“Hey Mom, can I stay at Nicole’s house for dinner?”
A fairly frequent phone call request I made during elementary school. From a landline. On a phone with a cord.
It was goulash night. I loved when Nicole’s mom made goulash for dinner, and always hoped I’d get invited to stay when I saw the ingredients lining her kitchen counter. If the electric skillet was pulled out of the cabinet I took it as a good sign goulash was coming. The meal wasn’t groundbreaking, in fact it probably shouldn’t have been called goulash by definition, but boy did I love it.
large pasta shells + ground beef + store bought ragu brand sauce “flavored with meat”
. . . .
“I’ll pay you $10.”
A bribe to get my mother to do the dishes when our turn for the chore aligned with spaghetti night.
All of us hated washing dishes after spaghetti night, and our mom is an especially messy cook. The pans were too big, and too heavy, and covered in homemade sauce that simmered a little too long, requiring a little too much effort to scrub clean. There was the pasta pan, the sauce pan, the large crystal bowl that we served from, the rusted cookie tray used for bread, and all of the damn plates. We didn’t have a dishwasher until I was in 9th grade, making spaghetti night particularly grueling to clean up after.
spaghetti + homemade tomato sauce + meatballs from scratch + johnsonville’s italian sausage + garlic bread, slightly burnt + grated cheddar cheese and kraft parmesan sprinkled to taste + iceberg salad with ranch, that no one ever ate
. . . .
“What do you mean you’ve never had it?”
There are certain food combinations that you think are totally normal until you mention them to someone-not-your-family, and they are completely grossed out. We’ve all been there, right?
When school was out for the summer, if we weren’t dining on gourmet blue box cuisine it was microwaved cheese sandwiches.
white bread + cheddar cheese, melted + dunked in red kool-aid (fruit punch was my red of choice)
On the weekends after our Dad went grocery shopping (or if you were lucky enough to go with him, in the truck on the way home from the store).
deli turkey meat, rolled + fritos dipped in cottage cheese
Side-dish of choice, also known as the the least authentic preparation of refried beans in the history of ever.
canned rosarita refried frijoles + ¾ stick of butter + no so healthy splash of milk + even less healthy ratio of shredded cheddar cheese, all combined until warm and melty throughout
. . . .
While it’s not hard to pinpoint unhealthy habits when strolling down food-memory lane, I place no blame. Not because the generations that raised us shouldn’t have known better (in that, they should have), but because it was all freaking delicious at the time.
I have an affinity for these memories because in some way they’ve shaped who I am, what I enjoy, and even what I’ve changed about how I might choose to eat now. In other words, thanks for all the cheese, mom and dad.