April 6 – So what comes to mind when you hear the word, “food?” Do you think of good things to eat? How to grow your own? How to make sure that you have a balanced diet? How to get your kids, if you have any, to eat so that everyone at the table enjoys the repast? Or are you satisfied that you have done your best, and those around the table had better “dig in” and appreciate your hard work getting that food ready?
Maybe a few family members are going to complain in words like these: We had this for supper yesterday! Who wants to eat leftovers? I sure wish we weren’t having broccoli again! I don’t like it! I’ll bet Dad doesn’t like this zucchini either, but he has to eat it so he can “be a good example.” Why did you give her a bigger piece of cake than this one that you gave me? Hopefully, this kind of conversation doesn’t take place at your dinner table!
There’s only one time in my childhood that I took part in complaining about Mom’s cooking, but I have never forgotten the incident. My mother was one of the hardest working women in the world. Since she had seven kids and nothing at all in the way of modern appliances, she had to make a choice between jobs, especially on wash days, and more so during the winter.
While we were in school, she would scrub the clothes by hand on the washboard. This was after the boys had carried up to the house, a bucketful of water in each hand the night before and filled the big copper boiler so that she could heat it on the stove before beginning the washing. That was a long journey down to the creek, in summer and winter. When we got home from school, we found the same criss-cross pattern of clothesline from one side of the room to the other in the living room and kitchen, with the clothes still only partially dry.
From earlier observation, I knew what would be simmering in a big pot on the back of the stove. All day long, at low heat big white kidney beans, grew softer and softer, ready for supper as soon as Pa had finished his work at the Erie Art Metal, and headed the five miles home along dirt roads on both sides of the railroad track which he crossed along the way.
Knowing what time Pa would arrive, Mom asked some of the older kids to set the table with big bowls ready for the beans and plates for the huge baking powder biscuits, if Ma had found time to bake them on this busy day. As we were seated around the table, all nine of us, the big boys would begin to eat right off the bat, but I started swirling my spoon around in my bowl. Not really happy about beans again, I asked, “Do we have to eat beans again? Can’t we have something else?”
Just about then, even the boys stopped eating and listened, their spoons held in mid-air, wondering what Pa would say! He really didn’t say much; I guess that’s why I can still remember those words, after more than eighty years have passed. “Well, Sis, if you don’t want beans, you don’t have to eat them. Leave the table and get ready for bed!” That truly was the last time I complained about food and even learned to eat some of the things I really didn’t enjoy.
More food stories next time! – CHRIS