Eating Elephants

Photo of two of the children posing by a gnarled tree with newly planted patch of trees in the background.

We’re in the car, coming back from an afternoon in the forest. All three grand-kids and the dog have managed to stay with us. We gave them breadcrumbs, honest, but they ate them before we reached the spot where we’d planned to suggest they make their own way home.

‘I guess we’ll just have to feed them at tea-time, too, then,’ Ray says.

I’m not sure what with. At home the cupboard and freezer are bare of the stuff that they think delicious, or even edible. Apparently we eat ‘weird’ food.

Photo of the three children hiding in a large hollow tree, while Rusty waits for them to come out and play.

It’s Easter Sunday. All the places we pass where we could stop and buy something are already packed. There’s not an empty table to be had.

Well, it is, officially, the hottest Easter on record, here in the UK. Seems like the whole population may have opted to eat out.

But heck, the whole point of hoping to lose the kids in the forest was to avoid having to cook for them. If we had to take them home again, then we needed to agree on buying a meal. You think that’s easy?

Set aside the closed shops, for a moment, and think about three individuals of varying ages from pre-, to mid- teenage. They’ve been over two hours suspended in phone-free enjoyment of sunshine, trees, dog and pond, then we return to the car. It’s hard to imagine how even short journeys were achieved before there were portable screens and headphones.

Our questions about what might be suitable have to be negotiated between songs, text messages and important updates. Parents, perhaps, go into this situation with several advantages. Authority, by my estimation, is not the most important, they know the full range of what is acceptable.

As temporary weekend surrogates, maintaining our status as ‘fun’ limits us. The voting system is tortuous, and in the end we abandon democracy in favour of pleasing all. I plan a route that takes in four types of take-away, and we head for town.

It takes ten minutes to discover they’re all closed. My heart sinks.

Ray names a pizza place sure to be open. ‘We’re all okay with that,’ says Sammy, without looking up from her phone. The others agree.

Well, I think, that was easy after all. By now they’re so hungry that there’s no real discussion over the toppings, either.

‘I’ll stay at the car, with granddad and Rusty,’ Sammy says. Brandon, Breanna and I go to sort out our order.

Here’s the deal. It costs less for our two pizza’s if we also buy two side-dishes, than if we just buy what we went in for.

When we get back to the car Sammy is giving Rusty some valuable re-training on walking to heal, so he’s happy, too.

I tell Ray, ‘We’re going to save a quarter of the price and take home an extra quarter of a portion.’ I show him a handful of change.

Fifteen minutes later, Brandon is struggling to manoeuvre his long legs into the car while carrying the heap of hot boxes.

Back at home the boxes fill our modest table. ‘How do we even eat all that?’ Breanna wonders.

‘One bite at a time, I guess,’ says Brandon, reaching for a slice of pepperoni.

Photo of a mother elephant and her baby.
Photo by Ruth Boardman

‘Same way you would an elephant,’ I say, reminded of a quote I’d read just that morning, as I fitted in a little class preparation.

‘Eew,’ says Breanna. ‘Eat an elephant?’ .

I nod. ‘That’s what an American general, called Creighton Abrams, once advised.’

‘But who would eat an elephant?’

Brandon takes another slice of pizza. ‘She doesn’t mean you really do it,’ he says. ‘It’s a metaphor.’ He nods at me. ‘That’s cool.’

Serendipity, I think, isn’t it wonderful?

19 thoughts on “Eating Elephants

  1. Made me smile Cath, after I’d got over my initial shock at your pachyderm-threatening title, obviously! (Thanks for the photographic citation, by the way)
    I sometimes wonder how parents of multiple children ever leave the kitchen, such is the diversity of tastes and unwillingness to eat certain things. I remember being pretty fussy myself as a child but I don’t think I was allowed to dictate actual household menus. Nor did I have completely separate meals cooked for me. There was much pouting and whinging, followed by references to starving children on other continents. Thankfully, threats to serve the uneaten food up at the next meal were never actually carried out.
    Is it merely dietary preferences which lead to this fussiness? Perhaps it’s also a way of exerting some control in a world where, as an emerging human, you don’t feel you have much. Apropos of the screen and phone dependence, media influences undoubtedly play a part. These days, I suppose I’m more aware of the value of food and the need to minimise waste. And I am in control of my life and choices which I’m sure makes a huge difference.
    The beauty of being in temporary loco parentis is not having to worry about long-term nutritional balance allowing one to further advance the ‘cool’ reputation. There’s a lot to be said for being the fun relatives. Time in nature, a dog and pizza would put you high on my own list, as long as no elephants were harmed… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Ruth. I did think about you as I typed the title! I’m glad you enjoyed this. It seemed to almost write itself, and clearly touched in you similar memories to the ones I was driven by. Ah those days of sitting in front of congealing cabbage, tapioca and little bottles of ‘school’ milk, warmed by the radiator. I’m gagging just thinking about it.

      I wonder if those lectures about the value of food did sink deeply into me though. I had to bite my lip over the amount of ‘treats’ we fed to Rusty and the hens this weekend. As to nutritional balance, I had the impression those might have never existed. On our drive back from taking them home, when Ray asked if I’d like to stop for something to eat, my reply was that I had a craving for salad, and didn’t know when I’d be able to face chocolate again. I guess it’s a sign of my age.

      So, no elephants harmed, but the rest of us are still in recovery…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jacqui. I’ve always been a ‘borrower’ of children, which has provided days and hours of fun-time with limited responsibilities, and plenty of interesting anecdotes to draw from.


  2. Sounds fun and how resourceful you are. I remember the ‘eating the elephant’ saying from my days as a learning and development bod. I used to do time management seminars and this was one of my tips for beating procrastination = pity I never learned to take my own advice:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sheila, I try. When I came across this the other day it seemed like a perfect motto to add to the collection pinned to the inside of my office door.

      I do look at the rest, but my experience so far pretty much mirrors the situation you’ve implied. 🙂


  3. HA! And what witch happened to live in those woods, I wonder? 🙂
    Seriously, though, it sounds like you had a blessed Easter with the kids. Debating food is always a bear, whether you’re a parent or grandparent. My mom’s stopped cooking whenever she has the kids and just resorts to either Happy Meals, Mac’n’cheese, or pizza. It works for her, and that’s fine for us! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • We had a lovely Easter, thank you. Very invigorating.

      Buying in ready cooked or pre-prepared has been our approach, too. I learned quickly that even if I tried to copy their home menu I didn’t cook anything in quite the right way… It was only three days, we decided their parents could impose the ‘balanced and healthy diet’ thing, we’d do the spoiling.

      Liked by 1 person

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