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Soup And Bread

Soup And Bread, February 2015
by Nonen Titi

Author Self-Published
Featuring: Vonnie; Laura; Frank
284 pages
ISBN: 0994107730
EAN: 9780994107732
Kindle: B00T1TA3OE
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"If you are what you eat, what makes school bullies different to diabetics?"

Fresh Fiction Review

Soup And Bread
Nonen Titi

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted October 9, 2015

Young Adult Contemporary

SOUP AND BREAD, a young adult contemporary adventure, deals with family relationships, school likes and dislikes, and the awkwardness of growing up. Vonnie finds that her life has many pitfalls.

SOUP AND BREAD seems like a simple and philosophical diet. However, we all know that most young people want cake, ice- cream, sweet drinks, tasty main courses, and maybe not too many vegetables. Some of them even go on faddy stretches of not eating other foods. In this tale Vonnie and Laura's mom lectures them about nutritious food, but between their fads and her husband's preference for meat and tatties, she has her work cut out to cook a meal.

Despite the insistence of the teachers that this is a zero tolerance school, we still find that dreadfully, Isabel, a pal of Vonnie's, has had her violin's neck broken and has herself been threatened. No wonder the poor girl can't keep food down when she thinks of class and music practice. Bullying is extremely harmful to growing people and reflects the ignorance and envy of the bullies.

When Vonnie and Laura see that their mom has cleaned out the cupboards and fridge, and is on a soup and multigrain bread regime, they are dismayed. Their lunch boxes are equally simple and breakfast is porridge. Vonnie complains to her friend Rinah, whose Asian mother prepares healthy meals too. Frank, the strongest guy in class who despises bullies, has to explain to the girls about his diabetes. He knows a lot about carbs and proteins, and the girls start to learn. But that doesn't solve the tensions - at home or at school. They'll just have to tough it out.

I found it unusual to read a story where everyone is constantly eating something, or not eating and complaining about the food. Different outcomes of eating different ways are shown, including anorexia, and a chart of Blood Sugar Levels for Diabetics is at the end after the story's dramatic conclusion. SOUP AND BREAD is a really unusual adventure dealing with more than one major issue for those concerned, and Nonen Titi has seasoned her well-written story with a great deal of information to help young adults understand their lives. While the author lives in New Zealand, I believe this tale could occur in many places around the world, so perhaps it's true to say that we have too many choices of what to eat, and too many adults unprepared to listen to unhappy young students. The real lesson of SOUP AND BREAD is that we should be prepared to listen and to make changes for the better. Any family with a diabetic adult or child will be especially interested in reading this adventure.

Learn more about Soup And Bread


For Vonnie, dinnertime means Mum complaining that she's picky, and school means PE (ugh!) and bullies - but she's learned to ignore them.

But now Mum's threatening to make soup and bread for every meal - forever - and Frank, the new kid, is picking fights, and Vonnie can't ignore them.

But she can't do anything... right? She's just a kid.



“Vonnie is spoilt,” Mum says when Rinah’s mother brings me home after I stayed for dinner on Sunday night.

Only, I didn’t eat any of her dinner.

“She didn’t even give it one little try,” Mrs Timisela says about the yellow rice with red and green vegetables that I’ve never had before.

That’s when Mum tells her I’m spoilt. Mum always says that about me. And the worst thing is that Mum’s the one who spoilt me. That’s what Mum says, anyhow.

Laura’s spoilt too, of course. Mum did that as well. And to top it all off, Dad is spoilt too, but Mum didn’t do that; he came that way from Grandma’s home.

Mum can’t say how it started. “When Vonnie was a toddler, she used to eat everything – unlike Laura, who only wanted those mushy foods from a jar. Vonnie would eat all her vegetables,” she tells Rinah’s mother, who’s leaning against the front door but says she doesn’t want to come in because she has to “get the kids to bed”.

I sit down on the bench in the hall to take off my shoes. Mum was in her “really healthy” phase when I was one and Laura was four. Everything had to be wholemeal and raw vegetables. That’s what Dad told us.

“But it made no difference; now she’s just as spoilt as Laura,” Mum says.

