Headmaster’s Thoughts – August 2009

Since this is August, and no one reads “August’s Thoughts” anyway, I can indulge in a confession.  I understand it is good for the soul.  My confession is that I do not seem to be as fond of food as everyone else seems to be.


This is really sad. Good restaurants are wasted on me.  I have been taken to them, but I appreciate the atmosphere and the creature comfort of the seat more than the food.  My excuse, and it is not a bad one, is that I was brought up in post-war England when the food was execrable.  It was a true disaster.  We had powdered eggs instead of real ones, no candy (it was rationed until 1952 as was meat and most other “luxury foods”), and the ice cream was actually vanilla-flavored lard.  To compound all this, we were forced to drink a tablespoon of Seven Seas (Ministry of Health approved) Cod Liver Oil every evening.  If you have ever drunk Seven Seas (Ministry of Health approved) Cod Liver Oil, you will sympathize. You not only have to hold your nose against the revolting smell, but you also have to add sugar (which I should have mentioned was also rationed) because the taste was indescribable. If you want to really punish yourself for something you may have done, try a tablespoonful of Seven Seas (Ministry of Health approved) Cod Liver Oil and you will see what I mean.


The result of all this is that I am comparatively thin. I do not eat lunch. Since I am not excited by food, why eat what I consider an optional meal?  My wife used to ask Vivian Garneier, my administrator, if she would get my lunch. Vivian tried, but most of the time when she gamely asked me what I would like, I replied, “Nothing!” and meant it. Not surprisingly she gave up fighting this losing war.


I have eaten exactly the same breakfast every day for as long as I can remember: Kashi cereal with blueberries and tea.  That gets me through to a cup of coffee and a cookie at 10:00am and then nothing until dinner which is often just a bowl of soup.


This may all sound (and probably is) unbelievably narcissistic to tell you what I eat, but I realize how sad it is. You get pleasure from food; I get virtually none.  My sense of taste is a casualty of post-second-world-war English cooking.  I know it has all changed now and that London is a center of gourmet cuisine, but I wasn’t brought up “now,” and my taste buds, if they exist, were developed (or crushed) in the fifties.


I think I am a real disappointment to those well-meaning (but, I find, annoying) restaurant waiters who interrupt your conversations at dinner to ask if the food is fine. I am sorry… I wouldn’t know if it was.  It is food—something one has to consume to keep the body alive.  Scrambled eggs on toast would do as well as whatever you are serving with its drizzles of this and its soupçon of that.  I usually respond to these waiters in a low voice, “Sure,” thinking at the same time that I wish they would not interrupt with a question that has no relevance whatsoever.  I may have written in a previous month that I don’t drink alcohol at all.  Let’s face it; I really am a bore!


What this has to do with August I have not the least idea.  Since my students have to critique these Headmaster’s Thoughts, I thought I would give them an easy one to attack. I am clearly a whining old man who, in a world of starving people, should be grateful that he gets Kashi in the morning. Okay kids, have a field day!


For the rest of you, enjoy your food.  Enjoy the textures and the tastes.  Enjoy the aromas and the spices.  And be assured that I slightly (maybe not so slightly) envy your pleasure.


Next month I will be back to normal in my thoughts. Foolish, inane, irrelevant: normal!


I wish you all a great summer full of many and varied delights.



Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster

E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org



“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section In the News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.