Deborah Ross: Feed me! The mantra of a student who hasn't eaten all term


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The Independent Online

If you ask me, I would like to tell you a story, which I suggest you take as a warning. This is a story about a mother whose son comes home from his first year at university for the summer. The mother is quite shocked at his appearance, as he is thin and peaky, and looks as if he has been doing what he has been doing: that is, living on economy squash and reduced-price bread so he can better spend his overdraft on drink, clubbing, drugs and a new T-shirt that looks like all his other T-shirts.

The mother, being motherly, wishes to feed him up, and so it is roast chicken and shepherd's pie and lasagne and pasta and apple crumbles and endless biscuits and sandwiches, and she is gratified when she begins to see the colour return to his cheeks, but the trouble is this. She has also unwittingly created a monster, a monster that can never be sated, a monster along the lines of that plant in Little Shop of Horrors.


So she keeps at it. So it's pasta and stews and cupboards stocked with snacky things and always having to keep the fruit bowl replenished, not just with apples, oranges and bananas, but also peaches and cherries and melons and the strawberries that used to be £1.99 a punnet in Waitrose but are now on "special offer at two for £4", which makes no sense whatsoever, unless you are an idiot, and the mother does all this until she is fit to drop, but is she shown any mercy? No.


The mother finds she has to build food-shopping trips into whatever else she happens to be doing that day. So it's rushing into Asda or Morrison's or Tesco Metro or Sainsbury's Local and heaving home carrier bags filled with fry-up ingredients and the four packs of yoghurt he will eat at one sitting, without even separating the individual pots out, and the 1.7-litre cartons of Tropicana, which he downs at the fridge door, and doesn't exactly represent £3.49 well spent, from her point of view, and yet he is still not satisfied.


And then she finds she has had it. So she draws herself up and says: "Enough!" And: "This is costing a fortune." And: "I'm not made of money." And: "When you complain 'there is never anything to eat in this house' has it ever occurred to you the reason might be BECAUSE YOU HAVE EATEN IT ALL?"

And: "I have a life, which I would actually like to be getting on with." And, for the first time, the son looks at her as if she might be a full-fledged human being, with needs and feelings of her own, and then he says: