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How we ate growing up


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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

When I was little, we made do with our kitchen table, and dinnertime was observed regularly.

When I turned 8, we got a new, larger house with a dining room, and it became the focal point of the home. We ate in the dining room every chance we had (it didn't hurt that our kitchen was so painfully small that sitting in the chair meant someone couldn't pass behind you, open the fridge, cook, without bumping into you, depending on your location.)

Conversation was and is loud, controversial, and often interrupting one another, but usually ended on a good note.

Was meal time important?

Dinner was something we made time for. No TV, no distractions, if you were home, you should be eating dinner. In later years we'd end up listening to musical soundtracks by meal's end, and it was not uncommon for dinner to take 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Was cooking important?

Cooking, dining out, and wine were topics of high importance in my family. There was a time when it was usually the only thing my father and I could have a civil conversation about.

Cooking is something many members of my family take a lot of pleasure in, and it never really seemed like a drudgery.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

You've gotta be kidding me... I think feet on the table would only score ya a raised eyebrow :wink:

Who cooked in the family?

My mom almost always. My dad did a lot of the seafood and all the grilling. I started to help out in the kitchen at 6 years old, but didn't do entire meals till I was in my late 20s and visiting the parents....

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Restaurant meals were fairly common, for just about any occasion you could imagine. It amazes me how many parents' kids seem to have no clue how to behave in restaurants, and I wonder "where did my parents go RIGHT, and how can I replicate it when it's my turn?" :laugh:

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Oh good lord, who knows... I'd say five or six, same as first sip of beer. Whisky was at St. Pat's at 8, vodka was at 9 with I absentmindedly grabbed what I thought was my glass of 7-up.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Closest we got was my dad's toast of "Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub, YAAAAAAAAAY GOD!" :wacko:

Christmas eve, Thanksgiving, and Easter, we did toasts. No prayers.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Rotating menus are for fascists. And organized people. Closest we came was my dad bringing home a BBQ chicken from the A&P every Wed. night when my mom was taking night classes for her Masters degree. We had a bunch of those damn things at her graduation party for ol' times sake as a joke... I swear I'll never touch one again.

For many years, Saturday night was "antipasto, red wine, Italian entrees & pastries, and Star Trek" night. we'd either start dindin early, or tape the show while we ate.. Yes, even Captains Picard and Sisko did not dare mess with dinner! (Then again, one's French and the other's the son of a Creole chef, so their mommas brought 'em up RIGHT!) :laugh:

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

Replicator? Replicator? Now listen here, it may be the 24th century and all, but I'll be damned if my son's gonna spend his one week on Earth eating replicated SLOP... oh wait, I'm channeling the spirit of "Pappa Sisko" from "Deep Space Nine". :raz:

Well I'm 4 months from my wedding day, but when my fiancee and I eat together, it's an event. I love to cook, he loves to help, and it's wonderful to spend the time together. I sure as hell hope it will endure when we're married, it's what makes life worth living...

"Give me 8 hours, 3 people, wine, conversation and natural ingredients and I'll give you one of the best nights in your life. Outside of this forum - there would be no takers."- Wine_Dad, egullet.org

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

My family was pretty white-bread upper middle class American. Dad is half Danish (his mom's family's been here since the 18th century), and mom is a 3rd generation Californian. We ate a lot of what many other families ate in the 70's: lots of ground beef in various guises, pork chops, fried chicken, the rare meat fondue. I was a pretty picky eater as a kid, and mom stuck mostly to those basics. She subscribed to Sunset and Bon Appetit for a long time and would make fancier stuff like chicken florentine for an adult dinner party. We almost always had a hot breakfast (except days we drove carpool and Sunday morning, then it was cold cereal), but there was always fruit and juice, and usually toast with breakfast. Dinner always included a salad and another veg, plus a starch (rice, noodles, potatoes, rolls, etc.) and dessert, even if it was just store-bought cookies (Flaky Flix were a big favorite). Mom did make good pies, though.

