Timmy and I never felt neglected when it came to the availability of food. Mom believed preparing three meals a day to be one of her many housewife duties. Watching Julia Child on television was as regular a practice as going to Mass on Saturday nights. “This is not how it turned out for Julia,” she’d say hunched over the stove.
Mom’s Good Housekeeping cookbook reflected its use with grease stains, stuck pages and torn binding as she frequented the recipes. Her menus tended to be redundant, though. For example, Mom usually served fish, peas and rice on Friday nights. That would be fillet of sole, tiny canned LeSur peas, and Uncle Bens white rice. The fillet sometimes tasted too fishy and my gag reflex ensued just like what happens when a cardboard rectangle would be positioned urgently in my mouth for dental ex-rays. But I quickly learned that if you blobbed enough tartar sauce on the fish, and a pat of butter, it’d be fine. I did not wrestle with the canned army-green peas, however, as their mushiness slid down my gullet easily. And I can say that Mom’s white rice was never sticky but actually fluffed with a fork.
Mom did veer off the Good Housekeeping cookbook course. When Hamburger Helper was invented, she gave it an enthusiastic try as if she found a new recipe on a clean, unread page in the cookbook. She thought preparing a dinner in one skillet was clever; however upon first sight of the grey mound, she knew it wasn’t going to work. Back to the cookbook and making meals from scratch.
Portion control was never in control and neither were Tim and me. Veal Scaloppini for dinner or will it be chicken and mashed potatoes? Casserole? Lots of food, all the time; it was too much for little kid tummies. During one yearly physical check-up when I was starting fifth grade, Dr. Kaplan said, “We need to talk about dieting.” He showed me an illustrated pyramid with food groupings and what to eat as you went up the pyramid. I didn’t get it. It was too complicated and I knew Mom wasn’t going to be bothered with it either. Besides, I didn’t think anything was wrong with me anyway. The chubby kids ate and as long as we continued to do so, Mom was going to dish it up.