Dad comes out of the kitchen and pats my head before joining them. “It isn’t that bad,” he says. “They’re good girls. We never have to ask them twice to help with something, they share and they even put some of their pocket money into the Salvation Army collection yesterday.”

But Mum insists we’re spoilt when it comes to food. Dad used to be just like us. He used to eat nothing but mince, tatties and canned peas when they were first married, but she doesn’t say that to Rinah’s mum. And Dad has “improved” since then. Now he even eats nasi goreng with sambal, like Rinah’s parents.

Rinah’s dad is from Indonesia. Her mum isn’t, but she cooks the food. Rinah looks like her dad on the outside, but she has no accent and she only likes Western food. But her mum is really strict and Rinah always has to empty her plate or she won’t get dessert and no treats the next day, and that’s a shame because Rinah’s mum makes yummy desserts. I saw them sitting ready in their fridge: tall glasses with blackcurrant syrup at the bottom, then yellow custard and white yogurt, and on top a slice of orange and a wafer for decoration. It looked SO yummy...but I didn’t get it either, because I didn’t eat the rice.

Mum thinks desserts give us extra proteins and she read somewhere that most adults who are overweight were forced to finish their dinner when they were kids, but Mrs Timisela doesn’t believe in substituting meals. She says she won’t spoil her kids with biscuits and muesli bars. She says the only way to appreciate food is to go without.

Then she says, “Goodbye Yvonne,” and leaves.

“I’m tired of cooking,” Mum says on Monday evening, looking over the edge of her steamed-up glasses when putting our plates on the kitchen table. “I’m tired of making three different meals every night because Vonnie only eats macaroni cheese and Laura wants nothing but baked beans.”

And since Dad doesn’t like pasta or beans, she has to make him rice or tatties every day with plenty of meat. Dad doesn’t believe a meal is complete without meat in it, but Laura and me don’t like meat – except sausages and burgers. Mum doesn’t care about meat either, but she thinks a meal should always have vegetables for their vitamins and minerals, because she worries about our health.

So Dad gets his vitamins from the fruit-and-yoghurt drink Mum mixes in the blender for him and from eating salads at work. Laura and me don’t like the sour drinks or salad, so Mum squeezes oranges for us in the morning. Laura sometimes ‘forgets’ to drink hers when she’s in a hurry to catch the bus. I always drink mine, but only after Mum has put it through the sieve so there are no pulp thingies in it. And today she’s made a big platter of strawberries with cream for all of us, because it’s “the only food nobody pulls up their noses at”.

“But all the goodness is lost with the amount of sugar you pour on top of it,” she says to me.

Mum has complained about how much sugar I eat ever since our school had a Health Awareness Week last month. The little kids, like Rinah’s sister Sitha, made food pictures and brought their toothbrushes to school, but we had to do a math project. First we had to record everything we ate and drank for the whole week and how much exercise we did, and calculate how many calories we’d eaten and how many we had exercised away. Then we had to compare and everybody had eaten more than they exercised, so the school complained to the parents about kids eating too many sugars and processed foods, which is why some children can’t sit still or concentrate and others are “controversial”.

So now Mum feels guilty again and that’s why she’s complaining about how much sugar I put on my strawberries.

“And you’re all drinking way too many soft drinks; I’m tired of getting them.”

She always complains about that too, but she still buys a new bottle in the supermarket every day.

“Lunches are a disaster,” Mum says on Tuesday morning when the toast burns because she’s trying to fix lunchboxes at the same time. “No variety. I’m sick of the sight of them.”

She closes Laura’s box with a bang.

Laura always has ham on slices of white bread – “dough balls”, Mum calls them. I also have dough balls, but mine have peanut butter, and I like white rolls with nothing on them.

And today breakfast is a disaster too, because there’s no more bread for new toast, so Mum says to get some cereal instead, but then there isn’t enough milk for all of us and Dad’s coffee, so Mum says to just grab a muesli bar and a handful of biscuits and she’ll buy more when she goes shopping.

“You know, Mum,” Laura says, splitting the roll of biscuits in half and cutting each of us some cheese from the block, “if you’d agree to get a microwave you wouldn’t have anymore dishes and no more need to complain about cooking. We’d each make our own.”

