a square plate.

Rosie was known as a picky eater. All her family said so. They told visitors, even strangers: “Rosie is a very picky eater,” they’d say. “She only likes certain foods and eats them only in a certain order.” Then they’d apologise for this strange trait, if the family were eating at a host’s table; or laugh at this peculiarity, if guests were eating at the family table.

Rosie didn’t consider herself a picky eater at all. Her brother Sam didn’t like to eat spinach, or prawns, or mushrooms, or walnuts, and no-one called him a picky eater. Inside her twelve-year-old soul, Rosie was offended. Furthermore, she considered her way of eating to be neat, sensible and nutritious. Sometimes she’d look around the dinner table at her family, and she’d say loudly (but only in her mind) “you’re such sloppy eaters!”

Rosie had spent many years, from the age of seven until now, perfecting her way of eating. At first she’d had some trouble, which had caused her to reject entire plates of perfectly good food, because her mother’s custom was to carelessly pile all kinds of unrelated foods into a random heap on a round plate. Rosie’s sense of the real decency of food, of its sacred nature, was utterly offended by this practice.

Things improved for the girl, though, once hr mother bought a square dinner plate. She’d seen the plate in the supermarket one day, and realised it would help her picky daughter, who was always trying to separate the food on her round dinner plate.

So now Rosie’s meals were served on the square plate, while her family ate on their usual round plates. She was much happier. For example, tonight’s dinner was made up of sausages, broccoli, mashed potatoes and carrots. By slicing the sausages in half (there were two of them on Rosie’s plate), and piling them into a small heap like little sawn logs in one corner of the square plate, Rosie could shove and pat the vegetables into the other three corners. She liked meals with four ingredients, or two, because they could be arranged on the plate in in an orderly manner. With three, she had to work on a difficult ‘pizza-slice’ arrangement, which offended the square-ness of the plate; or arrange boxes of differing sizes, which was also unsatisfactory. Her mother knew this, and tried to find two or four ingredients for Rosie’s meals. Sauces and gravies were always rejected. Far too messy.

Tonight Rosie patted the mashed potato into a neat little mountain beside the log-pile of sausages. The broccoli trees clustered in another corner, and the slivers of carrots made a small sunset-coloured square in the final corner. Rosie was satisfied. Now she could eat properly, and she proceeded to do so daintily, while her family stuffed their mouths with gravy-smeared forkfuls of disparate ingredients.

“Such sloppy eaters,” thought Rosie.

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