Food


My childhood household held food that never rests on my pantry shelves. My mother, who cooked or assembled three meals a day for five children and one husband, subscribed to the then food pyramid. Dinner always consisted of a meat, starch and vegetable. Ours was barely a blue collar wage earning home, straddling the middle class line, so my mother bought what was cheap and easy: whole fryer chicken, chuck steak, potatoes, Minute Rice, lamb chops, pork chops, Green Giant canned peas and carrots, corn, beets and green beans. Special meals around the holidays expanded into beef stew, stuffed cabbage and chicken soup. She ground liver, eggs and onions into chopped liver for Passover.

My father liked Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles and Ring Dings with a tall cup of milk before heading out to work late afternoons, so there were plenty of those box cake snacks in the house, along with my mother’s favorites, Entenmann’s coffee cake or coffee cheese cake. We lived under the fragrant shadows of that cake-snack factory. Entenmann’s filled our stomachs and noses.

After I moved away from home, past the college days of living on graham crackers and cottage cheese or jars of peanut butter, I shied away from those foods. For one, I could not find snack cakes with the same names in California, nor could I afford the price and weight-gain of them. My first job in California landed me in a frozen yogurt shop, where I ate hot fudge yogurt sundaes most every day. I needed to lose a couple dozen pounds after six months there.

But on my own, I chose healthier foods, simpler foods, like veggies and high-fiber carbs. When in my twenties and already married, I started working out at the gym. My intake was largely sugar or fat free, ready-mades and packaged foods until I learned to cook ten years later when my oldest daughter sprouted teeth at 9 months. Then, meals were consciously and conscientiously planned for freshness of ingredients and taste suitable to both the gourmand adults and plebeian small children–not an easy feat.

Before children, my husband and I dined well, sampling Southern California’s finest cuisine and accompanying wine. We were working professionals without children for 16 years, so we honed our pallets here and abroad. We ate plateau de fruits de mer in bistros in Paris; stone-grilled caribou and buffalo in Banff, Canada, apres ski; pabellon criollo in Caracas, Venezuela; and street stand tacos mariscos in San Felipe, Mexico.  We ate haute wherever we went. 

After kids, we had to bring the haute cuisine home, so we hosted dinner parties. I subscribed to Bon Appetit, invested in cooking tools and amassed recipes. I learned to shop for and prepare rib roast and imported French oysters for Christmas dinner and portobello pot roast for Chanukah. I mastered the soufflé and creme brûlée. We served 9 course meals til 2 a.m. to guests lined along stunning tables of Reidel glassware and hand painted China with perfect wine pairings

But then life got busy. The children grew up and into unforgiving, unyielding soccer-school schedules that left us eating on the run, in the car and out the door. My husband and I were back to ready-makes from Trader Joe’s and “healthier” fast foods like chicken rice bowls from Wahoos or Waba Grill. Happily, I still get to cook Thanksgiving dinner every year for the entire 20 to 30 of our clan to keep my cooking skills primed.

And then there was that one year I tried to single-handedly polish off an entire Thanksgiving leftover ten-pound Honey Baked ham, 2006, I believe. So sick, I couldn’t even think about eating meat for weeks. I just never picked up the habit again. I’ve never really missed it, except for the occasional temptation, like the lamb we bought up in Humboldt at the farmer’s market that my niece barbecued or the smell of a burger sizzling in the fry pan.  

Unlike my childhood household, my family never talks about diets or obsesses about food or weight. We did give our daughters choices based on experimentation. Like the times they wanted to eat donuts before playing soccer just like their friends did–instead of the banana or Luna bar I’d give them. I let them. Then, after watching their sluggish performance, I’d ask them how it felt fueling on donuts before a game. That’s all it took.

My mother, who dieted constantly–lurching between binging on a bag of Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies and going to Weight Watchers–did not impose restrictions on our eating habits unless it was snacking before dinner, but her constant struggle and obsession with weight was modeled to us. Some of us took to conscious eating as a result.

My young daughters wanted to follow my lead and forego the meat, but I did not allow them to until they understood how to eat meatless. Now, both mostly adults, they each have their own versions of a regime suitable to their lifestyles. The older is learning to be a vegan gourmet, while the younger is enjoying the role of test taster. Me too.

