back pocket and threw the food into acres of alfalfa, though I doubted that even the field mice would eat my mother’s cooking. Three blessings saved me from an aversion to food and my mother’s “Feminine Mystique” needs to find identity and meaning in being a three-meal-a-day wife and mother. My most reliable savior was my father, whose constant message was that he loved us and didn’t want us to be hungry or unhappy. He also really liked to eat and was a plain, but wonderful cook. He was never concerned in the slightest if we took small portions or said we were full. He’d just say, “That’s fine. Tell me if you want more. No one’s ever starved on my watch.” Unfortunately, he only cooked on weekends. He would fire up his Weber on Saturday and grill enough steak and bratwurst to get us through the following Wednesday. He would often add baked potatoes wrapped in tin foil and a blackened baking pan full of onions and mushrooms swimming in butter. He seldom cooked vegetables and never included peas. I had no problem eating my Dad’s leftovers. The other person who rescued me from my mother was my paternal grandmother, who lived two blocks away. She, too, was a wonderful cook who always seemed to anticipate that she would have company for meals, which she often did. I used to think she originated the term, “soup kitchen.” She always kept a big pot of homemade soup on the back burner of her old-fashioned stove. The type of soup changed, but it was always there. She also baked homemade bread and cutout sugar cookies and always had them on hand. I ate most Thursday and Friday meals at my grandmother’s house. The third resource I developed in my childhood was a careful choice of friends. I would hang around my neighborhood friends’ houses during the late afternoon. Many of my friends’ fathers worked shifts at a near-by plant and arrived home at four o’clock, much earlier than my dad came home from his law practice. We ate about 6 o’clock. My friends ate at 5. It was easy to discern which of my friends’ moms were good cooks. I often offered to help pick or shuck the fresh vegetables most people grew in their gardens. While husking fresh corn, my strategy was to say loudly, “Oh, I just LOVE corn on the cob and we NEVER have this at home (Deprived child that I am, was the intimation.) The response would always be, “You’re welcome to have dinner with us. If you’d like, I’ll call your mother and tell her.” I’d look demure and say, “That would be swell, if it’s not too much trouble.” I was singing inside with every bite of corn; butter oozing down my chin! It surprised me that my mother didn’t protest at the number of times I ate at other tables. I thought maybe she was relieved because she did not have to stand guard over my interminable clean plate ordeals. Maybe she was happy not to have someone there as a constant reminder that her bake dish was not getting passing grades.
13 | P a g e