Was meal time important?

We always ate dinner together - though the time probably fluctuated some. My brother and sister are considerably older, so for a long time it was just mom, dad, and me, probably until high school, when they got divorced.

Was cooking important?

I think that a lot of the time it was only as important as feeding us. But when there was company, or a holiday, then cooking was definitely important. For holidays, especially, things had to be done "just right" like they'd always been done. Of course, we did have roast beef and a yorkshire pudding a few years at Christmas, instead of turkey.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

I don't know about penalties, per se, but we were expected to behave ourselves and practice our table manners at all times. (At camp, if they caught you with your elbows on the table, you had to take a lap around the mess hall.) It took me a long time to learn the American way of eating with a knife and fork (knife in right hand, fork in left, cut, put knife down, transfer fork, pick up food, eat), and I remember being chided about that. The TV was ALWAYS off, and we always set the table with placemats and ate there.

Who cooked in the family?

Mom. Dad could barely boil water, though he did grill on occasion.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

We probably ate out once a month, or so, at casual family-friendly restaurants (i.e., they had a kids' menu): Coco's, Marie Callender's (that was a step up from Coco's), Bob's Big Boy, etc. We'd also occasionally get pizza take out (no delivery in those days) For special occasions, like graduation, there was usually a nice dinner at a dress-up place that usually meant prime rib. I remember my grandparents eating at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Ana called La Hacienda on Saturday nights. I'd order plain ground beef tacos (no seasoning).

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

There was only a kid's table at holiday meals when we couldn't all fit at the main table. Usually that meant being in another room, as well, due to the layout of both my mom's and my grandmother's houses. So we were supervised by an adult (poor person, they, who had to sit with the kids). When my parents had a party, I'd eat earlier (usually a frozen pot pie or macaroni & cheese) because not only would I not like the food, they were probably going to eat much too late for me.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Not until college. My mom doesn't drink for religious reasons. Dad would have a V.O. & soda when he got home from work if he didn't go jogging, but we didn't have wine around, such as I can remember. I did steal rum from the liquor cabinet in high school, though, to mix with coke.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

I think that lasted until maybe junior high or so, but yes, always. "For health and food, for love and friends, for everything God's goodness sends, we thank thee Heavenly Father, AMEN." Usually said as fast as I could so I could eat.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Nothng that set in stone, though there were a lot of staples that were repeated (see ground beef, above): tacos, enchiladas, meatloaf, meatballs, hamburgers all made regular appearances.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

There are definitely some things that I continue: fruit and juice with breakfast, always a salad with dinner. And dessert. But I do more fresh cooking and eat much less ground beef than I did as a kid. I also have developed a much wider range of tastes, so I'll cook Thai, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian (more than just spaghetti). Mr. Garner and I are rarely home for dinner at the same time, so it's usually eaten on the sofa in front of the TV.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Both my parents grew up in Appalachia (West Virginia), but since dad joined the Marines at 18 and my parents moved to Parris Island immediately after marriage in 1959, we didn't have as many traditional Appalachian dishes as we might have. I remember a lot of Campbell's soups and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Was meal time important?

Not very. I mean, we all liked eating, but i remember that for most of my life at home, my dad ate on a "TV Table" in front of the news, while my brother, mother and i ate at the dining room table.

Was cooking important?

Well, it was important to my mom. My brother would only eat plain hamburgers and french fries for years. When i reached adulthood, i realized that we had never had seafood (except for fish-sticks), spinach, brussel sprouts, asparagus, etc. Green vegetables were for the most part limited to canned green beans. Nothing like my grandmother's home-canned green beans. Although my mom was into trying magazine recipes, my dad for the most part didn't appreciate them much, unless the recipe took the form of a chocolate cake.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

I don't think my brother or i ever did this - somehow we learned not to, early on. I do remember getting in trouble for bringing a book to the dinner table.