So Many Ways to Lose a Daughter

 

 
When they were little, headless operations I called them, 

toddling about with no motion detection sensors, 

oblivious to the science of mass in flight against

the immovable object, cause and effect, win and lose, 

I feared losing their pristine purity, their soft roundness

drenched in new flesh, irradiant, to rocks and bumps

in the playground grass or sandbox, opening into

split lips or knobby eggs on their foreheads. I feared

losing them to cars in free fall, driven by madness 

up on my lawn, taking my children with them, like 

the newspaper clipping in the local Starbucks report.

I feared flus and asthma, pneumonia, broken bones

and stitches they could contract or suffer with 

complication and then die in my arms or in their sleep.

I dreamed of kidnappings and wanderings off in 

supermarkets or department store aisles, lost, lost, lost.

I walked them to school the block and a half every day.

And when they were in middle school, I dreaded

the treacherous row of absent-minded, harried

dropping-off moms vs. the brainless, twit t’weeners on

bikes, laughing and careening their wheels into traffic,

caring little for mortality the daily drive threatened

like that boy and his friend on a bike, on the same road,

on the way to school two days before the school year

start, picking up his schedule, leisurely, laughing, 

peddling, looking back at his lagging friend just before

the swerve, the truck, the texting driver, the hit–gone.

I never let them ride their bikes to school, not with that.

I did not want to lose them to twenty somethings’ texts.

Just like I did not want to lose them to drugs, drunk

drivers and AIDS, cancer, concussions or accidents.

I did not want to lose them. And I lost them any way.

To friends, trends, music and driver’s licenses, to

social media and idealism, fierce loyalty and pride of

a generation angry in the wake of destruction their

parents have left them to navigate, chlorinate the gunk

of polluted finance and corrupt opinions and falsity, 

falsity everywhere. I lost them to independence and

opportunity elsewhere, greener, colder, blue-skyed

distant and lonely, free and home away from home.
 

credit: arthistoryarchive.com

For Your Viewing Pleasure on a Gender Bender Thursday…

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Thanks, Jim, for sending this link my way: illustrations that kill two birds with one stone, to be perfectly cliche. They continue the conversation about the human labeling gene, particularly regarding gender, and expose my old nemesis, Disney. We have history.

Raising two daughters, I always felt it was me versus Disney. I did not want them to be sold into the slavery of gender typification and message moralizing packages Disney style, so I swore they would not see any Disney movies when they were little. They were to be raised on a steady diet of wholesome, no commercial educational programming that public broadcasting had to offer. And this in the middle of a cul de sac in a Southern California suburban neighborhood. Yeah, right.

When I could no longer sequester them and Mattel as well as Disney princesses kicked the crap out of PBS and Amy Tan’s Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat, I had to choose the first Disney video I would play for my nearly three year old. Having long, long ago viewed it, I chose Bambi for the nature theme and the great animation I remembered, not the cheesy fewer-celled productions that later emerged or even the digitalized stuff now.

So, on the appointed day of induction or indoctrination, my little one and I were perched in our favorite viewing receptacles, her in a furry, pink (her choice, yes) toddler-sized soft armchair and me on the psychedelic flower power play room couch, enjoying the lisping Thumper and the adorable Bambi, when that scene emerged. The one that starts out benignly in the field…Bambi…his mother…then the dark figure…

And then I remembered, but just a half second too late. Oh right! The mom gets….BOOM! Shit! My heretofore innocent little blue-eyed, tow headed girl slowly turned to me with the look of shock characteristic of someone who just learned that he was accidentally switched in the hospital at birth and his parents were not really his parents–except worse.

“What happened to the mommy?” She asked at first rather calmly. “What happened to the mommy?! What happened to the mommy???!!!!!” she repeated with increasingly feverish pitch.

Yeah, Disney, you owe me one. That was the day I decided to put a dollar a day in the therapy jar for my kids so that when they were 18 they could go off and pay their therapists for such bad mommy moments. I still blame Disney for the sadism of that movie.

So here’s to you, Disney: undermining the world of Disney for art’s sake.