'I am not eating that,' says young Persephone, pushing her plate away. with the air of a French aristocrat who has fallen among peasants.
'I am not eating that,' says Eldrick. His statement carries the clinical finality of a doctor pronouncing the death of a patient.
What they are refusing to eat is sweetcorn, the sweetcorn served in a rice salad I have put together to accompany some smoked mackerel. Lunch is turning into something of a trial.
'We are not eating that,' they now declare together with one voice, sensing strength in unity, ganging up on their addled father as he attempts to bring a little culinary variety to their adolescent lives.
With Hermione, dear, adorable, catering queen Hermione, away for the day it has fallen to me to organise the menu at Medders Manor. It was a task to which I was warming nicely until son and daughter combine to reject my simple offering.
In vain I argue that the sweetcorn is but popcorn in disguise. They may scoff popcorn by the over-priced bucket load any time we go to the pictures, but they turn down the version of maize which comes in the form of bright yellow pellets. It is a waste of time to suggest that the bright yellow pellets represent maize as nature intended it to be (even if it did come out of a tin). These picky diners are members of a generation for whom food is often at a far remove from its natural state.
It is similarly useless to suggest that as teenagers, they should be more adventurous in their diet than when they were whingeing tots. It is only sweetcorn, after all, not something really radically far out such as spinach or liver. I realise I have completely lost all hope of persuading them to sample my wares after I suggest that their attitude is pathetically First World and there are all too many people of their age starving in many poorer countries. This line of thought is so factually, philosophically, actually, emotionally, morally, practically and politically correct that there is no reasonable case they can put up against it.
The best they can muster in response is implacable, obstinate sticking to their not-eating-that line. So that is what they do.
'Anyway, Da, I don't actually eat smoked mackerel either,' declares Persephone. I swear to goodness she is not doing this deliberately to taunt me. She is simply filling me in on something she feels I should somehow have known already. Yes, of course, absolutely everyone realises Persephone does not eat smoked mackerel! Apparently this is as much a fact as Earth being round or Messi being a better footballer than Ronaldo. Glaringly obvious when you think about it.
'I'll just have some bread and butter, thanks.' She has decided that she must reject the most nutritious form of protein known to mankind in favour of some bland stomach filler which will tide her over until her mother is back in command at the kitchen counter.
Before I can summon up a response, her brother looks up from his plate and asks, as he picks the bright yellow pellets one by one from his ration of salad: 'Is there no salmon?' Is there no salmon? Who does he think he is, the Sultan of Brunei? Eldrick sees that my face is turning a strange shade of reddy/purple and moves to take some of the steam out of the situation: 'Tinned salmon would be fine, honestly.'…
Hermione arrives home to find a heap of unwashed plates in the sink and the table strewn with bright yellow pellets. A half-finished sliced pan sits amidst the debris beside an open packet of Kerrygold. The dog is glumly examining the pile of mackerel which has been dumped in his bowl.
Young Persephone is in her bedroom, too full of bread and butter to move. Asked where her brother is, she states that he has gone out to buy some popcorn.
She then giggles, so this may be an invention. At any rate there is no sign of Eldrick.
A low moaning sound leads Hermione to her husband, who is sitting on the living room floor, rocking gently, his eyes directed sightlessly at the blank television screen. She gives me a hug and, with a resigned sigh, wanders off to tidy up.