Meal or No Meal

Spaghetti junction bite 3

It would be an understatement to say that we are living in uncertain times in the UK. As the countdown to the new Brexit deadline reaches its final stages, it seems unbelievable and quite shocking that there are still so many unanswered questions about the future. Like many people, I feel slightly overwhelmed every time I hear the latest Brexit update because the news seems to change with the wind whilst simultaneously contradicting even freshly printed headlines. Attempting to keep up to date by trying to follow the various Brexit flowcharts and timelines featured in the media is absolutely baffling. The evolution of how the ‘mad riddle’ that is Brexit will be solved is beginning to resemble the M6 spaghetti junction. Without a plan in sight, it is no wonder that our future can only be foretold by the possible outcomes of visual aids. Having said that, I’m not one to mock a good flowchart if it untangles the messy process of decision making. That is, as long as a 2D diagram doesn’t replace basic common sense when you reach a roadblock.

Which makes me wonder if it’s possible to use a flowchart to illustrate some of the everyday decisions we make in life. For instance, as I write this I can hear the familiar noises of my children making some snacks in the kitchen and they’ve already asked me what is for dinner. Such an innocent question to ask, you would think, but for many parents, it is a very loaded one. Because the answer to this is often based on intention rather than what will ultimately be served up at dinnertime. Great plans can change for a multitude of different reasons. But if a complicated process such as the Brexit negotiations can be mapped out in a flowchart, then surely the same could be done to demonstrate the simple process of deciding what to make for dinner. As they say, simples!

However, like many families with teenagers, it’s complicated. To start with, I face the weekly challenge of trying to keep the kitchen well-stocked with plenty of provisions because they eat like horses. But not only do they get through a lot of food, they are also very crafty and make it difficult to predict what we are going to run out of first. There can be a spontaneous run on particular food stuffs like they are literally the best thing since slice bread. At the same time, once loved, go-to snacks can suddenly plummet to the bottom of the list of food desires, where they are only eaten as a last resort to stave off hunger. Which means that we often end up with a surplus of leftover foods and ingredients that hang around, abandoned in the back of the fridge and cupboards. They sit there ignored and waiting while a competition of wills between my family and myself unfolds. Like a food spoilage ticking timebomb, a standoff commences. As the limits of salvageability are pushed, the question becomes if someone will be compelled by their growling tummy to eat the neglected foodstuff before I finally crack and incorporate it into a meal?

This unpredictability, of not knowing exactly what food is still in the fridge and kitchen cupboards, is only one deciding factor that determines what we end up eating for dinner. There are plenty of others, of course. Having a busy life means that no matter how far ahead a meal is planned, it almost always ends up having to be adjusted. In fact, if the decision-making process of what to make for dinner could really be shown in a flowchart, it might look something like this…

Meal or No Meal image

Clearly, the everyday decisions we make in life are far more complicated than we give them credit for and cannot be explained away in a simple flowchart. Deciding what to make for dinner is a messy business and even more so if you want to maintain a level of democracy in your kitchen.

In a period of Brexit uncertainty and unpredictable dinners, only two things are for certain. First of all, your children will always be hungry for more in the future. And second, sitting at a larger table will always bring you greater opportunities to be better fed. Which is a helpful reminder of why it is so important to keep your place at the table.

Speaking of which, for those who have no appetite for any flavour of Brexit (even if you were once hungry for it) perhaps you will find a little solace in a plate of Spaghetti junction. Fortunately, it only contains a tangle of yumminess.

Spaghetti junction 4

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