Spend enough time around a person talking about childhood memories, before long the talk turns to food. My husband (Bob) says he can only remember once that his mother broke a sweat to step out the back door and pull a few weeds but she could spend the whole day stirring a pot of beans, an hour on the phone ordering the week’s groceries, arguing with the grocery man, “That chicken you gave me last week was tough, it must have been old, I want a fresh Spring chicken.” Bob spent his time playing Junior Audobon. On the premise that you should eat what you shoot, he would bring his birds down, sketch them, pluck them and bring them home to Mom who cooked them. He ate sparrow gumbo and learned the concrete meaning of “eating crow.”
My father talked about eating lard sandwiches during the Depression. He sounded nostalgic. My mother said that he wanted her to serve creamed corn, creamed peas, creamed everything like his mother did. The cream of his childhood notwithstanding, it seems like there was a lot of this and layers, also, in my childhood. Cream of mushroom, celery, potato, chicken soups layered in casseroles. Thanks to Good Housekeeping we were once served cream of mushroom soup, tuna fish, canned peas and potato chip casserole. Good Housekeeping should have lost its seal of approval. My younger brother was exempt, eating, as usual, his plate of bologna and Alphabet cereal. My sister, to my horrified admiration, threw up on her plate, exempting us from that dish in the future. A note about me and potato chips. Lays potato chips – Betcha can’t eat just one. Betcha I can’t even. There was also Mom’s foray into corn meal mush…
The best layers came in sevens – seven layer bars, seven layer salad. Both, seven layer cardiac disease. Still, even though no one particularly thought about “heart healthy,” low fat, low cal, omega fats, good or bad or indifferent cholesterol back then, we were thinner and fitter because we only ate at McDonald’s twice a year and nothing was super sized and just like our parents, we walked two miles one way to school every day, barefoot, uphill, both ways, in a blinding snowstorm, every single day. At least that’s what I tell my children. And I’m not backing down.
I predicted Kieli would be a vegetarian when she was six-months-old. She ate everything with gusto, except meat, which she refused, even then. By nine, she made the pronouncement and took her younger sister, who in restaurants, always ordered “same as Kieli”, along with her. I asked Kieli her memories of childhood food. She said all she remembers was that if it wasn’t pizza, it wasn’t good and I made bread with beer once and on principle she threw it on the floor and broke the plate. It wasn’t bread, it was Welsh rarebit. That wasn’t what she threw on the floor, she refused to eat cereal one morning and threw the bowl on the floor, it didn’t break. I’m not stupid enough to give my kids food in something they can break. Still, it shows the inconstancy of memories and how truth and facts aren’t always the same thing.