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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You Gonna Eat That?

The following was originally posted on August 24th of 2008. I've not done this before, but I had no time to write yesterday! Will be back tomorrow with a big glass of freshly squeezed (OoOoOoOo!) Pearl. Until then, you probably haven't read this (I had very very few readers in August!)


When I was a child, the best things I could think of to eat came in cans, in the freezer section, or in boxes. My parents, in that mysterious way that parents have, did not believe in ready-to-eat foods. While our peers in the trailer court were eating Pop Tarts, TV dinners, and Chef Boyardee, we were being forced to dine on made-from-scratch beef roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, chili and corn bread, lemon meringue pie.

You can imagine how irritating this was to us kids.

Was it so wrong to want Spaghettios and Raviolios? Would it have killed us to have had a Fudgesicle? Would it be so bad to buy the Captain Crunch with Crunchberries? Would it?

My parents’ disdain for these foods had its basis in several different things: 1.) the budget, 2.) their ability to really cook, and 3.) the fact that they believed these foods to be the work of the Devil.

OK. Well, maybe not the Devil. But the same reasoning that was behind my mother’s mockery of the paper towel (“Oh, yeah, spend more money! Grab a rag, ya lazy bum!”) worked for pre-packaged foods.

“Now why in the world would I spend that much money for Hyper Toasted Sugar Bursts with Marshmallows when for the same money I could buy a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread, not to mention that it’s better for you. What’s wrong with eggs and toast for breakfast?”

Nothing, except that, according to the television, everyone’s happily eating Pop Tarts for breakfast, Mom!

That was a long time ago. Today, Tasty Pizza delivers to our house at least once a month; I’m willing to work for take-out Pad Thai; and, for some inexplicable reason, there are corn dogs in my freezer. I’ve also been known, Heaven help me, to encourage hitting the drive-thru at the White Castle, particularly if I’ve been drinking.

I’m no angel.

Still, I do a lot of cooking. My dinners are often made of the same components that my parents’ were. I make the cukes and sour cream dish that my grandmother made, the spaghetti and meatballs that my father did, the guacamole that my mother did. I keep these recipes in a three-ring binder that is added to every time I get a new recipe I fall in love with. My son has already given me a heads-up on his post-my-death plans to abscond with it.

Mom was right about all of it: the money, the nutrition, the possible complicity of the Devil. But she missed something even less tangible than the Devil’s connection to marketing campaigns: the role that food plays in love and tradition.

It’s odd, really. The older I get, the more I realize that my mother knows what she’s talking about. And here she knew so little when I was younger…

Now how does that work?

34 comments:

ICKY said...

Now that you mention it, I want Spaghettios and Raviolios right now.

mbuna53 said...

A re-run? What a jip

CSY said...

Its AMAZING how much mothers know when we get older. I ALWAYS thought my mom was dumber than dirt, but as I've aged and had children of my own I realize she was actually pretty smart. I honestly don't know HOW that happens!

The Jules said...

A fudgsicle?

I don't know what one of them is, but I want one.

darsden said...

I didn't have tevo in August so I am happy to have a re-run. Wait I don't have tevo now either damn!

Under the Influence said...

My mom is a "cook from scratch" kind of mom, too. Though she did let me have spaghetti o's! Captain Crunch? That was another story. It was always a treat when she actually bough Captain Crunch, about three times a year!

Frank said...

My mother was the best cook ever but she never bought the things my friends got to eat. No wonder I’m addicted to Pop Tarts now…

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

I am totally willing to create new traditions (is that an oxymoron?) with my family and Pad Thai. Yes, I know what I'll be having for dinner tonight.

Venom said...

ummm, my mom cooked from scratch - but she was never good at it, still isn't. Sad, very sad. The only woman I know who could ruin macaroni. Boiled potatoes, whole with no butter, was a staple. We kids lived for the occasional pancake night. Okay, so she could make pancakes! But everything else, yuck.

Eskimo Bob said...

The following comment was originally posted July 9, 2007 -on another blog.

Steve - You sly dog. It seems like yesterday we were skipping church to go to McDonalds - now here you are graduating Culinary Institute. So much for processed foods from now on eh? When you come over I'll have a nice bowl of Ramen ready for ya! Take care!

Reeky said...

My wife saves incredible amounts of $$ by buying real food and preparing it. Our neighbor is always complaining about the cost of groceries but she buys ONLY prepared food which is so expensive.

I like the nutrition part, both my kids never had to get vitamins from their pediatrician because they eat real, wholesome food.

My kids are also so into trying new and exciting foods when we go out to eat. They get that because we are always experimenting at home with new dishes.

The Retired One said...

My grandma and mom used to do the cukes and sour cream thing too, and I still do. I love them that way, especially if you add lots of salt and pepper. Others look at me like I invented it from Aliens. SO GLAD someone else likes them that way too!!

Pearl said...

Icky, I hear ya. You know it’s garbage, and yet…

Mbuna, do you want your money back?!

CSY, more proof that sound moves slower than light huh?! I’m only now hearing some of what my parents told me…

The Jules, feel free to use that one! But don’t you have frozen chocolate crap on a stick in UK?

Darsden, you’ve been coming around for a long time, though! How long’s it been?

Under the Influence, my mother never strayed beyond Cheerios and the occasional Shredded Wheat…

Frank, please don’t say Pop Tarts!!! Dammit, Frank. I love Pop Tarts….

Prefers Her Fantasy Life, I just “discovered” Pad Thai this last year. How did I get by for so long without it?!

Venom, I have a friend who, growing up, thought all the black flakes in his mother’s cooking was some sort of spice she added to it. It wasn’t until he was an adult that he realized that it was scorched food, that his mother burnt every single thing she had ever made…

Eskimo Bob, that was just plain funny. Ya freak.

