, just maddening. You must be exhausted. Was nodding away manically at all your mood busters - I do them all, excpet I can't get a massage round here for love nor money. And the baking thing - you did sound just a teeny bit like Nigella .... (I love baking too!)

Sally Townsend said...

A halo whizzing over for you my girl, felt quite exhausted reading how patient you must be and totally honest pick ups too. No size zero's allowed here !!!!

Woozle1967 said...

Yes, yes, yes! Alcohol, foot/neck/head rub, reading or watching a favourite film - they all work for me too.

As for mum....... like Suffolk Mum said, I loved the way you wrote about it but I know the reality must be very frustrating and draining.xx

Casdok said...

Your mother sounds strong, and so do you.
Love your list


With you every step of the way on Nigella. Surely that programme is a parody? Where did your mother spot leeks? Every time I've watched (bits of it, admittedly) it's just been a full-on cholestrolfest. Still, I guess if she's got to 83, she must be doing something right.

Loved your moodbusters. Yes to crying - sometimes it's the only thing, but you have to make sure you're a)not wearing too much make-up and b)not planning to go out immediately afterwards. Wouldn't know about the workout - never quite managed one (I know, I know - I'll pay for it one day). Must try Into the West - don't think I've ever seen that.

Thoroughly enjoyable read, as ever. Best of British with your mum - sounds as though you're doing an excellent job.

Anonymous said...

So your mother likes Nigella then! It must very frustrating for you having to make sure your mum is okay while trying hard not to offend her. I sound as though you're doing a great job.

Loved the list of mood boosters. Watching a film is a great way to lose oneself. I think more so than reading a good book.

Crystal xx

bradan said...

How patient you are with your Mam and you write so brilliantly about it.
I have never seen Into the West, guess I should if it's about Ireland, Tir nan Og etc., tales I was brought up on!

muddyboots said...

patience of a saint, a really good read which has given me the giggles!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear - your Mother likes Nigella (as has been said before, full of cholestoral and no veg - but there we go!) I guess it's a feast of leeks, chicken, fish and rice then. Actually, I had a wheat and dairy allergy after I stopped working on a diary/arable farm (seems to be quite a common problem), but I could eat pasta (thank God as I could live off it)...You must be having a nightmare; although you could try my detox diet of 4 weeks - chicken, peas, rice and plums (quick check back - yes, OK with plums occasionally!)
Keep up the good work - it will be worth it not to have a Size Zero Mother! Interesting mood lifter: the tarot...never tried it myself, but sounds interesting. So interesting, that I ventured into your professional website - all those books; very inmpressive - must be full of de-stress information....chin up, me darlin'. x

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

What is it about our mothers suddenly becoming "allergic" when they're in their 80s? My mother is driving me mad too. I tell her to go to the doctor because she's had a pain in her side for months now. Finally she goes. And she forgets to tell him. And she can't remember what he said.

Has your size zero mother noticed that Nigella is about the opposite to size zero? (And why is she only filmed from the bust up? Don't answer, I know why)

Anyway, your list sounds good, and if all else fails, blog about it. You'll feel better.

Faith said...

Hugs anyway from me.
Your mother sounds a bit of a nightmare but I think all parents turn into a nightmare one way or another - as children do at different times.
Good list - I always do the divination thing too, or pray, or both.

CAMILLA said...

Dear Jane, I can understand how you must be feeling about your Mother (really I do), but it must be difficult with so many intolerances to certain foods.

Sorry to hear you are feeling a tad down at the moment Jane,glass of something alcholic does it for me, so go and pour yourself one, and clink,clink, those glasses. Great list Jane, and as ever wonderful writing. P.S. Lovely pic of Asbo Jack with those soulfall eyes.!!

Pondside said...

My 80+ mother has also developed food sensitivities - but she still does all her own cooking and loves to do so - thank god!!!!
Loved your list - especially the crying - had forgotten how right that can be.

Frances said...

Good evening Jane.

How I do wish that I could send my brother, you know the one that I mean, right over to take care of your mom. His effect on our mom is to make her say, stay out of my kitchen; let me take of it myself. But that is my mom, and a complicated tale.

How kind of you to give to us, when you are feeling less than 95%.

The mood arrangers and the marvelous trio question over in the common room, have obviously struck a chord deep within all on the site.

Just look at the response.


Swearing Mother said...