Who cooked in the family?

Mom and only mom. To this day, i've never seen my dad cook anything.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Special occasions only. Burger King was a big special occasion. I remember going to a birthday party at a "fancy" restaurant for a classmate at age 8. My Marine drill instructor dad accompanied me for safety reasons, but sat at a table alone so as not to infringe on the party. I remember that he ordered trout and was appalled that it was served on the bone.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Never. I didn't taste alcohol until i went to college (at age 17). For what it's worth, a word of warning - don't totally deprive your teenagers of any experience with alcohol before they go away to school. Forbidden fruit, and all.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Some years yes, some years no. Much like our "on-again, off-again" affair with Christmas trees. Some years we had one, other years it was an off-limits luxury because of its pagan origins.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Well, there was a rotating menu, but it wasn't aligned with specific days of the week. Lots of Hamburger Helper and Rice-A-Roni.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

Almost none. Matter of fact, when i visit my parents and cook for them, i have to be extremely careful not to season anything too highly, or cook vegetables too al dente. Last year i made lasagna for my parents (with basil! imagine!) and my dad said "well, it's different...not too bad. I do notice that it's not giving me heartburn."

Heh.

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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My father is Scicilian my mother Irish/English. I lived in a a part of town that was entirely Italians. Italian mothers are the greatest. The food is oh so good and plentiful.

Notice my mother wasn't Italian. I had to go elsewhere to eat. My mother hated cooking. As for my dad. Geesh I wish that man lived in the kitchen. When he cooked it was heaven. He didn't unfortunately cook that often. I think he was going elsewhere to eat too LOL.

So to be honest with you, eating in my home wasn't anything special, eating elsewhere was. Because I wasn't their child, I never got scolded... muncha muncha., youra toa skinny. I grew up to be the same way... love feeding people and having them enjoy it

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  • 2 months later...
The one area were Europeans do not understand or appreciate the US is certainly in wine.  I have been politely scoffed at numerous times when defending American wine.  The fact that California, Washington and Oregon are producing excellent wines seems lost on all in France, even sommelliers.  I attribute this to a complete lack of availability/promotion of American wines in France; not to mention the issue of bringing sand to the beach.

And to be perfectly fair...an average European does not only appreciate the food and wine accomplishments in the U.S. - he doesn't want to! This is just something that the Rude Euros love to hate, and taking this argument away would undermine their sense of superiority. "What? The U.S. has good wines? Next thing you vill tell me is zat they make good shoes???" Guilty as charged.

Totally agree about appreciation of good food. It's not a matter of innate superiority. It's a matter of growing up with good examples around you. If you thought that Red Lobster is the epitome of fine dining when you were 15, it aint' getting much better unless surgical removal of memories is in the cards for you. In my experience, the food we eat every day until the age when we leave home has a dramatic impact on our food choices for the rest of life.

Edited by Nadya (log)

Resident Twizzlebum

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In my experience, the food we eat every day until the age when we leave home has a dramatic impact on our food choices for the rest of life.

Everything else I agree with, but of that I'm not so sure. My Mum was, and happily still is, a lovely lady, but she was an old-school British cook, if you get my drift. And then there was the boarding school food. Oh God, please don't make me remember the shrapnel chicken and smeggy custard puddings, the compulsory cold showers and regular floggings were nothing compared to those.

Point to this nostalgia, I guess, is that even those unfortunates like me who grow up in a taste-poor environment (to coin a sociological-sounding phrase) can still experience a food epiphany much later on. And indeed, like most converts to a different belief system, our zealotry can often far exceed that who imbibed it (so to speak) with their mother's milk.

All that said, I lived all over Europe and yet didn't become really interested in food or wine until I moved out here to America. So who knows? Perhaps this is simply a function of rising affluence, if not sophistication. Because beer, I was hip to that from the get go.

