Friday, July 13, 2012

Things I Eat Now Because I Can And I Never Had As A Kid



Did you know that you can make a soup out of anything? Ears of corn five for a dollar at the market? Bring 'em on home. Boil the bejeebus out of them, puree, add milk, cilantro and Voila! soup.

Left over potatoes? Boil away on superflame! Then mash them down and drown them in the big four: salt, pepper, garlic, onion. Ring that dinner bell now...

With a family of six children and being new to this country, money was tight for us growing up. My grandmother was adept in the kitchen and truly could whip anything up into a serving-stretching soup. I'm surprised that I, or any of my brothers and sisters, have a tooth left in our mouths today since we never got to use our choppers for much. It was all slurp and swallow.

As much as I loved my grandmother's beef rib SOUP and milk leek SOUP, there were meals I'd fantasize about as a little girl. Oh those covers from Family Circle and Good Housekeeping that would sit up on the display shelves of the grocery check out lane. Pictures of the stoneware of the day shown overflowing with heaping, spilling golden macaroni and cheese, or brown gravy spilling out of a volcano cratered monster scoop of mashed potatoes along side toasty breaded pork chops. Or -- the one thing I'd bargain for in my prayers -- fried chicken! with biscuits!

Sigh. Those meals were never to be for me in my childhood home-on-a-budget, but I became so very skilled at weaseling invites to my American friends' houses, where their American mothers would be servin' up and ladlin' out those fine abundant American meals of  fried chicken, smothered potatoes, Parker House rolls with butter dripping off the top. I was an amazing eater on my visits to these homes, and my friends' mothers loved me. Who doesn't love a skinny little grateful kid who gobbles up everything set before them like they're coming off a juice fast, praises galore after each swallow? I mean, I could barely understand how these friends of mine weren't gushing all over their moms' cooking.

None of us ever grow up, really. We take on our adult form, but inside we remain the little child we once were; still wishing for that very same thing we never got enough of. When I do the weekly grocery shopping for my family of five, I can't help it --  I always get myself something from my Food Bucket Wish List, ages six through twelve. The meals I used to daydream about. I pick up something off of my list -- getting it from the deli is the most authentic way to go -- and sit in the car after shopping and eat it. By myself, and satisfyingly alone in my gluttonous joy.

Every Saturday morning I'll leave my family of three boys at home and whiz through PiknSave getting through the family shopping list and then my own: tossing in jello cubes rolled in Cool Whip or BBQ glazed meatloaf with a canned peach on top. I get to the store before noon so that the 100 percent real beef frankfurters wrapped in bacon are still plentifully plumped up and not shriveled from the heat lamp. I'll order 8 ounces of green bean and cream of mushroom bake, I'll go for the double serving of toasted crumb top macaroni and cheese. Getting to the store before 2 p.m. guarantees me a nice standing slab of mozzarella topped lasagna. Window shopping past the deli-of-dreams display case I'll ask for egg rolls, creamy tuna salad, hojo potatoes, beef stroganoff, beef tips in mushroom sauce, stuffed pork chops, deep fried haddock and home-made poor boys on crunchy submarine rolls. All things I'd lay in bed and promise that I'd eat some day when I was in charge of me.

I get these things now because I can. I'm not really hungry as much as I feel it's making up for lost time. Getting those things that I always dreamed of into my mouth.

To me, it's celebrating my fortunate life. For five dollars and two bits, it's like a clink of  glasses to myself with how well things turned out to be for me. I mean, lookame, getting the things I used to wish for. Like a boss.

I come back home from errands, stuffed, but still sit down to a meal with three children that I adore and a man who is good to me. My husband thinks I am the daintiest eater he's ever seen; but if you look very closely, you'll see the golden crumbs of item number three from my Food Bucket List, freshly sitting right there on the corners of my mouth, ready to give away my blessed secret life.

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**Holy cow! My post is syndicated at BlogHer today! Always a thrill to have a post picked up for the pages there ... validation of the highest order. If you feel like it, please stop by and sparkle/comment/read/tweet/hurray it. Thank you.

35 comments:

  1. Surprise, surprise, now I'm hungry!

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  2. My Dad did most of the cooking when I was growing up, (country cooking) although my Mom was a good cook. I didn't appreciate it until I was much older. Funny, when I was young, I probably would have preferred soup.

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  3. starving now!! thanks a lot :D

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  4. nice...i like this thoughts...i need to come up with a food bucket list...i mean you only live once right?

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  5. I was a light eater as a child, much to my mother's dismay. Her attempts to force me to eat left me with little to no desire to eat at all (around her). In high school that changed and no one wanted to go to the all you can eat buffet with me because I would be there for hours as though my stomach were a bottomless cavern echoing Feed Me, Seymour.

    My husband does most of the grocery shopping, but there are always two lists: one for the family, and one for me. I sometimes make dinner for the family, then dinner for myself, something wholly different because while I don't have a food bucket list per se, I do like to give in to my whims of taste. If I don't have a "taste" for chicken but that's what I'd planned to make, I still make it -- for them. And then maybe I'll make myself an avocado salad or whatever else it is that I am craving. Whenever I'm out alone, I do have a tendency to go to Chipotle and eat it in the car with the windows down, radio on.

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  6. Green bean mushroom soup casserole with french onions on top...this was something I discovered after I grew up. Every holiday you can be sure I am the one clearing out the very last of that dish. And I may growl at anyone who comes too close.

