Dinner v. Supper or Children are starving in China

As I was making my grocery list, noting which items I had coupons for and which ones needed to be organic, I remembered how my Dad always called lunch dinner, and dinner supper as in “Siddown, it’s suppertime, we don’t answer the phone.” What ever you called it, it was generally a time that tested your patience, reflexes and digestive skills.

My mother was not an interesting cook. Her goal was quantity, not quality with a minimum of 8 people at the table each night and she did her best to stretch a very thin paycheck over 7 days. She rarely made it through 6.

Friday nights were generally abysmal and a good day to get yourself invited over to a friends house where there were fewer kids. Fridays meant culinary delights like potatoes and eggs. Doesn’t sound too bad except my mother, stretching 6 eggs, fried up the potatoes and cooked the eggs on top. The essential ingredient was the leftover bacon grease used to fry the potatoes.

She wasted nothing. My mother’s kitchen set (Flour, Sugar, Coffee etc.) had an additional jar for Grease. She (and many other frugal housewives) would pour the fat from fried bacon or ham into this container which had a sieve on the top to strain the crunchy bits. Then they would use this to cook with for that extra flavor. Bacon grease turned fried potatoes a grayish brown and crisped the egg whites until they crunched.

Bacon was the first food I stopped eating as soon as I could express a preference and get away with it. My “No bacon” was acceptable because everyone coveted an extra slice. My sister’s intense dislike of eggs was not allowed because “that is what everyone else is eating.” She learned to eat her Sunday morning fried egg in two swallows, no chewing, no gagging.

Eating was simple in my parents house. You eat what is served and you finish what is on your plate. If my mother thought you needed seconds, you eat seconds. Complaining about food was not an option. You could try to gauge the mood and say you had enough, but the odds were against getting out of eating anything (see above re: starving children in China.) My mom equated feeding with expressing love, so her refusing seconds was rejecting her – “What’s wrong, don’t you like it?!?”.

Supper time was complex family time.

Now when I make dinner, not supper, my husband and I often prepare three separate versions of our meal – the way I like it, the way he likes it and the way my daughter likes it. I lose my temper occasionally when she refuses grapes that are “perfectly good” because she deems them too squishy, but I try to reel it back in quickly. Food should be enjoyable. Eating with your family should be pleasant. And you should be able to stop when you are full.

Off to Whole Foods now, to further betray my class.

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