I put down my fork after supper the other evening and remembered our family suppers when I was a kid.
I do mean family. If Ed and I wanted to eat, we were in our places with clean hands when the clock struck 6 p.m. We were expected to join in the table talk, but waited until a quiet moment to ask if we could be excused. I suppose Mom and Dad and Grandma continued the conversation. We had serious playing to do.
Ed and I were picky eaters. Until his dying day, Ed would not eat tomatoes or anything with tomato in it or on it. I was pretty much the same, although I have learned to eat a slice of tomato now and then, albeit without enjoyment.
We came by our selective eating habits honestly. Dad had a million of them. He would not touch either lamb or veal, no matter how Mom tried to disguise it. A meal without bread was no meal, according to Dad. He wanted his potatoes fried. Even after he developed an ulcer and fried food was forbidden, he insisted that mashed potatoes “kicked up” his ulcer while fried potatoes did not.
His breakfast was interesting. He wanted bacon and eggs. Make that “egg.” Mom was to break the egg into the bacon grease and, being careful not to break the yolk, fry it very hard before adding it to the plate of bacon. Dad would take out his pocket knife, carefully slit the egg white, peel it back to expose the yolk and cut the yolk in half. If it was even a slightly darker yellow there in the middle, it went back into the frying pan.
When it was all done to his exacting standard, he would call our collie, “Here Lady!”, and slip her the egg yolk while he dug into his plate of bacon and egg.
He was not a good ulcer patient although he did bend enough to order a chocolate malt at Webster’s Drug Store instead of a bottle of Coke. It cost 15 cents and filled the stainless steel mixer. I had my first taste of chocolate malt when Dad left a bit for me to try. I thought I’d gone to heaven.
Dad was a slow eater. He was known to take as long as two hours over Sunday dinner. He relished each bite and put his knife and fork down between bites. He liked to talk to us. It was all part of Dad’s dining room rhythm.
Then, when my “picky” brother, Mike, came home from college for the first time, I was concerned about cooking his favorites exactly right. His comment? “Oh, I eat anything now!”
With few exceptions, so do I.
Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.