House-hunting is so much easier when you’re 4 years old. You’re very focused at that age, and aren’t burdened by such torments as whether the roof needs replacing or whether additional central heating needs installing.
So when my parents had to take me house-hunting with them when I was just that age, it was probably no surprise that, when we found a house with one of its bedrooms furnished with bunk beds and a garden boasting a slide, I decided right there that this particular house had to be The One.
Sadly, my parents weren’t so easily persuadable. Happily, though, my father decided that, since it was gone midday and we were all feeling the effects of a morning’s trailing around, it was time to break for lunch.
Since we were miles away from home, this meant eating out. In a restaurant. A big deal in the early seventies, and an even bigger deal for me. This was something else. I had a chair – not a high chair – of my own, and the waiter gave me my very own menu! No, of course, I couldn’t read it, but the important thing was that I was being treated like the grown-ups in the place. Heh.
I don’t recall placing my order, but before long, a plate of long string turned up with a pile of reddy-brown gloop at its centre. Hmmm. Not sure. Not sure at all about this.
No doubt sensing a moment for the family album, my father summoned the waiter. “Excuse me – would you be so kind as to show my daughter how to eat her spaghetti?”
The waiter, seemingly also in on an adult plot of which I had woefully little comprehension, replied with a beaming smile, “Certainly, sir”. Deftly grabbing a piece of cutlery, he then plunged it into the midst of the string and gloop, made some rapid twirly movements, and somehow emerged from it all triumphantly waving a forkful of the stuff in front of my nose.
“OK, bella? Ready? Open wide!” I did as commanded.
Ooomph. In it went. Followed shortly by a small problem.
I couldn’t chew. The waiter, generous man, had put so much spaghetti in my mouth that I was completely stymied. My dad, helpfully, roared with laughter from across the other side of the table. My mum couldn’t speak for the giggles.
Still, I persevered. Oh yes. Not that I had a great deal of choice in the matter. It was either chew, or face an ignominious death from suffocation by spaghetti.
No, I chewed. And chewed and chewed and chewed, and swallowed. And then it hit me. It was yummy. It was very yummy and I wanted more of it. And in that instant I decided. One, that I would marry an Italian waiter. And two, that food was a Very Good Thing Indeed.