Family Food Culture, Part 1

28 12 2010

I’m not sure who coined the phrase ‘Family Food Culture,’ but I’m all for giving props to Mrs. Olsen because that’s where I first heard it. I grew up next door to Mrs. Olsen on Apache Avenue, and if you search her archives you will find some mention of the various forms of torture she performed on her sweet younger sister and her darling friend (that’s me).

Anyway, in one of her posts she talked about the family food culture she had growing up, and the family food culture she has now. It got me thinking. What specific things are a part of my family food culture? What was my family food culture growing up? What is my family food culture now? What affects family food culture? As you can clearly see, I find the whole subject fascinating.

Perhaps it’s because I read Mrs. Olsen’s post knowing–better than pretty much anyone outside of her own family–what her growing up family food culture was like. We were next-door neighbors, her sister was my best friend–we knew each other’s houses as we knew our own. There were certain Anderson things–food things–that I really liked, but we didn’t do them at our house. One of my favorites was crackers, cheese, and sweet pickle relish. I still eat that, but I didn’t learn it at home. I never knew the glory of dipping buttered toast in hot cocoa before Niki taught it to me. And Mrs. Anderson made this carrot-hamburger soup that would simmer all day long. It was delicious. My brain can still smell it.

Of course, I also remember the time Mr. Anderson (who, even now, dwarfs me, but was basically a giant when I was 2 1/2 feet tall) had just eaten beets. He laughed a sort of evil laugh, opened his eyes really wide, and grinned. His teeth were red from the beets, and it really freaked me out. (I still have never eaten beets.)

It’s interesting to remember how definite things were in childhood. Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and rolls for Sunday dinner were as solid and immovable as truth, justice, and the American way. It simply was. I didn’t know there was an option for eating something else on Sundays; who would want it, anyway?

As I’ve aged, moved away, and had to myself cook on Sundays, I can tell you my children don’t have that immovable truth, justice, and all that jazz on Sunday afternoons. Their mother is generally so wiped out from surviving church and choir practice they get stuck with leftovers. Or even–gasp!–cold cereal. (In my defense, the one who chooses to eat cold cereal is the one who really likes cold cereal.)

I digress. This isn’t a self-incrimination session, simply a look at food: what I grew up with, what I do now, and why.

Since reading Mrs. Olsen’s post on the subject so long ago (I’m pretty sure it’s been at least a year), I’ve started wondering about it. What did I grow up with as an “Archibald thing?” I’ve thought of a few oddities that I didn’t know were odd at the time.

  • Sugar on pancakes. Instead of syrup, we’d drown our pancakes in melted butter and then shake on the sugar. They’d blend together to form a heavenly butter/sugar crust. WAY better than syrup if you ask me. This is still part of my food culture.
  • Frizzly Dicks. I think this came from my dad’s family, or the name did. When you have leftover buns that start to get stale, butter them and stick them under the broiler until nice and frizzled. I still make these, although my kids don’t love them as much as I do. And I stopped using the cool name after one of my sisters-in-law pointed out that, well, “frizzly dicks” is easily (and unfortunately) misconstrued.
  • Honey toast. Here’s what you do: make toast. Slather on butter and honey (preferably the really thick, creamy kind from Cox’s), sprinkle with straight cinnamon, and broil until bubbly. This was a ‘special treat’ when we were kids, and my mom would cut each piece into four squares. Even as adults, we refuse to eat it unless it is cut in four. This is still a special treat at Grandma’s; I don’t think I’ve ever made it.
  • Orange rolls. My mom makes the best orange rolls ever. I make them once a year, for Thanksgiving, and can never get them quite as good as hers. (Perhaps if I practiced more often?) However, I’m always comforted by the fact that the people I eat Thanksgiving dinner with haven’t tasted hers. I’m safe for now.
  • Lamb. My mom’s family have always had sheep, and so we absolutely followed the “eat lamb, wear wool” adage at our house. I haven’t kept this up in my own family food culture because, shoot–lamb is expensive. And delicious. I ordered lamb at a restaurant once and was sorely disappointed; they just didn’t make it right. And the crazy mint sauce they had with it made completely no sense to my down-home taste buds. Good gravy, my mom makes good gravy!
  • That can be its own bullet point: GRAVY! There is an art in making gravy, and my mom definitely has it.
  • Homemade white bread. One of the sounds of my childhood is the distinct thwap the dough would make as my mom slapped it to make sure all the bubbles were out.
  • Cookies. I could write an entire chapter on cookies. Chocolate chip. Cream wafers. Sugar cookies. Snickerdoodles. Gingersnaps. Oatmeal. I took for granted that all moms knew how to make cookies. It was just something moms did, like hanging clothes on the line and baking bread and putting patches in the knees of your pants when they got holey. (Mom, have I thanked you lately?)
  • Waffles. I know lots of people eat waffles, but on special days we would eat them with melted butter (filling up every square), homemade raspberry jam, and whipped cream. Heaven on a plate.

I could probably go on. Hamburger rolls. Meatloaf. Cubed steak (or is it cube steak?). No-peeky chicken. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Enough about me, though. What was unique to your food culture growing up?

Be-lated, as per usual

27 12 2010

Merry Christmas! I hope all of you found joy in the season. I didn’t even get a picture of everyone in front of the tree, so you will just have to imagine. Overall, I’d say that Christmas this year was a win. There hasn’t even been any mention of the walking dog that someone did NOT get, which goes to show that the consolation presents picked out were apparently sufficient to wipe it from this child’s mind. Phew.