(PS: Damn you Mark. Though you may be faster at the keyboard, I am more verbose!)

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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Thanks for starting this thread, Nadya. :biggrin:

I think there is a range of impacts that the food one is exposed to in the early years can have on later food choices.

Some who grow up with a repetition of a limited range of of what I will call average food choices will stick with that range once they leave the fold. Others will have a different reaction once exposed to a wider ranges of food choices.

My mother is a country/farm girl and, frankly, was competent enough in the kitchen to put roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy on the table on Sundays and spaghetti with chef boy-r-dee meat sauce every Tuesday. Lamb was never served at my mom's table and the only fish we had we caught ourselves (crappie, catfish or the occasional walleye). The cooks at the Sigma Chi house weren't much better. Many people, once they get out of school and start their first jobs, don't have the resources to do a whole lot of fine dining, or the culinary experience to do it themselves. My eyes were seriously opened when I married into a family where both my mother in-law and father in-law (now ex) were great cooks and I learned a lot from them. Now there are very few things I don't like and when I go to a nice restaurant, I tend to order things that I have not had before. I also thoroughly branching out in my own kitchen.

I can't speak for those who grew up with parents who provided a wide range of above average food choices. Suffice to say, I strive to give my kids the widest food exposure that I can. It gives me great joy when I ask then what they would like for me to fix them for dinner and the fight is over Hungarian goulash or carbonnade with spaetzle.

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My dad had a huge backyard garden, in suburban St Louis, the only one for miles around. One of the many things that made us definite oddballs in the neighborhood.

But we had fresh veggies & fruits in season every year. And that certainly shaped my lifelong taste for fresh produce & my propensity for haunting farmers' markets.

My folks loved okra, though, & I still can't abide it. So the theory isn't perfect.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I was raised with the philosophy of trying a bite of everything, and *then* I could reject it as icky.............this has been an enormous help to springboard my palate into the truly odd realms. I often take a second bite...........

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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I'm a international student just into my 6th year in the US ... orginally from Singapore.

When I first came here it was American food and portions all the way, and of course I missed the food back home. It just seemed cheaper and easier to eat the food that was most widely available.

However as the years went by I've started to put more and more effort into recreating what I can get back home, be it char siew (roast pork) or a simple dish of sweet and sour pork. And with each bite I remember a little slice of home.

Of course it helped that I had awesome food throughout the entirety of my childhood. :biggrin:

So, for me at least I think my memories are guiding me back to where I came from.

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I'm not going to be so easily convinced that the food we eat growing up dictates how we eat as adults. Take the eGullet population, for example: there are tens of thousands of members, from all walks of life and differing childhood experiances, and we've all come here with essentially the same baseline appreciation of food. All of these people couldn't have ALL been raised on . My mom, for example, was always decent to very good in the kitchen, but yes, Red Lobster was a 'minor special occasion' kind of place we'd go to as a family (Until the third or fourth time and we realized it kind of blew). It was probably mostly financial, but upper-mid-range restaurants just weren't part of the Shogun Family experiance for a long time. Sure, we had good local 'American' places, but good 'ethic' food wasn't really availible, beyond mid-grade Chinese, and even that was seen as a mild adventure. I probably couldn't have told you much about Thai food, for example, until I got to college, and now I eat that and more all the time!

I think the actual food experiances of upbringing have only a minor role to play in ones culinary fate. May be I'm just guilty of 'a few exceptions spoil the thesis', since the concept seems so obvious. More important, I think, is the realization that no matter what you were exposed to as a child, there is a bigger culinary world out there. You may not be exposed to it at an early age, but knowing of, or at least sensing the existance better things makes you more ready to experiance and accept (And hopefully enjoy) them as an adult. For example, I knew about this mysterious sounding restaurant about a 45 minute drive into the middle of nowhere called "Stonehenge" that my parents would go to perhaps every other year or less, but always came back blown away. I've never been, but even then I knew there had to be something good going on there. Because of that, I am prehaps a bit more curious about 'fine dining' than most people my age. Hey, it's possible! What you don't eat can wind up being as important to your development as what you do, in a certain respect.

