Monday, December 31, 2007

But All My Friends Get Li'l Debbies...

Recently, I was going through the fascinating archives at Resident Alien (one of my favorite blogs) and came across a post Mary wrote about her daughters turning up their noses at her healthy offerings, and begging for the sugar-laden treats "all the other kids" get to have. I responded to her post, and then realized that my response would be a good post over here. Maybe if I resurrect this blog, I will be less likely to leave long-winded comments on other blogs (sorry, Mary!)

When we three were growing up, just outside Philadelphia and later in North Carolina, my mother went through multiple food phases (although refined sugar, bologna and Sunbeam bread were, aside from the very occasional bag of M&Ms, banned from our house).

We were vegetarians for a couple of years (after she and Dad divorced, of course -- I think my father would wither and die if he couldn't stick a chunk of some sort of animal on a grill five or six times a week, even in the heart of the winter), picking our way through bean-and-rice meals or huge salads of leaves, seeds and twigs.

She had her Earth Mother phase where she baked delicious sourdough bread, put wheat germ on everything, even ice cream (we'd cry when she ruined ice cream that way, much to her dismay!) and made her own yogurt from scratch. We got meat during this phase, but only occasionally, usually hormone-free from local farms (WAY before the current local food movement!)

She went through a Malaysian phase where everything she put on the table was insanely spicy. We had lots of meat, but it and whatever vegetables she used were cooked into unrecognizeable and highly fragrant pastes and put over super-spicy, sesame-seed-studded rice. Banana raita disappointed me badly -- cold and creamy, pudding-like and smelling of ripe bananas, it just seemed WRONG to my tongue that it was spicy and not sweet! My poor brother was miserable during this phase, as his favorite food is plain white rice, and he just couldn't understand why she insisted on RUINING the rice that way!

At the time, I was embarrassed by her food phases, and was sure all my friends laughed at me behind my back at school. My lunches were bizarre fare for a suburban Philadelphia girls' school and even more so for a small-town southern public school when we moved. Kids looked askance at my hummus and carrots and raw green beans, or wrinkled their noses at the strong aromas wafting from my thermoses of rogan josh and korma curry. "That's yogurt?" they'd exclaim with disdain upon seeing my honey-drizzled, wheat-germ-topped homemade yogurt in battered Tupperware. "No, that's not yogurt. THIS is yogurt," they'd say as they showed me their cups of Dannon (with the fruit on the bottom, the right kind of yogurt).

As an adult however, I brag about Mom and her "cool" food phases back when all my friends were eating nitrate-laden bologna and cottony white bread. I try not to lord it over them, biting my tongue (most of the time) on exclamations like "Really?? Your mother really let you eat TWINKIES? Oh. My. God. Didn't she love you?" These days, my brothers and I talk wistfully of those freshly buttered, hot-from-the-oven sourdough bread heels and that warm homemade yogurt with local honey. I begged Mom for her rogan josh recipe recently.

The other day, I had a bowl of ice cream, and more than chocolate syrup, more than caramel topping, what I really craved was a sprinkling of wheat germ on top.

Thanks a lot, Mom.