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Kitchen Memories by Mary Anne Hill My mother’s kitchen was a training camp for anorexics. She combined a pinch of cooking skill with a trace amount of culinary interest and mixed in a quart of “waste not, want not” mentality left over from The Great Depression. She decided on the time, the menu, the presentation, the portion size and the rules. She mandated that her children would remain seated at the table until all the food had vanished from their respective plates. I remember afternoons of minute-by-minute, ticking away torture, as cold, dead, peas stared up at me from around the periphery of the plate where I’d pushed them to make it look like I had eaten the majority in the middle. As the sun began to sink in the west, the peas began to shrivel and harden. The acrid smell and mushy texture of peas still makes me gag. I was a small, skinny kid, though very active and healthy. My genetic imprint was to be petite. My older brother and younger sister were destined to be larger and were, from the beginning, better eaters. My mother decided that my size and weight was a direct reflection of her mothering abilities and that people looked at me and found her wanting. No one ever said that, of course, but she decided that as a “home-maker and mother of the ‘50’s,” her mission on earth was to force her children to eat everything on the food pyramid. If any of us protested, she reminded us of “the starving children in China.” I sat at my place at the table with both hands pulling my eyes into slits, willing myself to BE one of those starving Chinese children, grateful to wolf down ten peas and live. Sometimes my imagination deluded me enough that I cleaned my plate before the next meal. However, the extended time I spent in the kitchen after lunch, contributed to a six-year-old’s version of strategic planning. We had a dog, a boxer named Cindy, whose food and water bowls were in an alcove, just off the kitchen. Sometimes, I could surreptitiously snap my fingers, enticing Cindy to approach me under the table, where I slipped her some peas. Sometimes I could fire the peas, like free throws, into Cindy’s food bowl. The danger was that, if I missed, my mother might come back into the room, see the peas on the floor near the dog bowl, and punish me by giving me more. This was often a risk I was willing to take. After hours of practice, I became a pretty good shot. Our kitchen had a built-in, red Naugahyde, booth-like seat that curved around the corner of two walls. The table had been specifically designed to fit the customized bench seating. The table had a wood ledge underneath the Formica covered top, which anchored the table legs and let them curve inward so that one could slide into the seat without cracking kneecaps. I lined up plenty of contraband vegetables on the ledge underneath the table, chewing air like a Chia pet, pretending to swallow and finally passing muster on my clean plate. Later, when my mother was outside hanging wash on the clothesline or occupied in another part of the house, I would crawl under the table, remove the food I had stashed there, put it in a paper towel, shove it into my pocket and casually announce that I was going for a ride on my bike. When I was out of sight, I would pedal like crazy until I reached the edge of town where I dug the paper towel mush out of my 12 | P a g e

Feather Chronicles 2016  

Feather Chronicles is produced by College of Menominee Nation students and includes contributed work from students (current, former, and fut...