I grew up in a Velveeta, Wonder Bread, Franco America Spaghetti kinda home. My dad was a true Yankee, World War II vet that liked meat and potatoes, yellow cake, Spam sandwiches (he pronounced it sandrich) and strong coffee. My mom could make gravy from any pan drippings or even from the charred meat burned on the frying pan. It was truly a wonder to see.
I was talking with mom yesterday about Velveeta, she said “growing up it’s all you ever had for cheese.” Yes this was true because it’s what she gave us. Even though I had always hung out with the kids at Mr. Pizza and watched them eat slices I had never tried any. I was a daddy’s girl and if he didn’t eat it, neither did I. The reason dad didn’t eat cheese was because his first job was driving a dairy truck; in those days there was no refrigeration so by the end of the day the cheese was pretty potent. I never saw him eat real cheese and if he thought it was cream cheese frosting on a cake he wouldn’t eat it. Mom used to tell him it was vanilla frosting to get him to eat it. He wouldn’t eat carrot cake either, carrot cake was spice cake, he loved spice cake. But I digress.
I had experienced spaghetti that wasn’t from a can but it was the bland northern New England type with no spices and under-cooked pasta. As for meat, well go back to the 60’s. In those days meat wasn’t processed like it is today. My Grampa had a farm, they had chickens and pigs. In order to be sure meat didn’t have any unwanted disease or creatures in it they cooked it, and cooked it and cooked it. Until it was dry and tough. I know what the saying “it was like old shoe leather” really means.
And then I got out to other places. I ate bread that wasn’t white, I had pizza and my whole life changed, I had spaghetti with flavor. I can recall most of the people that taught me about flavor. I know where I was and who I was with for my first bagel with cream cheese, my first slice of pizza and my first piece of cheesecake. I remember learning to cook steak that was juicy and flavorful and who taught me.
I liked food! I still like food. I don’t think “hot” is a flavor, I am a stone cold sugar junkie. I learned to try new things, some I like, others not so much.
It took me a while to move away from the foods mom and dad ate but I found my way. I still like a plain hot dog and beans sometimes and I prefer the bun be toasted like dad had them. I never did develop his taste for salt and putting margarine on everything has never appealed to me, I’m a full fat butter type. The older I get the easier it is to see how much things have changed because I still live with mom, who cooks meat until it cries for mercy and likes very bland food. Our generation doesn’t have to eat to just to survive and variety is everywhere. I’m fortunate to have these things to gauge the differences of life today to life from “ago”. I get to know why things were the way they were and I get to appreciate what they are now, that includes the food I eat.