Richard Ord: Why this spaghetti faux pas was no laughing matter

Spaghetti bolognese
Spaghetti bolognese

When you’re faced with teachers on the warpath during a serious dressing down in the headteacher’s office, the impulse to laugh can be overwhelming.

We’ve all been there. But not usually as the parent!

Our Isaac, 14, along with his mum and I, had been summoned to see his head of year after a series of misdemeanours.

The aim was to remind our son that he had to knuckle down if he wanted to achieve good exam grades. ‘Silly noises’ during mathematics does not a Stephen Hawking make, was the message.

He appeared to be taking the ticking off rather well. He nodded at the right points and kept a respectfully sullen face throughout. I, however, could feel the giggles rising.

Too many serious faces and intense glares. This was not a time for levity.

But the more furrowed the brows of his admonishers became, the more the hollow fluttering of a stifled giggle rose in my chest. And there was nowhere to look.

My soon-to-be ex-wife would have what little she left of my guts for garters if I burst into laughter.

The two teachers in the room would be equally unimpressed. Clearly if I started hooting with laughter the root cause of Isaac’s misbehaviour would become plain to see. “He gets it from his stupid father.”

I bit the inside of my cheek. My fingernails pressed harder into the palm of my hand. I shook my head and stared at my feet.

To the casual observer, it would have looked for all the world like I was the one getting the ticking off.

Things were not helped by the fact that minutes before the meeting, my son and I had regaled the teacher of how we had prepped for an assignment he had that afternoon.

As part of his food technology assessment, he was to make a dish of his own choice. He chose spaghetti Bolognese.

The pair of us made two separate trips to the supermarket to source the ingredients. He demanded the best minced beef. That was no problem.

His bonus ingredient was pancetta. I had got bacon lardons. We weren’t sure if there was a difference.

Isaac eyed the lardon pack up and decided it would do. Celery was going to make an appearance. We checked it over. It would need washing, but was fine.

Onions! One large onion was required, but we only had small ones. He opted for two small ones.

Carrots were a bit of a nightmare. I had some at the bottom of my fridge. “These are out of date,” he squeaked.

I gave him cash and sent him off to the Co-Op (the nation’s finest purveyors of carrots, I’m led to believe).

Such attention to culinary detail got me thinking that perhaps we might just have the next Jamie Oliver on our hands. He returned with a bag of carrots … and a Pot Noodle. Perhaps not then.

When packing the ingredients he cried “tinned tomatoes!” As luck would have it, I had a tin. Perfect.

It was while we were killing time before the ‘ticking off’ that we told the tale of the ingredient hunt to his teachers. It showed he was conscientious and diligent.

It also showed that his dad was supportive of his educational needs.

It was halfway through this story of responsibility and harmony that we realised, simultaneously, a vital ingredient was missing. “We forgot the spaghetti!”

Laugh? I thought I’d never start...