Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I’m reading Toast by Nigel Slater. He’s a food writer from England and the book is his memoirs, each section centered around his memories of some sort of food. I found myself laughing out loud several times and squirming at other entries.

I was the youngest of five children and my mother was pretty sick of cooking by the time I was a kid. She was really a bad cook. Nothing has changed in that regards. Luckily, the 1950s and 1960s saw an explosion of ready-to-make products. My mom prepared packaged Kraft macaroni and cheese, hotdogs, hamburgers, tater tots, instant mashed potatoes, instant milk, cold cereal, and so on. Sometimes she would splurge and buy tv dinners. I always liked the Salisbury steak, tater tots, and cherry pie, which seems weird now since I’m a vegetarian. I hated the sensation of your fork grating against the aluminum tray though.

Kraft used to have American and Italian style spaghetti dinners. Each box had noodles, a tiny can of sauce, and a cardboard can of grated cheese. I remember thinking the Parmesan cheese was so fancy. Mummy says they stopped selling that and how disappointed she was. How my mother managed to feed all of us with two of those boxes, I just don’t know.

When my father came home from long haul truck driving on the weekends we had bland food. He hated spices, refused to eat anything that was exotic or unusual. He had to have store-bought white bread, none of that “Polack” bread (wheat bread). And he loved bologna, had to have a bologna sandwich every couple of days or he just didn’t feel right. To make my father happy my mother made things like goulash. So disgusting! Macaroni noodles, rubbery hamburger chunks, and stewed tomatoes mixed together. My father really liked it, the kids hated it. He also liked his fried potatoes with bits of torn up white bread mixed in. Damp, nasty congealed bread globs. I asked my mother recently why she made it that way, she says “That was what your dad wanted.” Worst of all was canned pears, his favorite. So there were oftentimes at meals a delightful salad consisting of a spoonful of cottage cheese, half a canned pear, and a dollop of Miracle Whip. MMM MMM Nasty.

I am sure my mom thanked various deities for Jello. I probably ate that ground-up-animal-bone dessert two or three times a week when I was a kid. Usually with fruit cocktail or canned cherries mixed in. Once is a while it would be lime jello with grated carrots. Another food I don’t miss.

I guess I could go on and on, as I am remembering new things as I type this. Like the sprinkle of paprika on deviled eggs. Frosting in a box- just add water! Space sticks (oh I loved those). Raspberry Twinkies. Candy at Easter, Halloween, and Christmas (we were poor and couldn’t afford it at any other time). The nice toys that came in cereal boxes (I still have some Winnie-the-Pooh toys from the late 1960s).

So what are you childhood food memories?

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