Adult Picky Eaters UK

For Picky-Eating Adults in the UK and worldwide

Rice Pudding December 1, 2007

Filed under: Picky Eating in Popular Culture — Claire @ 2:43 am

Hate rice pudding – love this poem: Rice Pudding by A.A. Milne 
.
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s crying with all her might and main
And she won’t eat her dinner – rice pudding again –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I’ve promised her dolls and a daisy-chain,
And a book about animals – all in vain –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well, and she hasn’t a pain;
But, look at her, now she’s beginning again! –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
I’ve promised her sweets and a ride in the train,
And I’ve begged her to stop for a bit and explain –
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s perfectly well and she hasn’t a pain,
And it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again!
What is the matter with Mary Jane?

.

As a child I loved this poem, partly because of being pressured to eat the revolting-looking stuff at school (if it wasn’t rice pudding, it might well be semolina, or tapioca pudding instead – same thing in my book). How fabulous it was to see rice-pudding-refusal sanctioned and validated in this cultural way.

But I loved it in a broader sense as well. In a world where food refusal met with disapproval and sometimes punishment, in a world where it was treated as an aberration, a freakish anomaly, the rice pudding in this poem took on a metaphorical status for me. It stands for all non-food foods. As Mary Jane beautifully demonstrates, dolls and daisy chains really don’t mean shit when you’re up against a plateful of non-food food. You’re not not-eating it because you want a better reward. You’d sacrifice anything before you’d eat it, just because of the way you’re made, and so it seems so unfair to forego the dolls and daisy chains through no fault of your own. It’s enough to make anybody cry.

E.Shepherd’s lovely illustration of the child freaking out in her high-chair seemed to express on my behalf something of how I felt, seemed to reflect a part of my experience that was never accepted or validated or understood by anyone around me. It was one of very few things in the world that gave me the faintest hint of not being entirely alone in not being able to eat things. And because it was in a book, other people could see and read it too. Sometimes an adult would read it aloud, which I loved, because it meant that the phenomenon must be mutual knowledge after all. Adults would tend to read it with some feeling – I think because they identified with having to be the feeder, not the feedee.

I’ve just discovered that it’s meant to be a humourous poem – Mary Jane’s aversion to rice pudding is implied to be due to the repetition of the dish, and the joke seems to be the narrator’s insensivity to this fact, and consequent ignorance as to Mary Jane’s distress. Personally, none of that ever occurred to me, and personally, even now that I’ve thought about it, I don’t think it’s very funny at all. Story of my life, too close to the bone, and no, it’s just not funny.

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One Response to “Rice Pudding”

  1. Jack Says:

    This poem was to you then; what this blog site is to
    me now.

    Thanks


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