It was a strange Christmas for me.  I pulled back on homemade gifts this year. A lot. My stress level was way down, but I missed the connection to the recipients that making things gives me. There were other things to juggle and worry about, though, so I still feel like the stressful part of the holidays was covered. Check and double-check.

So, what is this post even about? Shoot, I’m asking myself the same question. Mostly, I wanted to say Merry Christmas (since, yes, Christmas cards got the shaft. Again.) and thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

I did manage to knock out some little monsters for my kids and a niece and nephew. Rainbow said, “I just keep forgetting these aren’t from a store!” Of which there is no greater compliment. Right?

For the Las Vegans. (Even though they aren’t. Vegans, I mean.)

And for my own little chickens. There’s another one around here somewhere; it’s yellow, with a different pattern all together. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t really enter the redhead’s radar. I should have made it look more like a dolphin.

I  have lots of big plans to update before Saturday, but just in case: Happy New Year!

Recently Seen . . .

15 12 2010

. . . in Rite-Aid.

Apparently, you can still buy banana clips.

In other news, I was sorely tempted to get this for my brother for Christmas. But I didn’t.

There’s a limit for gag gifts.

It’s $5.

Oh, December!

12 12 2010

I’ve missed my blog.

I keep writing posts in my head, but can’t seem to sit down and focus long enough for them to be regurgitated. (Isn’t that one of the best words ever? So descriptive.) I’m working on family food culture and capitalism, but they are on the cusp of brilliance. I can’t let them just be regular, so they need more work.

In lieu of brilliance, then, I just thought I’d share a couple of unrelated things that happened last week.


The Christmas Store

At the elementary school, during every holiday they open a store during lunchtime. I was disgruntled originally (how much ‘stuff’ does one need from Oriental Trading, anyway?), but my friend pointed out how it gives the kids a safe place to shop to learn the ropes independent of a parent. (She’s a smart one.) I have since tried to acquiesce more graciously, especially since the reason I started paying the kids allowance was so they would have their own money to spend when it came to book orders and the ice cream truck . . . and the school store. (Unfortunately for all involved, I sometimes forget to pay them or don’t have cash, so I still have to endure the whining and begging . . . but in theory it’s sound.)

Zack, since he’s ten, gets paid $10 every month. I handed him his money one morning, and thought no more about it. He came home, having bought zero Christmas presents, but sporting a slap bracelet (they’re still around!) and a red top that lights up and plays bad electronic Christmas music when it spins.

It wasn’t until several days later that I was talking with a friend whose daughter is in Zack’s class that I heard what had happened prior to his shopping spree.

Zack has a hard time focusing on his class work. Because of this, he spends a lot of time inside at his desk instead of at recess. Apparently, on the day he took his allowance to school, he tried to grease his teacher’s palm, as the saying goes, in order to go out to recess.



(The teacher refused payment, naturally.  He’s in it for the ability to shape young minds, not the money.)


The Used Bookstore

Friday morning, after paying the girls’ their allowances and getting everyone off to school, I ran some errands and ended up in a used bookstore. (Crazy how that happens, isn’t it?)

After an hour or so (was it two?), my cell phone rang. It scared me. I don’t get a lot of calls on it. I answered, and it was my mom.

We chatted for a minute, and then she said, “Dad and I have been looking into flights, and we’d really like to fly you and the kids up on the 26th.”


Don’t get me wrong, there’s no place like home for the holidays, but it was so unexpected I couldn’t think for a minute.


“Yes, really.”

“I . . . can I think about it and call you back?”

I know that seems strange. It seemed strange in my head as I said it. It’s not like we have anything so essential planned during the week after Christmas that can’t be moved. Idaho! At Christmas! (or practically Christmas.)

However, I am not in a place where I can just grab my kids and get on a plane anytime I want.

So as I was browsing the stacks and thinking through what I needed to do to make it work, my cell phone rang again.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hi, Wendy. Dad was looking a little closer at the deal, and discovered the price we thought was for all of you . . . was actually just one ticket.”

I started to laugh. “Oh. So it’s going to cost four thousand dollars to get us there?” I was joking.

A pause. “Actually, five.”

Then I started to laugh really hard.

“But we can still think about it . . . ” She trailed off. As if worried I was going to yell, “I say, that’s bad form! Rescinding your invitation!”

Really. We aren’t worth $1,000 a day, even for our extremely stimulating company.

The School Store, Part II

When the girls got home that afternoon, they had actually bought presents at the school store, and only one or two things for themselves. They were so excited they told me everything they’d bought (which they knew was a safe bet, since I’ve already forgotten) and for whom.

Rainbow placed her parcels under the tree, then handed one to me. “Open it, Mom!”

I’m a stickler about waiting for Christmas.

“I can wait, sweetie. Thank you.”

“No, Mom! This isn’t your Christmas present. This is just a present.” I looked at her doubtfully. “It was only 25 cents!”

I considered telling her you generally don’t tell people how much their present cost, but changed my mind. I opened the tissue-paper wrapped rectangle, and there was a book inside.

This book:

“It can help us get all ready for Christmas! You can clean the house.”

Ahh, perfect.

I read the first ten pages or so. I stopped after reading what one of the ladies keeps in her cleaning kit: toothpicks. So she can get gunk out of screw heads.

That kind of cleaning is, unfortunately, about a continent away from where I’m at. If I could just find the screw heads underneath all this clutter . . .

But it’s true what they say: it’s the thought that counts.

Happy December, everyone!