Saturday, February 21

How To Make Friends And Influence People

21st February
There are still a couple of weeks to go before Bug Film Lift Off, so I’m going to write about the job I’ve been doing this week.

In another life I am a cook, a couple of weeks ago I got a call from one of my clients, a Man With a Chateau, asking if I could go and cook for him and his teenage children during the half term holiday. They are a funny, happy family and most of them, including the Man have asperger’s syndrome.

The Man is mostly thinking about numbers, he’s really good at them (this activity has made him very wealthy) his idea of fun is to compile lists of naval personnel on WWII warships. He has the same sort of problems understanding social interaction as I have with string theory but he realises that Other People are an unavoidable fact of life and that he has to help his children negotiate the World of Other People, and here we have it, my principle purpose is not so much about cooking - I’m a target for social skills practise

Lesson one: How to make conversation (Tip: People like compliments especially women)
The Man comes in to the kitchen with Lilly and casts around for something to compliment, he focuses on the very ordinary cardigan I am wearing and says, That’s a nice … er… woven thing… what is it? Did you make it?

Lilly has a go, Is that your hair?

Lesson Two: avoiding confrontation (i) everything gets a positive answer
Me: What would you like for supper, are there any dislikes or allergies I should know about?

The Man: We like everything
Lilly: I like Miley Cyrus

In reality everyone in the family has very complicated food issues. The Man can’t remember what they are, if he goes to the supermarket he comes back with bags full of tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, coco pops and fizzy drinks, the aisles of produce are simply too overwhelming to deal with. What normally happens is that they eat out a lot. I ask what they’d order in a restaurant

The Man says, Meat, I think, and ice cream

I ask Lilly what she likes eating but she can only hear white noise coming out of my mouth, she has learned that it is polite to stay quiet and look at me while I am making this noise (and remember to smile a bit – but don’t laugh) she has also understood that when I stop making the noise she is expected to say something, so she says whatever is going on in her head. I must wait until her chat cycles round to food, finally it happens:

Yeah, no bits, I don’t like stuff in food, will you make a carrot cake? I’m gonna tell you how to do it – right? You’ve got to get whitey stuff right, but without bits in it? Then you make it flat and put it in a thing and you put that in the oven. Then you cook it all day then you take it out and cover it with whitey icing – right?

By now I know that the only food Lilly willingly eats is Fanta (is that food?) and cake, the cake becomes a bribe - she gets to slather the cake with 'whitey' icing while I make lasagne, at suppertime the cake must sit on the table in all it’s drippy glory until she has eaten enough lasagne.

Lilly eats some lasagne - but there is one more hurdle

lesson three: lying
The Man: The lasagne was nice wasn’t it?
Lilly: yes

the cake is hers

It's been an interesting week, I have watched the Man struggling to eat a grapefruit with a knife and fork, I’ve made hamburger lollipops and chocolate cheese. This is a household where people take off their clothes to dance in the kitchen, see no reason to close the door when they’re using the lavatory and if I’m careless enough to bring my handbag into the kitchen it will be sorted through for 'interesting things’. It's all this that makes the village of hair rubbing and druids seem completely normal.


  1. Strewth, I thought my family was a strange but it's nothing on this lot! It's too much choice that's the problem of course. If there were only spuds to eat and only jobs down the mine then there'd be no Asperger's syndrome. (And they'd all be thrashing each other within an inch of their lives every evening of course.)

  2. It's funny how all these nutters, erm I mean unusual people seem to find you.That old adage 'out of the frying pan etc' comes to mind.

    Do you have a swish bedroom in this chateau? Do you get any time to yourself in between meal prep? Are you in the UK or France?

    As you can see, I am very curious

  3. Food plus Cognitive Behavior Therapy -- brilliant!

  4. I pretend not to like cakes made out of vegetables because given a free hand the Social Secretary wouldn't know when to stop and we'd have Cabbage Layer Cake and Beetroot Battenburg in no time. But I do like the whitey icing on carrot cake, as long as it's not touching...

  5. So, what's so unusual about only shopping for tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, coco pops and fizzy drinks?
    I think you need a license or professional status to buy anything else.

  6. XL: She mentioned CAKE!

  7. PS: Please be careful of mentioning cake within earshot of MJ!

    Oh Hai MJ!

