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Old 09-08-2014, 04:29 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Steve Kroll View Post
I'm sometimes surprised I survived childhood. Don't get me wrong; my mom was a wonderful person, but not a very good cook. She knew it, too, and would often joke about it. More often than not, dinner began with the phrase, "C'mon boys. Get in the car," and we would head off to some restaurant, usually one of the two diners in town. Dad was a travelling salesman (no joke) and was not home much during the week. He was pretty good with a grill, so we had steaks or burgers on the weekend when he was home.

My mom could put together a meal from a can or a box. We had a lot of mac & cheese and hamburger helper kind of meals growing up. She could also make a decent pot roast with canned soup. We didn't eat a lot of vegetables, because my brother was very picky and the only two vegetables he would eat were corn or green beans, and then only from a can. I don't remember mom ever using fresh vegetables, unless you count a head of iceberg lettuce.

So I kind of looked forward to the restaurant dinners, because I could order whatever vegetables were on the menu.

When I was about 10-ish, I expressed an interest in learning to cook. So mom bought me a copy of the "Joy of Cooking." We would plan it out so I would occasionally make something under her supervision. By the time I was 13, I was not only cooking meals unsupervised at home about 3 nights a week, but also responsible for putting together the grocery list. Some of my meal plans were vetoed ("Spinach Souffle?... try again," dad said). My younger brother also cooked. In fact he ended up cooking for a living for about 25 years.

The one thing I will say is that, even though dad wasn't always there and we ate out often, we still ate together as a family. Us kids were expected to be home by 5:30 sharp every night for a 6:00 meal. Despite everything, I actually have a lot of good childhood memories of dinner time.
Are you sure your mom and mine weren't twins separated at birth? Instead of loading us in the car, she'd open a box of that KD that came with a can of cheese sauce, make that and add tuna and canned tomatoes. I hate that combination to this day. My mom was in heaven when they owned the restaurant. We could order whatever we wanted--Anne and Caroline were much better cooks than either of our parents.

There were periods, however, when my mom seemed to enjoy cooking--she took a Chinese cooking class after a trip to SF so our weekly menu rotation included stir fries. I think, in part, my mom was just tired all the time (she had a mitral valve defect--fixed in 1997) and my dad was one of those picky eaters--things had to be prepared the same way each time and the meals had to be the same every week--kinda like "daily special" meals in a restaurant. I think he liked having the restaurant because he could dictate what the daily special was and not be surprised. My mom liked it because she didn't have to cook. We liked it because we could order whatever we wanted...prime rib was one of my favorites, as were shrimp.

Now that he has to do all the meal prep/cooking, he is not nearly as picky. My mom is the picky one--I don't like tuna. I don't like meatloaf. I don't want pork chops. Sometimes, I wonder if she says those things just to get under his skin.

For those who have a partner who doesn't know his/her way around the kitchen, I'd suggest baby steps to get that person in the kitchen--a hand's on cooking seminar, a couples cooking course, something fun. You never know what the future holds and knowing how to make decent food not only is more nutritious, but it also can save a lot of money.

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Old 09-08-2014, 06:59 PM   #32
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My mom did a majority of the cooking, but if she was under the weather or couldn't do dinner for some reason, then dad would do it. There was always a joke, anything that dad cooked was cooked in a cast iron frying pan. He'd take out the cast iron frying pan, I'd ask "what's for supper", he'd say "i'm not sure yet",

He made a great turkey and dumpling soup with the leftover turkey carcass. Family would just show up the day after Thanksgiving, because they knew there would be soup!

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Old 09-08-2014, 08:04 PM   #33
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I remember twice my Dad took a bite of a meal, pushed it away and said to us, "You don't have to eat that." Both times it was a Mom experiment and we ended up going out to dinner. We did have to at least have one bite of things that were known we didn't like. Also, not allowed to dis the meal at all.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:59 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by CWS4322 View Post
Are you sure your mom and mine weren't twins separated at birth? Instead of loading us in the car, she'd open a box of that KD that came with a can of cheese sauce, make that and add tuna and canned tomatoes. I hate that combination to this day...
Canned tuna... ick. Yeah, we had "tuna surprise" sometimes. Mom would try to doctor things up. Her favorite ingredients to add to boxed Mac & Cheese were sliced up hot dogs and green beans.

I should probably mention that my mom hated to cook. She was a devout feminist and the first woman in her family to graduate from college. Even though she always had a full time job, the times we lived in demanded that women cook and take care of the house. That really bugged her.

