My Mom had a deep seated fear of making somebody ill with her cooking. She simultaneously felt nutritionally bound by her training as a nurse to offer us a colorful variety of foods. Her unexplained fear of undercooking combined with that determination to offer variety laid the groundwork for her lifelong tendency to shop the canned and frozen aisles preferentially over the produce section.
Mom was similarly resolute in her determination to cook every steak or chop served in our home past the point of done, stopping just short of rendering everything into jerky. Pioneer atavism, I have no idea. I just know we never had any protein with any juices running out of it, clear, pink or otherwise.
Meanwhile my Dad had a bleeding ulcer which in those days meant he was on doctor's orders not to eat foods that were spicy, fried, fatty, or remotely interesting in any way.He refused to eat uncooked tomatoes, (Mom's favorite) claiming he was required to eat too many tomatoes while in Panama in WW2 where, according to his version of the story, tomatoes were forced upon the troops to prevent scurvy.[It could be true. My father in law (photo above) made a similar claim sourcing his refusal to eat cooked beans as resulting from his being required to cook and eat too many while an Army quartermaster in Europe and later, supervising meals prepared for the troops and their families in Occupied Japan.]
My little brother wouldn't willingly eat any vegetable with the exception of fried potatoes (which we couldn't have at home, thank you ulcer diet!) and cucumbers. My brother's cucumbers, a stand in for the nightly salads offered the rest of us, had to be peeled, sliced into rounds (no spears) and should be salted, but never peppered. No dressing need apply. Any additions or subtractions to his plate and those crisp rounds would sit untouched.
Clearly I cannot be expected to objectively confess all my own peculiarities. I did eat crusts on my sandwiches (unlike my little brother!) although for years I had to eat the crusts first, separately, so I could then fully enjoy the rest of my sandwich.
Oh, succotash. Now an emotionally loaded word, it even sounds gross to my ears. While I have subsequently learned to enjoy all the component vegetables typically featured in succotash separately, combine them and call it "succotash" and you've sent me packing.
Handicapped so, it was no wonder the topic of Mom's cooking for our family table had become contentious. When I watched Cher as Rachel Flax carefully compiling the hors d'ouevre trays in the movie Mermaids, there was a frisson of recognition.That was my Mom! She loved us. She loved entertaining and she loved eating with us, she just didn't enjoy cooking for us and being the one responsible for providing everybody with something they liked to eat.
Time passes as does the "who will make dinner?" baton. Please check back in a few days for more on that in "What's in a name, Part II". In the meantime, tell me please.
How did family meal times go when you were growing up? All sweetness and light? Was everybody supposed to eat the same things every night or were there exceptions made? Where there any predilections or diagnoses that dictated what you would or would not see at the table? Any budding vegetarians in the mix? Your turn to share.....