Hi! I was so interested to read your post, that Nigella has a lot to answer for. Don't forget - Nigella usually pulls up at Waitrose, jumps out of a taxi, whizzes round for two minutes with a basket and then taxi's home to cook it. Simple. I could do that.

What I can't do is combine that with all the rest, that's the problem. Superwoman? Bah, humbug.

And that simpering, finger-licking, lip-pouting to camera? We could do that too, couldn't we?

Shame Delia's not on the telly so much any more - that would make your life SO much easier!

You are doing such a good job. I wish I'd had your patience.

mountainear said...

How lucky your mother is to have you and your seemingly vast rerves of patience.

I wonder can you disguise some of the banned ingredients in the same way as you might when feeding a stroppy toddler?

Mopsa said...

Mothers hey? Who'd have 'em? Suspect you've rung bells all over the world!

Posie said...

And I thought I had problems trying to please all of the kids at meal times, well done you, did enjoy reading about your size zero mum...your frustrations are captured beautifully on paper! Alcohol, a good cry and a good movie...what could be better, eek must get on and do my homework too...

Milla said...

At least you must get some "release" writing about your mother - I love it!! Though can imagine it pretty much a massive PITA. And sorry CM but I've made lots of gorgeous Nigella things, although I don't watch cooks on TV - can't bear them ooing and aahing, brings out the irritable yob in me.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this. I am sure this is massively evil but I would be very inclined to lie - can you tell when it's cooked whether you have used leeks or onions? - disguise difference by using a food processor for all veg so it is all identical tiny bits. She's lucky to have you. Sounds like you need some fun.
great moodbuster list too!

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Friend of mine been going through similar things with her Mum although for slightly different reasons. It struck me that is must be hard going from the looked after child to the one doing the looking after. Not something I will ever go through . . .

I can empathise with your list . . .all of it.

And no I won't hug you, or put up a picture . . .or anything . . ok? I can join you in a drink . .or poke you in the eye if you get maudlin . . deal?

Fire Byrd said...

Your mum may drive you round the bend..... but better to have one to moan about than not.I still miss mine so much even after 21 years!

Love the list, except for the baking sounds like mine, especially the tarot cards, when I'm not good they come out to help re direct me to a hopefully easier place than where my head was.

And yes as i drove past the turnings for Exmoor this morning I did think about how far Dulverton might me.I'll be back there in January now.

Pipany said...

No wonder you feel a bit flat Jane; she would try the patience of a saint! Like you aren't busy enough and bloody Nigella thrown in to boot. I love your list of mood boosters and share most of them with you - massages are my ultimate and I am very lucky as Dave is brilliant at them (he also often treats me to a 'real' one at a wonderful place near here, spoilt girl that I am. Trouble is I always want them to last all day! xx

Anonymous said...

Blimey, you need a medal for coping! I watched Nigella for the first time a few weeks ago. I haven't watched it again! Good book does it for me. Or spending some money that I haven't got!

Milkmaid said...

Mothers!! aren't they great mine is just a tinsy bit(well a lot) overweight, but is panicking because she thinks food will be expensive and wants to buy a new freezer, she could last out until Christmas on what she has frozen already, not to mention her tinned food store (war baby syndrome)

Chris Stovell said...

Uh-oh! Have MiL with her Inherited Digestive Condition next week so this has set off all the alarm bells. Not quite so amusing when it's your own mother you're having to coax into eating though.

PS I'm mindful of your rewrite advice, thank you, very easy to get bogged down running around after other people - as you know. Best wishes.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

mothers...trouble is jane we are they of the I going to lead my offspring a dance?...i should say no ...but hell there's no fun in that is there?

DJ Kirkby said...

Hi! I feel your frustration and that isnt something I usualy experience! Why doesnt your mom cook for herself? Does she have undiagnosed Aspergers? These and a zillion other questions need answering now! The bit about the visit to the GP was hilarious!

Queen Vixen said...

Do tell me more about Geoff when she sees him. I am a GP counsellor and am always eager to dispel the myths that suround us poor be-tank topped and flowery bloused workers. In fact most coming into see me have a visible look of shock on their faces - its the boots and pentacles that do it. Its great work, I love it.

Caring is exhausting and its no wonder you are feeling low. Your list - fab! Connect to your unique inner energy and nothing and noone can get you.

PS I sooooo love your blog!

@themill said...

Coming far too late to this - you make what is really a dreadful situation sound amusing. Hellish for you all.x