Converted Sugar Daddy Finds Old Diet Sweeter

It was a horrible sight: a dentist telling a mother of a 4-year-old boy that 14 -- virtually all -- of his teeth would have to be removed because they were riddled with cavities.

And no, the scene is not set in Russia, as you may have thought. It was in fact the extraordinary case of a child who had developed an eating disorder after a choking incident, which left him terrified of all food except chocolate until a psychologist corrected the disorder.

The fact that it was happening in England, and that I suspect the parents were perhaps slightly at fault for indulging him so long, gave me a moment's pleasure in disproving Miranda's accusation that only we Russians destroy our children's teeth with too much sugar.

Further proof that there are also sinners in the West came when a British doctor recently offered Vita a sweet for being such a brave girl over her injections. The doctor was awestruck when Vita, never having had a sweet before, didn't know what to do with it.

But, of course, I, whose teeth, like most of my compatriots', were certainly ruined at an early age by too much sugar, am a convert and back Miranda up when my family scolds her for not allowing them to give Vita sugar lumps, without which, they still claim, "her brain won't develop."

If you watch Russian television, you'll see that we are all being converted now. Not an ad break passes without a kindly dentist extolling the benefits of toothpaste and numerous teeth-saving, breath-enhancing chewing gums. Russians' mouths, it seems, are to be the next source of big bucks for the West.

Eating is a minefield and this is nowhere more apparent that in the meeting of cultures in our home.

Since living with Miranda, who is convinced I am hell bent on an early death, I have to sneak the fatty kolbasa of my dreams into the flat when she's not looking, am not allowed to wash it down with an entire bottle of vodka and have to fight for the occasional privilege of deep fat frying everything in the 'fridge.

Of course it's a good thing that Vita happily crunches apples instead of lollipops and eats her vegetables raw rather than boiled to death and doused with mayonnaise.

But I can't help worrying about her cultural heritage: If the mushrooms are now too dangerous to pick, butter-soaked pirozhki are out, and she's not allowed to stir babushka's sugar-laden jam, made with the berries she's been helping us to gather all summer, into tea -- which is also forbidden (because it's a drug) in defiance of the Russian tradition of feeding weak tea to babies -- will she turn round one day and accuse me, through her brilliant white teeth, of robbing her of a Russian's childhood memories?