-- C.S.

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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Is is it a faux pas to keep responding to these?

What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Midwest background, grew up in the '70's. Lotsa casseroles!

Was meal time important?

Yes. I was something of an anomaly later on in high school when I would go home for dinner. Most of my friends just ate whenever >shudders<.

Was cooking important?

Looking back, it seems that it was. To me, especially. I'm the culinary "keeper of memories" in our family: my Mom comes to me on Holidays to help her remember the "must have" dishes, desserts, etc.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None, except when my grandmother was looking after us one time and instituted this rule.

Who cooked in the family?

My mom entirely. My Dad couldn't even be trusted to put condiments on his sandwich if left to his own. We'd come home and see him eating bread with some meat in it.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

As a kid they were special occasions. My parents say I had a knack for ordering the most expensive thing on the menu, maybe that was why! :laugh:

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

Yes, much my teenaged chagrin later on.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Dad would give me a sip of beer all the time as a kid. My first "wine experience" was when my mom spilled her white wine on my hard-won corner piece of the birthday cake. I ate that bastard anyways. Needless to say I didn't think much of the wine.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Not really, but there were favorite dishes I'd get pushy about if we hadn't had them in a while.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

My interest and philosophies on cooking come directly from my mom. She baked all our bread and I'm getting to be that way too. I try to cook as much at home as possible, minimize going out. No kids yet but my wife and I are planning on implementing the eating together rule.

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  • 3 months later...

What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Anglo-jewish Ashkenazi

Was meal time important? Yes, aren't they always?

Was cooking important? It was a kosher household - of course

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table? telling off

Who cooked in the family? My mother, may she be remembered for good

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions? Very rare.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over? No

When did you get that first sip of wine? Kiddish, before I can remember

Was there a pre-meal prayer? On Friday night and Shabbos and high holy days

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)? No, excepot Friday night was always cold fried fish

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

None, except the love of food.

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Canadian...Anglo-colonial, I guess. Until recent decades, Canada had closer ties with Britain than with the US and, between that and growing up on an island with all the attendant isolation issues that came with that in a pre-mass communication era, I think we were pretty "British" in our food culture.

Was meal time important?

We always had dinner together (every night) but mealtime wasn't used as a "social" period.

Was cooking important?

If we wanted to eat... :raz:

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None. We were just told to remove them. However, as I have mentioned elsewhere, my dad was a martinet about the use of cutlery. He came from a poor, low class family and I think it was something that he associated with moving up in the world.

Who cooked in the family?

My mum (even though she worked full-time during my entire childhood).

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

At one point in my childhood, we used to go out to dinner and then to the theatre, not once a month but maybe once every two months. We'd go to a different restaurant every time and that introduced us to eating out in a more "refined" atmosphere.

My dad pointed out to me that I always ordered the chicken (or game hen or what-have-you). I just like poultry better than other foods, I guess.

We would also have fish and chips every payday. We'd all go grocery shopping and then we'd pick up the fish and chips to take home and eat for dinner.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

No.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Don't recall.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

No.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

We eat out more but, otherwise, we do eat together every night. I think that's important and, from what I gather, it might be a bit of a rarity these days. :biggrin:

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Irish/German/Slovakian in a typically Midwestern American kind of way. I'm very familiar with cabbage.

Was meal time important?

Not terribly, but we all ate together much of the time. Special meals for birthdays and holidays were certainly important.

Was cooking important?

Yes, but in my family, it was "woman's work." My father never even considered doing any sort of housework, including dishes, laundry or cooking until he became much older and, diagnosed with high cholesterol, took an interest in preparing what would go into his mouth.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

My mother would chant, "Mabel, Mabel, strong and able, keep your elbows off the table."

