the gregarious homebody

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Life in Food

Starting a new Last Day of School tradition--The Volcano: 14 scoops of ice cream + 8 toppings

If my life were a book divided into chapters, each one would be about food.

Described as “a good eater” as a child (which may have something to do with the fact that I have also always been described as “solid”), most of my memories of my life up until now have been food-related. The room in my house growing up that I remember most is not the beautiful bedroom my mother wallpapered and filled with my beloved stuffed animals and dolls, but the kitchen, wallpapered in huge flowers inspired by The Brady Bunch and other houses of the 70’s. It’s not that the food that came out of it was so wonderful. My poor mom had the unenviable task of cooking for four children on a regular basis with totally different schedules and tastes. What was worse is that she also had to cook for a husband who thought having rice instead of mashed potatoes with his meatloaf was radical and who also thought that I “must be adopted” because I didn’t think gravy was one of the four food groups. No, my mother’s food per se wasn’t memorable. I guess I was just a “foodie” in the making. For that reason, I think my first chapter would have to be called:

Chapter One: Fish Sticks and Canned Green Beans—a Love/Hate Relationship

Let me just say from the start that I love fish sticks. A self-described non-fish eater at the time but knowing the health benefits of fish, I don’t think my mother ever tried to make the “real thing” for us but skipped right to the stick. Her own mother was a wonderful woman but a terrible cook and my mom has told me stories about saving whole fillets in her mouth and then somehow asking to be excused from the table to spit it out in the toilet upstairs. So I think she was saving us from our own childhood traumas. I didn’t mind. I can still remember being a very little girl, dipping my fish sticks in extra ketchup (a vegetable) and crunching away happily.

While I loved my mother’s fish sticks (and frozen turkey croquets and TV dinners when a babysitter came on a Saturday night), I did not love my mother’s way with vegetables. “Fresh” vegetables meant that the can had just been opened. Now canned corn or peas can sometimes be a good thing, but green beans should never, ever, be given to anyone, let alone a child who finds most vegetables suspect at best anyway. Canning green beans takes away their wonderful texture and fresh, snappy flavor. Or so I am told because to this day I still have trouble with them; with the help of a food therapist, I hope to work it out. Canning also turns this former bright green vegetable into a color best left to army fatigues and slime that one finds at the bottom of stagnant ponds. Yum!

But my mother’s love of the use of canned vegetables also extended to potatoes. Potatoes! I still don’t understand that one since potatoes are such keepers (I guess it was all about get-it-done-fast convenience) but my husband, whose mother probably didn’t know there were canned vegetables, cannot believe that I actually liked them. Bar none, one of our family’s favorite Sunday night dinners was a mixture of fried canned mini potatoes, scrambled eggs and hot dogs. Delicious! And my kids and husband love it too (all the while still being slightly disturbed by the potatoes).

My mom also used all the early convenience foods (before microwaves made them their own cuisine): Stove-Top Stuffing, Betty Crocker au Gratin (“all rotten”) Potatoes and, of course, Hamburger Helper. I loved them all and didn’t think them inferior to some of my friends’ mothers’ freshly-made-and-not-out-of-a-box food. My mom was ahead of her time; she was a busy housewife who would’ve rather spent time doing fun things than thinking incessantly about what would be a great dinner.

That job, much later on, was to be for me.

I can't believe they wanted anything to eat for dinner that night--
"Fancy" Italian-style Macaroni and Cheese with mozzarella and tomatoes, ready to go into the oven

Stay tuned for Chapter Two: Cauliflower & Awkward Adolescence


adozeneggs said...

Dave thinks your potato, wiener concoction sounds wonderful. I might try it, but with fresh taters. Just can't do the canned.
We feed Lily canned green beans and she loves em. (she also eats cat poop) there's no accounting for taste.

jen said...

I think Dave and I have a lot in common.
At least processed meat-wise.

I was going to say YES BECAUSE SHE'S A DOG until you mentioned the cat poop.

Patricia said...

I want to be there for the last day of school next year! Where do I get one of those volcanoes and how can I work a 14 scoop sundae tradition into my adult life?!

jen said...

Don't you know you can do ANYTHING you want to BECAUSE you're an adult?! Remember when you thought, 'When I'm grownup, I'll...' ???

Judy said...

My mother fed us on Shake and Bake Italian flavor. We ate S%B chickenthat all the time. I think it was the one processed food of our wait, for some reason she never made real mashed potatoes. Just dusty flakes from a box. Why? Mashed potatoes are easy soul food.

African Kelli said...

there is a lot of yummy food there! hope there weren't tummy aches after all that ice cream.

adozeneggs said...

Oh Lily loves popping her head in the litter box and having a little "snack".
And my mother did feed me Hamburger Helper when that first came out. I LOVED it.
Dave could eat hot dogs cooked any way, with anything.
Hope the Bar Mitzvah was a success!!

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

i am a big eater - i like homemade or the convenient stuff...i'm not a food snob (like some people in my life). life's too short not to enjoy eating!


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