School Dinners

Christine O'Mahony: Mashed Potato

Christine O’Mahony was born in 1952 in Northampton. As a young child Christine spent time in Nazareth House children’s homes with her two sisters, before returning to family life in Camden, London aged five. Christine attended local C of E and Catholic primary schools and a local Catholic Secondary School, also spending time in hospital aged seven.

Here Christine describes having to eat mashed potato at school.

  • Christine O'Mahony
  • Christine O'Mahony
  • Christine O'Mahony


I hated school dinners, totally hated them and by then I’d developed a phobia of mashed potatoes that started in the children’s home - on this particular day they gave us shepherd’s pie with the mashed potatoes on top and I was about to eat mine when I looked down and it was heaving with wasps and, oh my God, I have never been able to eat mashed potato since, it was absolutely horrific, you know, and you were not allowed to not eat what was in front of you and I just didn’t know what I was going to do and knew I couldn’t eat it with wasps all over it and I don’t remember what I did do, I just remember being horrified and that’s it.

So in primary school you got two big ice cream shaped dollops of mashed potatoes every day and an awful lot of my day was spent in anxiety about these sodding mashed potatoes that I was going to get, and I would try and say to the dinner ladies, ‘Just one please,’ you know, I knew I was going to get one at the very least and occasionally one would take pity on me and only put one. And mostly they just slapped two on, you know, ‘cause they didn’t listen to kids, did they? And I remember being in the dining hall and absolutely in despair trying to deal with these potatoes ‘cause no way I was going to eat them.

And sometimes my sisters would help me out if they were sitting near enough, you know, they’d come and scoop them off my plate, I’d try and hide them under the fork and then go back. I’d try and throw them on the table, I’d try and persuade other children to take them off my plate. But I was one of the ones that was always last in the dinner hall, you weren’t allowed to go until everything was gone from your plate, you know. And one of the nuns who was particularly sadistic, Sister Bridget her name was, she was just such a cow. And I remember there was this child, there was something she wouldn’t eat on a regular basis, I think it might have been mince or something and I remember her trying to throw it in what we called the pig bin and this nun made her take it out and eat it and she just threw up all over the place. It was disgusting, you know, put me off mashed potatoes even more.

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