Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Eating and Cooking

As long as I can remember I have loved to eat. I do remember, however, that my mother would try to get me to eat by feeding me, saying, with each spoonful, “This is going down to Aunt Tempie, this is going down to Grammie.” I take it from this memory that I wasn’t a good eater when I was small.

My brother and I didn’t have many rules, but one was inviolable: no fighting or arguing at the table. Supper was to be a pleasant occasion. We weren’t forced to eat anything we didn’t like, although we were urged just to try it. I remember once when I refused mushrooms, that my dad said, “Someday you will love mushrooms.” And he was right. We always ate well, even when money was tight.

My father did the grocery shopping. He had worked for a while in a grocery store, learning to be a butcher, and so he knew how to pick out meat. He liked trying new things. He would go all over Lowell and vicinity for special items: one place had pure peanut butter, another liverwurst, another pickled kielbasa, another good corned beef. Way before such things became popular, we had sour cream, pita bread, Lebanese cheese. Often my brother and I would go with him. Sometimes he would get some exotic treat for us to bring to school. I remember bringing kumquats to school for my first grade (we had two grades in a room, so it was for the second grade as well.) Needless to say, the kumquats weren’t well-liked, although my classmates remembered them for many years.

My mother didn’t teach me to cook, so when I got married, I had to fend for myself. My father helped out by buying me cookbooks. I came to love cooking, especially new dishes. Early on, I made a dish of tuna fish and grapes. “Hot grapes?” my husband said, incredulous. Once I bought a pork shoulder and began to cook it when we got home from work. I kept looking at it; it kept being pink. About 11 PM, we went out to a restaurant. It cooked all night, and in the morning it was still pink. I am not sure when I finally realized I had bought a ham, not a pork roast.

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