A dish from childhood

Joe Molander discusses his favourite tinned good and the memories it brings back

Joe Molander
22nd June 2020
Image: "Andy Warhol: 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans" on Flickr
As a toddler, I was an incredibly fussy eater.

I don’t mean that I preferred sandwiches with the crusts cut off, I mean I only ate one type of sandwich until the age of 3. Some children develop inexplicably sophisticated taste, but not me. The one magic dish that could appease my palette - which was infantile in both senses - was far from fancy. The one sandwich I could manage was grated cheese and ketchup.

As a toddler, I would turn my nose up at almost everything

If possible, it was more disgusting than it sounds, and enjoying things like it was not without consequence. Once, my family and I went to France, near the oyster region. Our host - a family friend - slaved over delicious meals based on local recipes, which of course weren’t to my liking. Instead, to find something for me, our poor host had to buy ready meals from a garage. Only there could he find something low quality enough to match the English “cuisine” to which I was suited.

I did eventually - and reluctantly - expand my horizons: pasta and ham was a popular addition. Thankfully - for you and for me - I don’t think I can stomach writing another word about what I ate as a toddler. Instead, I’d like to focus on a dish I ate a few years later. Let’s start again, shall we?

As a young teenager, I was incredibly anxious.

For a time, anything could send me into an anxious spiral

I don’t mean that I had to have colour coded revision guides, I mean that learning we had a supply teacher would send me into a spiral. My dad would have to sit with me at the end of every school day and pick apart my worries. Each was minute, but in legion - and even on their own - they were overwhelming.

It coincided with the often bumpy transition into high school, and was thankfully something that went away after a couple of years. Before it did, I also happened to discover Heinz chicken noodle soup.

It’s about as unadventurous as dishes get. You’ve probably had it before, so you don’t need me to tell you it doesn’t exactly relish in its simplicity. The noodles melt against the roof of your mouth - and not in a good melt-in-the-mouth way - and what passes for chicken is a few pale blocks of suspect-looking protein. God only knows what’s in the broth. Still, it’s something I have very fond memories of.

When things are difficult, it's the small things that make it easier

I’d have it at least once a week, always on a Saturday or Sunday. My anxiety came entirely from school, so days off were a safe haven. There, chicken noodle soup was my comfort food. It’s a dish bland enough to make even my toddler self blush, but when things get difficult, it’s the small things that get you through. There was no magic solution to my anxiety. Conversations about how one did exist, where the person I was talking to thought that they knew it and I didn’t, were worse than useless. What helped was sitting down with the people who loved and - just as important - understood me, and taking comfort in the little things.

I turned vegetarian last August (I study politics and wear glasses, it’s sort of a requirement), so it’s not likely I’ll have this dish - if you can call it that - again. What I’m left with is memories of an awful time, and a small thing that helped me get through it.

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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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