  8. Gadj - I completely agree, too much choice is the root of all social anxiety - or most of it anyway.

    Frenchie - Everyone is someone's nutter. The chateau is in France, I have a bedroom the size of a football pitch with an oak four-poster, carved with what I think is called 'linenfold' stuff and hung with tapestries, it is icy and there is no light.

    xl - It makes a change from plain old CBT with no sweetners

    BT - Beetroot and parsnips do make delicious cakes - not sure if cabbage would work so well in cake - but cabbage ice cream mmmm

    Bill - do you eat your coco pops with ketchup too?

    MJ - every day is cake day at my place

  9. XL - yeah I forgot about MJ and cake

  10. oh good, you are prepped for a visit to my house! dancing in the kitchen is encouraged, clothes or no clothes.

    within the world of "special needs" the "normal" people are the odd ones out. the longer your world is as such the more you realize that oh boy, are they ever.

    i do have a recipe for a very nice chocolate cake using sauerkraut. it is a beautifully moist cake, the sauerkraut is as coconut.

  11. Erm.. I clicked on 'string theory' and my head exploded...

  12. Welcome to my life.

    Himself and the Boy both have Aspergers, and I think it's contagious.

    Now my head explodes if I think about either string theory OR social interaction.

  13. I trust - because you like the Man - he's not one of those rich *ankers we all hate at the moment. How nice to have money and be happy, even if the home life is a little bizarre.

  14. The effort they made to be normal is quite touching. It might have been easier if you just wrote a rule book for them to memorise.

  15. If you were talking about boules it might as well have been white noise, you've always got to look at things from the other guy's point of view. "Man muss immer umkehren", as Jacobi was so fond of saying.

  16. The real problems arise when people, ahem like me, kinda get string theory and kinda get social interaction but don't have a clear grasp on either. That's a danger zone.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  17. Deb - I have yet to meet a 'normal' person but they sound terribly grey don't they?

    Send chocolate/sauerkraut recipe

    Scarlet - I should have put a warning asterisk on it - sorry

    Kelly - your household must be fun, it may well be contagious judgung by my behaviour this morning

    Frankie - He's not attached to a bank so not directly responsible for state of the world - probably!

    Gorilla - Making lists is quite popular - but reading them isn't. I have made some placards with instructions like
    that was a joke - everyone should laugh
    which I hold up at the appropriate moment.

    Inkspot - I turn things round so much I've got vertigo

    Deirdre - a little knowledge being a dangerous thing eh?

  18. Your patience astounds me. I simply couldn't cope with the constant challenge. However, it does remind me of going shopping with M. Defarge, who seems incapable of deciding what to buy to wear or eat. But then complains about my choices. I think I need your cake recipe.

  19. Your bedroom sounds like something out of a gothic fantasy. No full moons coming up I trust.

  20. Madame Defarge - I find this job far less challenging than the sort of behaviour one encounters from people who are merely selfish and overprivileged

    Frenchie - I've not checked the moon phase - and I should because it's me that turns into a werewolf

  21. oh my, sugar...i think i need to go back and read more about all ya'll...i'm lost, i think, here...yes, that is it.

    can we speak more about string theory?


  22. Savannah - you are getting too excited about the Oscars to concentrate girl

  23. They sound cute and all, but I wonder, are you ever tempted to screw with these people? Just think how much fun it would be if you barked like a dog whenever they gave you a compliment.

  24. Hi, I've dropped in from French Fancy, and found your post so fascinating and truthfully honest,that I stayed and read through. This family you described gives us all something to appreciate.

  25. Prunella - not so simple my dear, barking is fine, wouldn't phase them

    Lakeviewer - hello and welcome, glad you liked it.

  26. I'd like a BLT with a side of fries and humor, please.

  27. Aspergers is so sad. I know a little boy who has it. He's so cute but when it comes to dealing with people, especially strangers, he has a hard time...and he's extremely picky about what he eats and how it's prepared.

  28. Wow - you can have the BLT and fries but I'm right out of humour at the moment

    BB - Asperger's can be a real challenge - but manageable usually.

  29. What an interesting life you lead. And your perspective makes me howl with laughter and delight.

  30. Alphawoman - I'm thrilled that you're enjoying the ride


Related Posts with Thumbnails