For some reason, food seems to be on my mind a lot these days. Not in a "I could really use a Hostess cupcake right now" kind of way, but then again, when the hell are those things coming back? We recently had an incident where I panicked about the fact that we don't really cook much, and how good, home-cooked food tends to be a low priority in our household. It's not that we can't follow a recipe or actually cook something, but we tend to think of meals as something to get out of the way so we can do the stuff we actually want to do. Or it's just something to chew on while we're catching up on our Netflix instant queue.
So I have to wonder, where does this low priority notion of cooking in me come from? Looking back, I don't have distinct memories of being taught how to cook. That was a job for my parents or, during the few hours we would stay with them after school days, my grandparents.
On the parent side of my food memories, I recall both mom and dad making lots of steak, bratwurst, potatoes and canned vegetables. The vegetables are forever etched into my brain because I was always the last one at the table, forced to figure out how to make the veggies disappear without actually eating them. I hated vegetables growing up, and it didn't really help that they weren't prepared in different ways so I could gradually like them. Salt, pepper and butter were the main flavor enhancers/maskers in my family. I remember sitting there, trying a bite or two of a vegetable like lima beans (yuck) and thinking that no amount of salt, pepper or butter was going to get my plate clean. I eventually resorted to the tactic of putting a spoonful of veggies in my mouth, not chewing, taking a large gulp of whatever beverage I had and swallowing them whole. I'm surprised I never once choked on them.
As I got older and more active, meals became less of a time where we could bond as a family and more of a time where I would eat quickly and go out or go back to my room. We were no strangers to take out either, and I remember plenty of occasions where we would go pick up a pizza or something quick and easy. Eating meals with my family, especially in my mid to late teen years, became a constant reminder of how much I felt alienated and withdrawn from them. Sure, that is a common place to be for a teenager, but it didn't help that my mother's second marriage was breaking apart in front of my eyes. While not every meal ended in an argument or fight, there were enough to make me wary of the times where we all sat down together.
The grandparent side of my food memories seems to be a lot more rose colored. In grade school my younger brother and I would stay at our grandparent's house until one of our parents picked us up after work. Our grandparent's pantry and refrigerator were always stocked with goodies for us to snack on like bottles of soda, Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies and Tombstone frozen pizzas. If we made a request for something they would add that to their grocery run and almost always have it for us the following week. It felt good to be doted upon, and it didn't hurt that we got to eat almost whatever we wanted. My grandmother was in charge of the food, and would always have something delicious for my grandfather for dinner. Although my child self never wanted to try her chop suey or goulash, I was all in for ham, sausage, noodles (they were Polish/Hungarian, if that's not obvious) and many of her other offerings.
Re-reading the above, I'm drawn to one conclusion: the way to my heart is through lots of sugary, pre-made snacks and a good home-cooked meal here and there. No wonder I'm more interested in buying pre-made food and making sure the pantry is stocked with name brand goodies. In my head I have this idea that we should be preparing meals every night, but I know that can't always be the case. I really want to start cooking more, not necessarily for my wife and I, but for our child. I don't want to pass on my bad eating habits to her, but I need to put the work in to make sure that doesn't happen. Or she could just inherit my crazy metabolism and eat whatever she wants and barely gain a pound. I can see it now: her grade school bake sale comes along and she brings a box of Entenmann's, some Chips Ahoy cookies and then she devours all the other kids' homemade goodies. You're welcome, other parents.