Remembering Childhood and FoodThis time of year, between Mother's Day and Father's Day, I find that I think a lot about my parents. The food we grow up eating has such a huge influence on our lives, so I thought I'd talk about my experiences.
My dad was drafted during WWII, but after almost dying from pneumonia during basic training, was sent to Alaska (which, oddly enough, is dry and good for your lungs) and became the base chef/cook. So, probably rare for people my age, I grew up with a father who could, and did on occasion, cook. When my dad cooked, though, you ate everything, whether you liked it or not! (And, oddly enough, unlike most dads, he never learned how to make pancakes that weren't just a little raw in the center.)
My mother, on the other hand, had been a very picky eater as a child, and was determined never to force us to eat anything. Her technique seemed to be very effective, because the 6 of us all eat a large variety of foods. Although we each had a few foods we didn't like, overall we were willing to try new things.
Most meals we had growing up included meat, bread, potatoes, salad, and 2 other vegetables. Perhaps it was the abundance of vegetables served at our house that taught me to love them so much. We also owned a farm (although we didn't live on it). There is nothing like working hard to grow your own vegetables to learn to appreciate them. One of my earlier memories is being taught how to pick radishes, and then getting chiding for eating too many of them fresh out of the earth, instead of putting them in the pail. How many preschoolers love radishes that much? Even later, when we no longer had our farm, my dad still had a garden in our yard. No supermarket can ever beat the taste of tomatoes from your own vines!
What I regret the most is not having learned more about the recipes my parents made. I know how to make some of them, but not enough. If your parents are still with you, take the time to cook with them. Write down the recipes they make (many of which are probably only stored in their heads). Just a few years ago, I would call my mom when making certain foods, to ask her questions. It's so easy to think that you can do that forever, but, now, how I wish I had written down her advice.
My next recipe will be one that we ate growing up. The story in our family is that my grandmother invented this recipe, although that's probably apocryphal. It will be the first fish recipe I post (it uses canned tuna), but I know that there is a soy substitute for tuna (tuno). If anyone has tried this product, please leave a comment about it.