When I was 10 years old the most exotic thing I'd eaten was a Chiko Roll - now kids think gravlax is a staple. Should we be admiring their palates or putting our foot down?
Off to the supermarket, I ask the kids if we need anything.
Ten-year-old: "Gravlax. It's cured salmon."
What does he think I am? An idiot? Although clearly I am an idiot because I bought the gravlax. He's 10 years old! When I was 10 years old the most exotic thing I'd eaten was a Chiko roll. How did he know what gravlax even was? One of the kids at school had it in her lunchbox. (Note to self: must move kids to different school).
Personally I blame multiculturalism. If it wasn't for multiculturalism we Skips would still be eating rissoles, beetroot and frozen peas. Toast for breakfast, vegemite sandwiches for lunch and one meat, two veg for dinner - sorry, I mean tea - not mousakka, lasagne, sushi, spanikopita, rogan josh. Yep. I blame delicious, flavoursome multiculturalism - let's face it, at $8.99 for 100 grammes I have to blame something. It's either that or my kids and their friends are up themselves.
Here are some of the things I've found myself packing in my children's lunchboxes: chickpeas, seaweed, olives, brie, quinoa, prosciutto and beef jerky.
"So you want beef jerky in your lunchbox. Are you sure you know what it is?"
"Yeah! It's like Schmackos for humans."
If you think this is all a back door brag, I'm sorry to disappoint. Much as I would love to think of my kids as special, advanced or gifted in the gastronomy department, they are merely average. If my kids are food geniuses they all are - yours included.
You know what I ate as a child? Whatever was put in front of me and if I didn't like it, stiff. I was hungry until the next meal. Fruit in the bowl, water in the tap and there are kids starving in India.
I can remember being hungry for much of my childhood. There was food, I just wasn't keen on most of it and there was never enough. (Well there was, I was just good on the tooth and greedy). I would drool at the images of American families with pots of cheesy macaroni; bowls of steamy creamy mash potato and dishes piled high with mouthwatering meat on the dinner table. Yes, on the actual table. People ate as much as they liked. They helped themselves, for goodness sake.
At our place Mum was God. Seven plates were laid out and the food was rationed by mum who knew who didn't like tomato, who didn't like their gravy touching their peas and who only liked the sausages that weren't split. She was omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient but not so omnibenevolent. She had a budget to balance and we were povo.
As a child my mum, like most of her generation, couldn't leave the table until she had eaten everything on her plate. One night Nana made tripe in white sauce for the first time. She and her siblings were so repelled by the look and smell of what could only be described as a human rights violation on a plate they could not bring themselves to take a bite. They sat staring at their plates gently sobbing.
Several hours later the three were sent to bed on an empty stomach. It was never mentioned and Nana never cooked tripe again. What makes this story even more extraordinary was that these kids were quite accustomed to eating tongue, brains, kidneys and offal. Even now the mere mention of tripe makes mum gag.
Now that Mum's a nana, she's constantly gobsmacked by watching the gathered children at kids parties eating things like avocado, capsicum and dip. Fresh, simple food but 30 years ago it was pies, sausage rolls, chips and fairy bread; coloured sugar on bread as white as the driven snow.
As children we would regularly take three, four-hour journeys with not a scrap of food or drop of water. We were told if we behaved we may get a "drink of cordial" when we got there. Fast forward to 2013. These days parents can't leave the house without water, juice, crudités, hummus, rice crackers and organic yogurt without permeates. (By the way, I don't even know what permeates are. Does anyone?)
Kids today all have food allergies and intolerances, which I can cope with - I can't actually, but I don't want to stir the haters - but they also have preferences. Preferences? Are you serious? We grew up with food. These days it's quite common for parents to prepare several meals at night to cater for everyone. Have a group of kids over after school, and you'll find yourself expected to prepare two-minute noodles five different ways. One with seasoning, one without, one with broth, one without, one finished with some butter and lemon...
And that's where I start to draw the line. It's one thing to encourage adventurous little omnivores who embrace dishes from round the world. It's another entirely to enable fussy, picky eaters who are so accustomed to adults thrilling at what they see as some kind of advanced gourmet eating that they bend over to accommodate their kids' every whim.
So I'm reverting to my mum's rules. Do it yourselves. Otherwise fruit in the bowl, water in the tap, kids starving in India etc ....
Sophisticated tastes: 'The most exotic thing I had eaten at 10 years old was a chico roll' Photograph: Antonio OlmosSophisticated tastes: 'The most exotic thing I had eaten at 10 years old was a chico roll' Photograph: Antonio Olmos