Who cooked in the family?

Mostly my mother, and myself, when I became old enough. After my mother was hospitalized, I did all the cooking.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Rare when I was young, and even a fast food meal was a significant splurge. Now, unfortunately, most of my family members eat take-out at least 3 or 4 times a week.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

No. But we didn't entertain often.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Probably at about 5 or 6 years of age, since my parents would give me a shotglass of wine to drink with special, holiday meals, and they'd teach me to drink it with the food to enhance my enjoyment of the meal. I knocked back my first brandy alexander when I was about 1 year old, though.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Rarely.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

No, but leaner times necessitated large pots of bean soup, or other budget-minded entrees of cabbage and noodles.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

Very little, but since I work in restaurants, and I teach cooking classes, my eating habits are centered around what I do for a living. If I were more of a homebody, I'd eat more pierogies, chicken and dumplings and pot roast.

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Mostly Korean except for bag lunch to school.

Was meal time important?

Yeah, because there were a lot of kids, and no sense in making dinner an all day event.

Was cooking important?

I guess so. Nutrition was also important and that let to some interesting experiments. I told you guys about the beef liver story right? After reading some health book, my dad fed us raw calves liver (I think once or twice) with salt and sesame oil. I liked it because it was squooshy and crunchy at the same time. Sesame oil and salt makes anything taste good, IMHO.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None. I still forget not to put them on the table when eating in fancy Western style places.

Who cooked in the family?

Both mom and dad cooked. Dad makes pretty good soy milk actually.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

Somewhat rare, and we only went to restaurants that made good honest Korean food IIRC. I remember wishing we could go to McDonald's, but my parents said it was really bad for us. I think we went to McDonald's a couple times in my childhood, probably after a lot of whining and nagging on the kids' part.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

Yes, because there were so many kids over.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

As an adult. Never even knew about wine as a kid.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

I recall we did but forget if it was every day.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

No, I never heard of such a thing until now.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

After a rebellious phase of eating zero Korean food, back to eating a lot of Korean food, but branching out as well, mostly in the direction of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian. My siblings have become excellent cooks, far better than me, even though when we were kids, I was the one that was the little foodie nutcase and they were totally normal. I'm still the best eater though.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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What was your family food culture growing up?

My mother detested what she called slavery and drudgery and so she played lots of tennis. My father worked.

Was meal time important?

No. Tee time was though.

Was cooking important?

Oh, ha-ha. If my mother could have found perfect nutrition in a pill that would have been our meal. If someone was not cooking for us, we ate out.

Were restaurant meals common?

Not so much restaurant meals, but club meals. We kids would ride our bikes to the club, eat and add it to the tab.

Did children have a kiddy table? The carpet in front of the TV

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I do not remember. I do, however, remember the first puff of gitanes, thought I would die. :blink:

Was there a pre-meal prayer.

Nope.

Was there a rotating menu?

There were always tv dinners in the freezer.

How much of your family culture is replicated in present-day?

Well, I do not play tennis. But I did learn a lot from my grandmothers who were wonderful Southern cooks and strong women. And my MIL is a lovely woman who helped me out enormously in the kitchen. So I am trying to raise our kids with those role models in mind.

If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Parents were 1st generation Irish American, moved south from Boston. Basically meat and lots of potatoes, but since they came down after the war with a slew of others from all over, eager to get jobs in the chemical industry, mom picked up lots of different ‘ways’ with food. Then we were surrounded by the Cajun/Creole culture and couldn’t help but embrace that.

Was meal time important?

We sat down together (11 of us) every evening, no matter what shift dad was working. If he was home it was better food! (Meaning not chef boy ordee pizza in a box). This only stopped when most of us were grown and gone and God invented the microwave.

Was cooking important?

