Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Big Pink Tribute - Linda

I can't really remember what my mom's food tasted like. That seems strange considering I ate a lot of it for the better part of 24 years, but it's true. Time has a way of eroding your memory until the finer details give way to broad-stroke renditions of what once was. I do, however, remember sitting around a dinner table every single night of my life (until I left home) and having a family meal. While I can't remember much about what we ate, that simple act of togetherness changed my life forever. There is something so powerful about gathering at the close of each day, saying a prayer, and discussing each other's day over a hot meal. The togetherness of dinnertime has a grounding effect for children. We all need a time in our day to tell someone else about what concerns us. Food nurtures the body, but being a part of a family nurtures the spirit.
Was it always enjoyable? Not really. I remember battling Mom over how many more Brussels sprouts I had to eat before I could qualify for dessert. Mom believed in serving plenty of vegetables, and not your run of the mill green beans and potatoes either. We ate things like boiled cabbage, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, tomatoes, okra (that slimy boiled kind, not fried) and anything else that grew from the ground. Many of those things I still don't like, but some of them grew on me after awhile. I love broccoli now- Mom probably never believed that was possible back then.
One big rule that Mom had was that we never said the word yuck. No matter how much we disliked the food, no matter how bad it tasted, we could not say yuck, gross, disgusting, or any similar descriptor. We just ate it and tried not to make a face. When I told Bethany about Mom's rule, she couldn't believe it. To her, it was a foreign concept to expect me to eat food she prepared and not tell her if it tasted bad. While I know she wants me to let her know, I have a hard time doing it. I still believe it is disrespectful – that's how Mom raised me.
Mom also felt strongly that my sisters and I should eat what was on the table. There were no custom meals for each child's particular tastes. I can still remember looking at a steamy, green lump of spinach and thinking, "How can I eat this without tasting it?"

Dad offered his advice: "Just mix it with cottage cheese and you can't even taste it!"

"Now why would I want to ruin good cottage cheese by putting spinach in it", I thought. Funny the things you remember.
Whatever the obstacle, I usually did eat at least most of my vegetables. It may have taken me an hour to resign to the fact that there was no way around Mom's rule, but I usually caved in. Why? Because there was a piece of cake, a cookie, or a milkshake waiting for those who ate 'enough to get dessert'.

Bethany disagrees with me on this point, but I don't have a problem with using a sweet treat to get one of our boys to eat his vegetables. He is still eating vegetables, and that's a win for everyone.
I don't want any of you to get the impression that Mom was some kind of drill sergeant – far from it. She was sweet, kind, encouraging and had the heart of a servant until the day she died. I am eternally grateful for all the work she did to put together healthy, hearty meals on a shoestring budget. Coupons weren't nearly as easy to come by back then, and I can only imagine what she would have thought of these coupon blogs. On top of that, we lived in a small town and price and selection weren't the best. I was always a healthy and strong kid, though, no doubt a side effect of the vegetables that I didn't want to eat, and even today, I enjoy many vegetables that have never touched my plate without Mom's influence on my life.

Cancer took Mom's life six months before I met Bethany, and that has always made me sad. Mom lived to see both of my sisters get married, but never had the privilege of meeting my sweet Bethany. Though they are so different, Mom and Bethany also remind me of each other in so many ways. Many times Bethany will make a delicious salad and I think, "Man, I wish Mom could try this". Bethany, like Mom, loves a great salad. Ruby Tuesday, anyone?
Food, and to a greater extent the warm feelings we associate with food, is often emblematic of other pieces of our lives. A specific day or season in our lives might become very real in our memory when we experience a specific taste or smell. Even after all these years, dinnertime still has a calming influence on me. I may not remember many specifics about the food we ate around Mom's table, but I remember clearly the love and laughter that we shared each night. I needed that, your kids need that, we all need those special moments each night when we turn off the television, turn on some relaxing music, and eat a meal together.
I know all of you Moms put in a lot of work to feed your families: grocery shopping, menu planning, cooking, and setting a table and washing the dishes can be a thankless task. Let me just encourage you with this:
From this former little boy's heart, thanks to you Mom for each Brussels sprout, broccoli floret, and spoonful of spinach you encouraged me to eat.  Thank you for making togetherness a priority.  Thank you for being a mom who cared enough to show us the value of dinnertime.
- Ben (Bethany's husband)

1 comment:

Glennis_b said...

Love Ben's reflections. He paints a picture that many of us can relate to. Food and family - ahhhh, delicious.