Kiddie dinner, orange dinner, toddler tea: We may call it different things but we all recognise the beige tsunami of kinda-crispy, very salty, things and we all secretly love it.
Our proclivity for these meals is so often forged in childhood; be it the memory of an after-school favourite, or of the first time you stuck something in the oven all on your own; and as such each experience is unique.
“My mum used to call these kinds of dinners ‘orange dinners’ and she would apologise when she had to give me one,” commented world famous food influencer, Emma Chadwick.
“If she was working too late to cook a proper meal or she was going out or something it’d be ‘sorry Emma you’ve got an orange dinner tonight’ which i think was intended to show me that those kinds of dinners shouldn’t be an everyday thing but as you get older you realise who doesn’t LOVE an orange dinner?”
The emotional ties often mean these meals become far greater than some nugs and sauce; they become a direct link to the happiest moments of our childhood as we hurtle further into our nightmarish lives. Be it through evolution or design, the parts of the brain responsible for taste and smell are located next to those used for emotional learning and memory processing respectively: we are physically hardwired to tie eating to experience.
“Orange dinners are the ultimate hangover cure, the ultimate end to a horrible day at work, they’re a shoulder to cry on and they’re a warm fuzzy dose of nostalgia,” Emma commented. “They are reminiscent of when life was easier and all I had to worry about was whether my mum was doing an orange dinner or something more fancy.”
Whilst these deep emotional ties are not only a good thing to tell yourself when you’re covered in potato waffles on a comedown – this isn’t your fault, it’s bilogy’s fault – they explain the vitriolic defence of rubbish food when it is threatened.
The incumbent Tory government’s recent decision to stick the boot into cheap food set forth a tidal wave of unsolicited dietary advice,shit food hot takes and no small amount of classism. The general gist seemed to be that everyone can find both the ingredients and the time to make a cassoulet on a Tuesday night and those that can’t are simply feckless scumbags. As one would expect was, as people, have had a fair old bit to say about this holier-than-thou bullshit.
Whilst the basic idea of improving the nation’s dietary health is naturally a positive one doing so through state-sanctioned food shaming is hardly the way to go about it. We are currently living in an absolute fucking nightmare and the last thing anyone needs is some fitness influencer that hasn’t had a chip buttie in 15 years telling you to swap your tin of spaghetti hoops for some spirallised courgette.
We live in a time of unrelenting, contradictory, dietary advice. A cursory glance around the ‘lifestyle’ corners of the internet will uncover a tidal wave of posts individually extolling the virtues of paleo, keto, Michaelangelo and all the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Diets – with advice on fats, carbs changing faster than you can say “Acai berry raw Buddha bowl”.
Trying to keep up with it all is a head spinning affair where the only consistent outcome is making us all feel like absolute shit for what we had for lunch. Besides this caustic negativity, there is an insidious classist slant to the whole affair. It is all well and good some Telegraph columnist telling us all we should make salmon ceviche for lunch every day, but such is woefully out of the remit of most working people – now more than ever.
“What I think people forget is that a lot of low income families work long hours for piss poor wages, so some parents won’t even be home to cook their kids dinner. They may well prefer to feed their kids something ‘healthier’ but some children are left to their own devices and sticking some chicken goujons and curly fries on an oven tray and some beans in the microwave is a hell of a lot easier than chopping up a load of fresh veg,” said Emma.
Parents are currently being tasked with either going to work in a pandemic or staying home and schooling their kids – you would think they could be forgiven for foregoing the fucking bouillabaisse and whipping some smilies in the oven.
Kiddie dinners are not ideal, every so often they are all you really want, and there’s categorically no shame in that. I cannot tell you the first time I had nuggets and pasta but I can tell you the last; 13 August 2020, aged 30 years and 93 days.
Kiddie dinner is not perfect, it is not going to get you abs, but it is a cornerstone of the working class and it will make you very fucking happy and right now that sounds good to me. Yes Chef!