Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bad Food

Do you get homesick and start missing those "tastes of home"? But then when you make that oh so familiar whatever it's not quite as tasty as you remember it, it's actually pretty awful? I did that this week.
I've been kind of homesick for several reasons, some more important than others but I was browsing a blog, ran across this recipe:
My mother made these all the time. Her mother made them all the time. They were never my favorite thing to eat but I read the blog, saw the recipe and decided that all my problems would be resolved if I'd just make a batch of these cookies.
No--that didn't happen, they were just as awful as I remembered them being. The first two satisfied the need for "home" any after that made me want to hurl. I remembered my mom making them as the last resort sweet treat(we always had oatmeal, cocoa and peanut butter in the pantry) and being thankful when I was a kid but I could never eat more than two. That's my limit. I remembered her mother making them for my uncle and how much he loved to eat them hot before they set up. I also remembered that I hated going to visit this grandmother because they were in the boondocks, had one tv channel and the reception was poor on a good day and this set of grandparents were more often grumpy than happy. There were other things going on but do I really want to air that family business here, no, I'll leave you to your imaginations.
But after this taste of home experiment I was reminded not of the good food I had growing up but some of the really bad meals my brother and I were forced to choke down when we were kids and why it's so important to me that food be good.
People tend to write about their happy food memories and those are the best kind. But what about the nastiest meal your mother or father ever prepared? Come on spill it?
My dad was a firefighter. That means 24 hours on, 24 hours off, for three shifts and then four days off. My mom worked your regular 8-5 which was really 6:30a.m. to 6:30p.m. when you added in drive time.
My parents had an understanding that when my dad was home he cooked dinner. My brother and I had an understanding with my mother---based on her sharp kicks to our shins under the table--that we would not complain about any meal my dad made or dinner prep would be our problem. My dad unfortunately would get tired of cooking and instead of just saying, "Ok I don't want to cook we'll have bologna sandwiches for supper" he would try very hard to make us utter one complaint about his meal by making the grossest possible meal imaginable.
His go to recipe, sure to make one of us wrinkle our nose or actually gag at the table--and let me stress under normal circumstances my dad was a great cook--but whenever he said he was making gumbo we knew that it was going to be a long, long supper.
His gumbo recipe was something like this:
Canned shrimp
Canned crab
canned mixed vegetables
a jar of pickled okra
a can of tomato juice
a can of tomatoes
and whatever other offensive items he might think of.
You're probably thinking oh that's not too bad, except for maybe the pickled okra. I don't know how many of you are familar with canned shrimp and crab but it's supposed to rinsed and picked over and back in the day they might have even been packed in oil. My dad would just dump them into the soup pot. I am not kidding.
His gumbo smelled like gumbo but when you looked down into that pot all you would see was a lake of grease on top of a light pink soupy mess.
My brother and I had to eat a whole bowl and my mother tried to force us to ask for seconds but we always refused. I had bruises on my shins for two weeks from that meal.
Another of his famous meals was an interesting vegetable soup he came up with. He took every can of whatever was in the cabinet, dumped them all in the same pot, we're talking canned vegetables, canned soups, maybe even cubed up SPAM, threw in some browned ground beef and called that homemade soup. I can't remember who, me or my brother, made a comment about it just being nasty. My dad got up from the table, threw his bowl in the sink and said, "That's it, I'm not cooking one more meal." My mother grounded both of us and we had to cook supper for a couple of weeks until my dad got over his PMS.
My mom's quick meal solution was to open a can of sauerkraut dump it in a pot and start cutting up hot dogs and tossing them in. She'd heat it through and viola working woman gourmet. My brother and I would pick out hot dogs and brush the sauerkraut off with our fingers.
Also in my house a serving of fruit was fruit cocktail.
My dad passed away in May of last year and as horrible as it sounds I've smiled remembering his fits because he would never ever say "I don't want to cook" he would just very quietly make the most unedible meal imaginable and let us dig our own grave and then feel justified in his declaration of "I will never cook for you again". The saddest part was that my dad was a better cook than my mom 98% of the time. Momma has her specialities but my dad had a feel for cooking. He could make anything, but when he got tired of cooking we learned to really appreciate those extra tasty meals and make sure that we told him all the time what a great cook he was so that he would not be tempted to cook up one of his, "No one appreciates me meals."
So did this happen in anyone else's house or am I the only kid in America that has a few inedible family suppers to write about?


Anna van Schurman said...

My dad is an awesome cook and my mother is not bad. I used to hate when she made beef stroganoff but my sister loved it, so it's not the worst. Once, my sister made me laugh and I shot soda out my nose and onto my sandwich. It was incredibly soggy. There's nothing I hate more than wet bread. Gagging down that sandwich is a memory that stayed with me for more than 25 years...

M.T. Pocketts said...

My parents ate things like beef tongue on Danish rye. Ugh! But now I appreciate things like pickled herring and liver pate, which they always liked and I would never touch when I was young. I think our taste buds do mature as we get older--if we're willing to take the chance and find out!

Dona said...

My mom was always trying new things, most were very good. THe tuna casserole - not so much! Dad was a good cook, too, except for butter on bacon sandwiches - seriously!

Now you have an opportunity that will allow your kids to rave about your cooking when they grow up - you can make all wonderful meals!