What would MacGyver do?


There is a perpetually hungry 7 year old in my house. His favourite question is What can I eat? If I had a dollar for every time he uttered these words, I would be able to hire a personal chef.

His hobby is raiding the fridge and/or the snack cupboard. With each visit, he lowers his standards and therefore increases his options.  Much like a visit to Tinder in the dating world, I imagine.

What can I eat?  Yes he’s a growing boy. But he’s not, presumably, growing into a giant. Or a beanstalk. If you saw him eat, though, you would have your doubts.

I am also amused (in an eye-rolling kind of way, not ROFL – that’s ‘Rolling On the Floor Laughing’ for the non-texters amongst us) at this recurring situation:

He is happily creating a Lego masterpiece worthy of an architecture accolade/ watching educational and age appropriate television programs playing Score Hero on his iPad (let’s keep it real). The minute he sees me, even if I have just cleaned the house from top to bottom/ completed a 10km run cleared the dishes from lunch (still keeping it real) I hear those words:

What can I eat? It’s as if the sight of me triggers in him some kind of brain-stomach-brain message. I’ll assume it does not mean that I look like I’ve just eaten a heavy meal or that I must have easy and constant access to food, but instead understand that he sees me as his nurturer, provider of nutrition, maker of Milo, creator of school lunches. So I resist the urge to respond with Well, what can you make? and instead, make him his 42nd snack of the day.

You know the 80s American TV show where the guy with the mullet gets out of tricky situations using only what he finds around him plus a Swiss Army Knife and duct tape? Yes, MacGyver! How did you…oh, oops, post title. Anyway, I try to apply that kind of skill to my meal preparation. Without the duct tape, of course.  Unless too many people under 5 feet start asking me when dinner will be ready.

The challenge is greater if a grocery shop is due. But the formula is tried and tested.

  1. Survey the surroundings – fridge, pantry, kitchen counter, random items conveniently lying around
  2. Plan the strategy (recipe)
  3. Execute the MacGyver Meal under pressured conditions.

The Japanese have a word for allowing the chef to decide your menu: omakase, or ‘I’ll leave it up to you.’ Unbeknown to us all, this custom is practised every day in my kitchen. Being neither Japanese nor a real chef, the power of omakase may have unwittingly gone to my head. So If I am asked What are the choices? I very firmly say ‘Your choices are Take it or Leave it.’

But back to my 7 year old Very Hungry Beanstalk. A week before his birthday this year I asked him what he would like as his birthday meal. ‘I’ll make you anything you like,’ I said boldly, confident that he would not ask for stuffed zucchini flowers or anything that required a sous vide machine. I imagined having to Google ‘how to make sous vide chicken without a sous vide machine’ before I snapped myself out of that culinary horror. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said:

Fish fingers.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked, a little disappointed that none of my Big Gun meals were his favourite, and also because my flamenco apron would not be required for fish finger ‘cooking’.


Two days later I asked him again. “You know I said I would make you anything you wanted. How come you said ‘fish fingers’?’

He looked up from his Pokemon cards to say: Because it’s easy to make.

And then I knew. He is growing at an alarming rate. Into a kind and considerate human being. I had no choice but to make the best damn fish fingers the boy had ever tasted.

©2017 Seetha Dodd

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