My father announced that "starting after Labor Day
(Summer 1980), when your sister goes off to college (to
start her freshman year), family meals will become self-service."
The result of the announcement meant that he, my dad, would
supply food for basic meals and that my mom, middle-sister,
and I would have to cook for ourselves. Mom, when she had
the time, would cook a fresh meal that could be reheated.
My dad would prepare a meal on Sundays. If there was something
special either my middle-sister or I wanted to eat,
we would have to go (i.e. walk) to the grocery store (one
mile away) and use our weekly grocery allowance to purchase
the item. (I always liked what she purchased.)
After Labor Day, I did not see much of my family because
I was a freshman in a private high school for boys.
When returning home after cross-country practice, I would
quickly prepare a ready-made meal then go into my bedroom
and eat, while watching television on the portable black-and
white, while doing my homework. Dad ate dinner while watching
the color TV in the recreation room. Mom was in the kitchen
on the phone, desert snacking--B&W TV muted. My sister
was in her bedroom reading, eating delicately: some kind
of aerobics diet, great for her physique without
During the workweek, the "Supplied Food" consisted
of canned ravioli, frozen pizza, pot pies, hotdogs and baked
beans--ready-meals that took very little effort to
prepare. [No one in my family cared for the "just add
water" insta-meals.] My mom would make "scoop
and plop" dinners, the type of meal that could easily
be eaten at room temperature, reheated on the stove or in
the microwave. Such S&P dinners were Stir Fry
(prepared in an electric wok), Cream of Mushroom
Chicken-parts Casserole, Spaghetti and Meatballs,
Linguini in Clam Sauce, Fried Chicken which
included Biscuits (or Rice), Baked Ham with Cabbage
and Potatoes. With exception to iceberg lettuce, cucumber
and tomato salad, the accompanying vegetable was from a
frozen bag--usually broccoli, string beans, carrots, peas,
corn, lima bean, or a some kind of medley (example, succotash).
On Saturdays--homemade hoagies, hamburgers, steak sandwiches,
left-overs from the week were the items of choice. On Sundays,
my dad would cook a meal that was usually wrapped in tinfoil.
His favorite was a pork chop with stuffing. However, he
could make the most perfect meatloaf, and prepare a roast-beef
that was crisp on the outside and tender in the middle.
Desert consisted of ice cream, pudding and cookies, fruit
cocktail jello parfait, popcorn (stovetop/microwave), fruit
pies (usually individually wrapped), homemade pound cake
(butter, chocolate, lemon-cocoanut).
Breakfast on weekends was on your own schedule. Mom or
dad would make some bacon or sausage early in the morning
and leave the plate on the kitchen table. Sometimes there
would be a half dozen doughnuts or a coffee cake accompanying
this semi-continental breakfast. If wanted, we could prepare
eggs; omelet fixings were furnished as well. I usually prepared
either pancakes or french toast (with cinnamon and nutmeg).
If I was the first to awaken (cartoons started at eight
in the morning), I would make respectively a six-inch stack
or half loaf to leave on the table, enough for everyone
else. The pancakes/toast that was not eaten, I would slather
peanut butter and/or jelly on them as an afternoon lunch/snack.
During the week, breakfast consisted of hot cereal (instant
oatmeal) or cold cereal (soggy in milk). Bananas and raisins
augmented the cereals. Alternatives were toast, bagels,
leftover pancakes, and if there was enough time, eggs. Orange
concentrate, vegetable juice, fruit drink, or tea were the
beverages of choice.
Weekly lunches consisted of spongy-bread sandwich filled
with deli meats and cheese, or with peanut butter and jelly.
The sandwich was accompanied by a single-sized bags of chips
and baggied cookies. I was provided with one dollar so that
I may purchase a soft-drink from either the cafeteria or
When I got bored with the routine supplied food, I would
go to the supermarket and purchase something different.
I would then call my collegiate-estranged sister on the
phone to ask her how-to cook. I did not call to ask
her how she was doing. She would graciously provide me with
a recipe and instruction. Then I would hang-up the phone
without a positive acknowledgment for the services rendered.
Subconsciously, I thought she was due my displaced curt
behavior, even though she was not and never was the in-house
cook of the family.
Before my sister went off to College, my mother made dinner
exclusively while working as a teacher, while earning her
PhD. Once a week we had pizza delivered. Fridays was dinner
at a fast-food restaurant; once a month dinner at a diner;
restaurants on special occasion. My sisters had a mentor
in the finer aspects of home economics, where as I had sole
right to landscaping (i.e. mowing the lawn, pruning shrubs
[although my sisters did the weeding and seeding], raking
leaves, shoveling snow, and taking out the trash.) Like
our own laundry, we all were responsible for washing the
dishes used for preparing and eating our meal. Dusting and
vacuuming duties rotated weekly.
I was out of sorts when my sister went off to college.
I had little to no training in the kitchen. In the beginning,
I learned how to soft-boil an egg. Fortunately, back then,
I was smart enough to know how to boil my own water--without
scorching the pot!