ANECDOTE 025: February 23, 2011 [listen]
Memories of a Family Unit Breakdown: A Treatment

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 going anorexic.

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 vending machine.

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!

Feel free to exercise thought by sending me an email. If you have a mouth, then you can eat ingredients. (Disclaimer)
Copyright © 2011 by Edward K. Brown II, All Rights Reserved