    My favorite part of this post was your description of how we take on adult form, but never *really* grow up. So true.

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  7. My mom told me once about a woman she knew who survived the Holocaust who every day of her life since in this country made sure to eat well. She decided that was one area of her life she could control and she was going to enjoy each meal as the precious thing it was.

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  8. "None of us ever grows up, really. We take on adult form, but stay the little kids we once were inside; still wishing for that very same thing we never got enough of."

    Wow. Truth so deep there--are we talking affection or food or attention or recognition or... lol

    I adore food--passionately. I feel it's a language we all speak. When you cook for someone, you're telling them they mean more than anything else you could be doing at that moment.

    I need a food bucket list....but I fear it might be pages.

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    Replies
    1. I love your comments, Chantel. THANK YOU.

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  9. I could eat this whole post. EAT IT ALL!

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    1. Iknow, you and me both: LOVE FOOD. ''

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  10. And this is why I get Tropicana orange juice. I grew up with frozen concentrate. I just can't go back there again, you know?

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  11. We never got vegetables or fruit growing up because my mom hates them, and when we would go to parties all my siblings would go for the fruit platters and vegetable trays instead of the desserts. I think that's why I married a vegetarian.

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  12. I haven't had the same cravings you have, but definitely understand the whole phenomenon. Growing up in our house, there was a rule where we had to mix non-sweetened cereal with sweetened cereal for breakfast. We couldn't just eat a big bowl of Fruit Loops. We had to mix our Fruit Loops with Cheerios so our teeth wouldn't spontaneously fall out of our heads. As an adult, even though I still mostly stick to that childhood rule of mixing sweet and non-sweetened cereals, every once in a while I will just give in to an entire bowl of tooth-decaying, milk-sweetening goodness. Cause I'm a (Cocoa puffs eating) adult, and I can.
    Thanks for the post!!

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    1. We had to do the same thing: "Sugar down the cereal." To this day, there is ALWAYS a box of Honey Smacks in the cabinet for me.

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  13. You captured perfectly the strong effect food memories from childhood have on our adult palates. I love the thought of you scarfing down a goodie in the car and satisfying a food bucket list number! It makes me want to go create a food bucket list of my own. Might just have to do that!

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  14. I am so very hungry now that I've read this.

    There was no cooking in my family. All fast food, pizza, and frozen dinners.

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  15. Let's get a secret lunch, please! I want fried chicken now, too.

    XOXOXO

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  16. I didn't want for anything as a child, but now that I live on the other side of the world from where I grew up, I long for the tastes of home. Whenever I return to Canada for a visit, I have a list as long as my arm of all the things I'll eat while at home. I usually end up gaining heaps of weight for my troubles, but it's oh so worth it!

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  17. I'm so hungry now! I need to go to the grocery store.

    Also? You do deserve it!

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  18. It's so amazing how sometimes food is soo much more than just food.

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  19. I totally relate!!!
    I was one of 5 and my Dad was unemployed for a long period of time.
    I remember him creating a concoction that he dubbed "Somegar"
    The full name for it?
    Some Garbage.
    Yup, whatever was left over went into some smashed up mess that tasted god awful.
    Oh the days...

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  20. OHMYGOD I'm starving now!! I love this sweet post. We're all making up for childhood in our adulthood, right? In so many ways...

    And congrats on the syndication!!

    XOXO

    A.

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  21. How much do I love this line:

    I mean, lookame, getting the things I used to wish for. Like a boss.

    Picturing you thinking this inside your own head as you sit down to eat a meal with your beloved family makes me smile more than fried chicken.

    And fried chicken makes me grin from ear to ear. So that's really saying something...

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  22. I really, really want to some fried chicken.
    What a great post, Alexandra. I can feel, taste every bite, every sigh, every wish.

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  23. Ahem, that was supposed to say 'really want to *eat some fried chicken.'

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  24. Yummy. I'm drooling a bit now. (I'm also devastated I can't hear you speak at BlogHer.)

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    1. You are so sweet. Thank you.

      So, I won't see you at all in NYC then??

      sad face.

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  25. This made me laugh, even though I don't think you meant it to be particularly funny, because I still get SO JAZZED when I eat something my family never had when I was a child. My mother was definitely a country cook and my dad was a strictly meat and potatoes man. Eating at friends' houses was like being in a gastronomical wonderland. Chef Boyardee pizza! Lasagna! Spaghetti that wasn't broken up into tiny bite-size pieces and already mixed with sauce (one of my mom's favorite practices to reduce mealtime mess)! Rice! (Yeah, RICE. My dad hated rice. And if he hated something, it didn't get put on the table. Ever.) Chicken pot pie! (Chicken = good. Pie = good. Other stuff, like vegetables, touching the chicken and the pie = NO, NO, NEVER.)

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  26. I love what this says without saying it (which you are always so good at). Also I would like some macaroni and cheese now.

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  27. Under the guise of treating my kids, we have been having an awful lot of kool-aid and rice krispy treats around here...I didn't get hooked until I was around 17, and haven't looked back! Cream cheese and olives was a favorite feed a lot of people meal in my father's family, but I didn't like olives....and it is pitiful trying to spread brick cream cheese (that hasn't been mixed up) on fresh white bread. Those were my saddest lunch days, and I have made up for them 100 times over! This was a great post, but made me so hungry!

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  28. Must try your corn soup. Who would have known it could be so easy (and farmer's market tonight! Too bad it's about 1,000 degrees and too hot for cooking).

    XOXO

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