“Then we’d never have a family meal anymore and all you’d eat would be processed junk.”

“Well, it’s either nutritious meals together or no dishes and no stress. You can’t have it both ways, Mum.”

Laura uses her napkin to wipe her glasses clean and then wraps her cheese in it. “I’ll eat it on the way,” she says and shouts goodbye to Dad, who’s standing watching the news in the living room.

I quickly stuff the cheese in my mouth and the biscuits into my bag and run upstairs to brush my teeth.

Like always, Mum hands me my lunchbox when I’m putting my shoes on in the hall and she waits at the door until I reach the path that leads to Rinah’s house so we can wave. From her house, me and Rinah walk together, following Main Street all the way to the round-about, where we turn into High Road and through the school gate onto the path that leads to the playground.

On the way I tell Rinah about the breakfast disaster and she tells me she tripped on the stairs when sneaking down for some milk in the middle of the night because she was hungry and couldn’t sleep.

We share all our mother troubles every day, just like we share my muesli bar and peanut butter dough balls and her banana for lunch. When it rains, we eat in class, but today it’s dry, so we take our lunches out of their boxes the moment the bell goes and run to the benches in front of the teachers’ room to share our food there.

Mum makes me four slices of bread now that I’m in Year Six because she thinks I need more energy, but she doesn’t know I asked for them so Rinah won’t be hungry at school. Rinah doesn’t get peanut butter anymore ever since the school told all the parents that the allergic boy in Year One will die if he touches peanut butter. But Mum says she won’t let me go hungry for a child I never even see, so she just warned me to wash my hands after lunch and to pack the leftovers back into the box so nothing can happen. But we never have leftover peanut butter, only Rinah’s sourdough with cheese and that’s not dangerous in the bin.

At the end of recess we go to the canteen and buy potato chips with our snack money and, just in case Rinah doesn’t like her dinner, we go to my house after school to have cookies and ice cream while we watch Animal Planet.

“I’m fed up,” Mum says at dinnertime and pulls away my plate, where my macaroni people on the edge have just been covered with a cheese avalanche. “You play with your food when it’s nice and warm and then you won’t eat it when it’s gone cold. I’ve had it, Yvonne, I’m not making you any more macaroni. You can have milk and cereal for all your meals from now on.”

I shrug to say I don’t care. She tried to make us eat cereal every day once before when she had “a phase”, but then she worried about the vitamins and started making extra fruit salads until it was easier to just cook macaroni, beans and tatties again.

“You never eat, yet you’re full of energy, which means you must be burning sugar,” she complains. “I didn’t have any sugar.”

“Well, I think we should cut down on after-school snacks. Especially now you’ve given up on Saturday gym as well.”

“I didn’t give up, but it’s no fun without Rinah.”

“So why did Rinah give up? I thought she was really good at gym.”

“She just didn’t want to go anymore,” I tell her.

“Maybe you should try and find another sport you both like.”

But there isn’t any sport I can think of that I’d want to try.

Dad puts down his fork and pushes his empty plate away. “That was nice,” he says. “But could we have something other than tatties tomorrow? If I eat any more of those I’m going to turn into a couch potato.”

He pulls a face, but Mum doesn’t think it’s funny. “I asked you this morning what you wanted and you said you didn’t know!”

“I can’t think about dinner at breakfast time,” Dad says.

“Neither can I, but I have to do the shopping. I’m not doing it anymore. And I won’t do any more dishes.”

Mum slams the plates back down onto the table and drops the tea towel down beside it. Then she leaves to sit in the living room with the TV on, so Dad has to clear the table and do the dishes, and he makes coffee at the same time. “She’s pouting,” he says to us. “She needs a rest. She hates cooking.”

“At least she doesn’t go into that ‘poor kids are starving’ routine,” Laura says, drying off the dishes so I can put them in the cupboard. “I can cope with pouting.”

“And with complaining,” I agree and all three of us have a secret giggle about that.

Mum always pouts and complains about food. For everything else she’s a really fun mum to have, but when it comes to food she’s complained for as long as I remember. It’s like a theme song.

What do you think about this review?


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