I was at school so long ago I think Noah’s sons may have been in my class. The children in our school came from all sorts of backgrounds, a lot were very poor – economically and in other ways too, most were ordinary like us with enough to get by especially with dads growing fruit and veg in the gardens and on allotments and mums shopping carefully and making all our clothes, some were more comfortably off and lived in bigger houses – sometimes their parents owned their own houses… I can’t remember anybody who was really, really well-off.
What I also remember is pale, weak children who we other kids described as sickerly. Some of these little souls did have difficult home lives; they were unkempt, poorly nourished and really the free school milk and free school meals, brought in by the 1944 Education Act was an absolute boon and a blessing for them; for some it may have been the only meal they had every day, and would have next to nothing at home at weekends. (Tragically, there are still children in our schools for whom school meals are all the meals they have – and that’s despite our welfare state)
However, not all the sickerly kids were from homes which struggled; some children were small, pale, weary and always tired. I wonder now how many of them had food allergies or intolerance which in those days were never even thought about? Diseases such as Crohn’s, coeliac, lactose and gluten intolerance may have been known about but maybe not commonly, and these could have been why some of the children I remember from school being so weak, so often absent from school and so lacking in the energy to take part in all our playground activities.
I was thinking this over the weekend when we had visitors, including children, who need to manage their diets carefully. Fortunately our favourite ice-cream parlour had every sort of ice-cream imaginable, including a delicious diary free selection, Because now such conditions are identified we were able to cook a lovely dinner with chicken, loads of vegetables, various accompaniments including jacket potatoes and rice, corn and chickpeas. Clean plates all round and then a platter of seasonal fruit! We are fortunate to have the knowledge and understanding now of what foods can harm as well as nourish.