There were two meals I can recall that were complete disasters. Dad, who loved to hunt, would occasionally bring home wild game. Before he got into sales, he spent a number of years as a butcher and knew his way around meat. One weekend he bagged a few squirrels and brought them home. I remember he was so proud of how nicely he had field dressed those squirrels and had a grin from ear to ear as he set them on the counter. Mom just looked at him and said, "I am NOT cooking rats." That really knocked the wind out of his sails.

So dad tried to make squirrel stew. I don't know what all he put in it, but it was the worst thing I had ever eaten. I know there was beer in it because that was all you could taste. Well, that and tough, little stringy bits of meat. It was one of those things that could make anyone turn vegetarian. Fortunately, most of it was thrown out, and squirrel never again found its way into the kitchen.

The other disaster was mini pizzas. It was an impromptu dish that mom whipped together one night when she was trying to get dinner on quickly. She took English muffins, sliced them in half, and topped each half with ketchup, weiners (again with the weiners!), and a slice of Kraft cheese. It was a meal I'll always remember, but not in a good way.
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Old 09-08-2014, 10:10 PM   #35
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On weeknights, my sister and I ate at the kitchen table and my parents ate in the family room. Kitchen and family room were separated by a four foot high wall. The TV was always on.

Weekends, we were allowed to sit in the family room and eat off TV trays. My mum did all the cooking, except weekend grilling. Sundays, all summer, my dad made rotisserie chicken on the charcoal grill or sometimes steak. For those meals, the whole family ate at the picnic table on the patio.

We weren't fussy eaters. The only things, that my mum served, that I didn't like were peas out of a can, liver, and fried onions (I thought they were too sweet). My mum switched to fresh or frozen peas, gave me small servings of liver, and happily ate my serving of fried onions. There was always fruit, usually from a can, for dessert.

Strict rules when we were at someone else's house. We weren't allowed to say the food was yucky or make faces. We had to try a small serving of everything. If we put it on our plates, we had to finish what we put on the plate. In restos we had to try everything on our plate, but didn't have to finish anything. The exception to that was when we went to a buffet. If we wanted to try something, it was okay to put a small amount on our plates and not finish it if we didn't like it. But if we took seconds or put a large amount on our plate, we had to finish it.

I remember once visiting some of my parents' friends and forcing down some glazed ham (too sweet) and marshmallow coated sweet potatoes, with a smile. I thought both were really awful.

Holidays, and when there was company, we ate at the dining table.
May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.
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Old 09-08-2014, 10:16 PM   #36
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you know, i called my parents tonight and told them i loved them after reading these stories.

i consider myself lucky. neither of my parents had any agendas beyond raising their children to the best of their ability. that included learning how to cook. if you intelligently care about the health of your children, it's what you do.

they did what was best for us at all times without ever a thought of what was "right" for them.

i remember shortly after my son was born how it struck me what a selfish life that i'd lived up to that point.
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Old 09-08-2014, 10:36 PM   #37
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Good for you bucky! Now whenever I want to thank my Mom and Dad for teaching me what they did (Mom=cooking and cleaning...only one "stuck"; Dad plumbing and pulling electrical wires...can still do either if pressed into service) I have to look heaven-ward. In spite of where they claimed they'd end up, I know they were darned good people.
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Old 09-08-2014, 10:41 PM   #38
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I've so enjoyed reading about everyone's stories and memories of the family dinner table! So glad this prompted you to call your folks, bucky, and tell them you love them. I sure wish I could do the same with my mom and dad. I've carried so many of their traditions with me over the years, and they knew that. Maybe changed up a little here and there, but the basic traditions stay the same. I feel lucky too, my childhood is filled with (mostly) good memories. They did the best they could and insisted upon good dining table manners with us young 'uns.

The more I read here, the more memories come to mind. I remember when my dad decided we needed a fondue pot. (it was the late 60's - early 70's after all, lol). For a few years after that we had 'fondue night' weekly, in addition to our Mexican Friday night.
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Old 09-08-2014, 10:45 PM   #39
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How did you have your main meal growing up?

Would love to be able to call my parents too! They did the best they could with what they had. Thankfully, forcefeeding children is no longer recommended.
She who dies with the most toys, wins.
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Old 09-08-2014, 11:09 PM   #40
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I can still thank my parents and do so often. They too, did the best they could with what they had.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein
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