At the age of 71, I am rather embarrassed to admit that I have always been a terrible cook, and without the ongoing culinary skills of my wife and many others, I would have likely turned into a fast food junkie, a micro-wave master, or a very skinny and undernourished kid. Long after I somehow managed to survive childhood, I developed a great respect and admiration for my dear and patient mother’s cooking, as well as my father’s strict insistence that we must eat everything that was put on the table in front of us, because that was all there was, like it or not.
Like so many other young families just getting started, we had to tend to a large garden, went out and picked berries, shopped at the old Riverside Store on a very strict budget, but always got a sweet treat at least once a week. Our precious mothers became instant geniuses at transforming a whole bunch of ingredients into a great meal, a baker of tasty miracles, and a master of turning leftovers into an amazing meal experience. Desserts were always the extra reward, but could not be enjoyed until the main meal was devoured, and everyone had promised to clear up and help with the dishes. For those who were newcomers to town, the kindly neighbours always brought over a welcome treat, and as we got to know each other the main surprise on the weekends or holidays was ‘guess who’s coming to dinner at our house or your place?’ There were always some neat invites to special family functions such as pancake and pie socials, wiener roasts, church suppers, box socials, Christmas parties, and on and on. I know that I will never forget mom’s trifle, sardines on home-made bread sandwiches, spam, and delicious Christmas fruit cake, doused in dad’s Sherry, and set on fire for that glorious family occasion.
Along the way, I managed to become a meat-potato and gravy guy like my dear old dad, but the cardinal rule was that lots of vegetables and fruit were also very important for good health, strong teeth, and all the energy we would require for work, play, and school. After coming from England to Ponoka in the late 1940’s at a very early age, we all had to try and adjust to the western cuisine and the wild climate changes, and yours truly instantly got hooked on ice cream, licorice, cinnamon buns, and popcorn. Like so many of you, after leaving the comforts of home, we likely got into the fast food, eat out, heat and eat, and late night snack and party phase, but then along came marriage and kids, and we had no choice but to settle down and reorganize our entire lives. Back home around the dinner table we quickly discovered that we cannot be ‘picky’ about our choice of menu around the children and grand-children, who might just inherit the same bad eating habits that we had.
The many aromas of today
As we wander around the food courts and deli-counters of massive shopping centres and cruise along restaurant row, it is now totally mind-boggling as to how many choices from throughout the world we have to tease our taste-buds 24-7. All of us, no matter what age we might be, will hopefully always be blessed with a good and healthy appetite, are challenged by the urge to snack, and will quietly take on just a small sample of those items that we really don’t like (cabbage rolls-Sauerkraut-and turnips) then chew them quick and swallow. Like many of you, as I get older, I have discovered that my temperamental tummy does not always accept some of these tantalizing tidbits, but the tums and bromo are close at hand, and the fantastic taste adventure is usually worth just a little pain and complain.
No doubt there are those of us in the baby-boomer stage and beyond who have found it hard to adjust our eating habits, because after all, we dined mostly at home in an era where… fish didn’t have fingers, pasta had not been invented, pizza was something to do with a leaning tower, rice was a milk pudding, a Big Mac was something we wore outside when it rained, prunes were medicinal, Indian restaurants were found only in India, ‘take-out’ was eating our food outside, only Heinz made beans, and absolutely everything we ate was considered healthy food, including desserts.
It might be possible that I might just forget my long-standing fear and stubbornness about putting on an apron and stepping up to the stove, but I will always appreciate and support those very talented individuals who day after day, rushed or frazzled, can whip up a fabulous meal fit for a king, but also just perfect to share with their hungry little family.
Time to blend in with the snow and have fun, then have a great week, all of you.