Reeky, excellent! You know, I never understood the whole buying-your-kids-vitamins thing. Don’t you get that from food? But then again, there are a lot of people that eat only processed foods, which I suspect have the vitamins forcibly removed…

Pearl said...

Retired One, my son actually requests the cukes and onions, and doesn't it smell like summer to you?!

Brother Tobias said...

Mine exercised careful, almost frugal food management. A legacy of austerity. It may be my imagination, but I'm sure two eggs did an omlette for three. I never saw a potato chip (french fry to you) or a baked bean until I left home. Result? I've spent the rest of my life regarding junk as a treat!
Don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to the Olympic handover ceremony in the Bird's Nest tonight...

rachael chatoor said...

It is the way of the world dear, I've been learning the same lesson over the years...

Though we were allowed to eat all that crap.....Ravioli in the can was my favorite lunch. I can't even look at it now....

swenglishexpat said...

Seems you've got the holy book of cookery there. Great post, Pearl!

Pearl said...

Brother Tobias, I can see the two-egg omelette for three, and I can even understand the chip/fry issue, but what's the deal with a baked bean???
And try as I might, I'm not understanding the Olympics reference. He'p!

Rachael, as a child I would've come to your house just to get to your Raviolis...

Swenglish, glad to see you again!

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

It's inexplicable, isn't it?! The more we vow never to be like our parents, the more we become like them at the age when we could have it all our way!! Life just isn't fair!!

The Retired One said...

You've got a blogger's award waiting for you on my blog!
Thanks!

Not The Rockefellers said...

Again similarities abound. Cukes and sour cream! Pickled cabbage too! Our version of a hot pocket was the pierogie.

Pre sugared cereals? Blasphemy! Store brand bag-o-cornflakes will do!

I think Eddie Murphy did a bit on the welfare pepper burger being better than McDonald's in his father's eyes. Mine too. At the time I didn't think so but now, I give anything for another one of my Dad's "Special hamburgers"!

To me this blog was Wonderbread fresh.

I also yearned for Wonderbread when I was little. My Dad said it was verboten in our house.

Peace - Rene

Brother Tobias said...

Pearl - Think August 24, 2008.

Sweet Cheeks said...

Cukes with onions, oil and vinegar. A dash of salt, pepper and sugar. We call them BellyAches. We eat them ALL summer. Love Them!
:)

Joanie said...

Until about 3 years ago, I cooked 5 or 6 nights a week. Now I'm lucky if I cook 10 times a year. No one is ever home together at my house any more. Once my youngest goes off to college in August, I'll be able to get back to cooking, I think.
Spaghettios? Oh yuck! I gave them to my kid once... she threw up.
I need to learn to cook diabetic though. :(

Michelle said...

My mom THINKS she knows things!! I wonder though!!! Also what are raviolios! Is that a real thing?

OK, my mom does know stuff!!!

Smart for way back then!!!

Pearly-Q where are you???

Pearl said...

Roshni, I believe there’s a lesson in there, that we slowly become our parents…

Retired One, I will stop by! Thank you!

Rene, I think we lived in the same house! And looking back, my Dad made the best macaroni and cheese. (And if he was really going crazy, he’d cut up some hot dogs, fry them, and throw them in the mac and cheese.)
The recipe, btw, is NOT in the book!

Brother Tobias, ahhhh! Thank you. I needed that. And how crazy were those guys, anyway?! I was impressed by the whole thing…

Sweet Cheeks, ahh, we do that one, too! To me, a peeled cuke just smells like summer…

Joanie, I’m sorry to hear about the diabetes. You’ll definitely want to be in control of the cooking from that perspective!

Michelle, you don’t know what Raviolios are? You poor thing!! Just kidding.
I’m right here, Michelle! Right now, I’m under a great big snow storm, but I’m wavin’ to ya! Do you see me? Xoxox!

naperville mom said...

My mom was veeeery particular/ finnicky when it came to cooking and that still annoys me to no end. But over the years, I've realized that I'm more like her.I do annoy myself a lot these days;)

Mama Wheaton said...

My kids love for me to cook and bake but with the busy schedules that we all have that can be hard to accomplish. I made jello the other night and put it in margarita glasses and you would have thought i had bakes and slaved all day.

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

Pearl, when I was 16 I moved out of the parental abode; figured while I still knew it all was the best time...

Came to Copy your Address (absconding even as you read! ha!), and of course to get my daily rib busted rotflmao...

Thanks, oh cutest bespectacled one...

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

We had to come and visit the blog of Liza Bean and Dahli Gee...we only saw one outfit, though and were not sure if it was even L or D, looked like a bad ass BF...thanks for stopping by our blog, and be sure to go back and see Madame Prez all dressed up, too!

Chaka said...

There is no shame in a blog re-run. Just call it an encore edition like SNL does. Great post.

bernthis said...

I think it's amazing that your mother did what she did. My mother cooked but never with much conviction.

I wish so much that I had those same types of skills that I could use to feed my daughter. I cook, so so, but I would love to be able to indulge her pallete(sp?) what a gift for you.

Old Knudsen said...

Young people know nothing but then again wisdom doesn't always cum with age.
The older I get the less crap from other people I'm willing to take I guess you can only put up with so many games in yer life.

Eat whatever you want its not a sin, unless yer Catholic cos they have a sin for everything.

citizen of the world said...

I find that I do a mix - "real" dinners most of the time, but sometimes we pick up a pizza or veggie burgers for their convenience. But the junk food of my childhood still has a powerful appeal for me, I have to admit. Bring on the cocoa krispies!