Very, during the holidays. We had all the traditional southern stuff, plus the Irish stuff (usually in the form of Irish whisky) plus a little Yankee thrown in for old time’s sake. Amazing what mom and her northern buddies could do with shrimp. She was also amazing with spagatti (sp) sauce. We have no idea where she learned to cook it, but the neighbors all knew when we were having it and showed up right on time…she fed more teenage boys. They’d literally stand in line and wait for her to declare it ready.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

Only acceptable during grace.

Who cooked in the family?

Mom, then my sister and me when the rest grew up and moved out.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

We didn’t even have a McDonalds here until the late 60’s…my parents went to a local steakhouse for special occasions. I only remember going once. Had a Shirley Temple.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

Had to.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Beer, about 3 or 4.. Grabbed daddy’s so I hear.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Bless us our Lord and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive…There was one for after the meal as well (Irish Catholic, remember?) But I can’t remember it.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Roast beef for dinner with potatoes and gravy on Sunday. Sat. nights were hamburger patties and pork and beans. Fridays were the above mentioned pizza in a box. I think she made 4 kits and they fed about 16 when the friends were over (often)

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

I feed anyone who’s here when it’s ready. My house is full of boys, just like when I was young, but they don’t have a little sister to pick on. I cook more than I need. I feed the dog people food in the winter, and still cook what mom did during the holidays. Hell, I cook what HER friends brought to the table during the holidays. If it was there, I cook it. I’m tired.

Even though other threads cover memories of specific foods or dishes, please include those memories here if they illustrate your family's food cure.I think my parents knew the value of bread…we’d go through at least a loaf a day, piled high on a plate on the table at every meal. That’s how they stretched food. I shudder to think of the milk we went through. Cokes were only during holidays. This all gradually changed of course, and we ended up eating when we had time..Like we do now. I rather miss the old days, but I just can’t see it when everyone has such a crammed schedule. At least when we do eat, they know it’s good and prepared with love. And if it’s not good, they’re smart enough not to mention it. Did I say how fat the dog is?

Great thread, thanks for the memories.

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Mom's side of the family: Soul food. Dad's side: Middle American, with a black accent. My own cooking reflects Dad's side much more than Mom's.

Was meal time important?

Somewhat. As both of my parents worked jobs that sometimes required evening shift work, we didn't always sit down together for dinner every night. The family dinner tradition in my family was furnished mainly on Sundays by my grandmother (Dad's side).

As my parents' marriage deteriorated, dinnertime often devolved into a running feud. After their divorce, the meal that Mom and I would most often share was Sunday brunch.

Was cooking important?

For Grandma, definitely. Dad shared some of this attitude--he was definitely the more enthusiastic cook most of the time. He especially loved the traditional guy-cooking activity, grilling outdoors, but wasn't bad in the kitchen, either--after the divorce, he got himself an indoor smoker and began smoking his own meats. Mom knew how to put out a spread for guests, though, which came through more after the divorce. But she didn't really get into cooking as a pastime or pleasure.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

A rap across them.

Who cooked in the family?

Dad, mainly (see above). After the divorce (which happened when I was 12), I kinda-sorta took over some of Dad's role.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Special occasions, definitely. There was (and, I believe, still is) an all-you-can-eat buffet in North Kansas City that was a favorite with my grandparents, and we would go there about twice a year. (When my grandmother, uncle and father took me and my partner out to eat the year I took him to "meet the Smiths", we went to this restaurant.) Mom was a little more adventurous when she took us out to eat, which happened a bit more often after the divorce, but still wasn't a regular affair. Most of the meals were chain fare (Red Lobster, Sizzler Steakhouse), but she occasionally took us to some of KC's better spots (Plaza III, Gaetano's, Italian Gardens...) Ironically, I never had a meal in any of the city's best steakhouses until Dad took my partner and I to the Hereford House in 1984.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

No.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Beer, at age 4. Granddad let me have a little of his Coors. (This, BTW, was back when you couldn't get Coors east of the Missouri-Kansas border.)

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

"God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen."

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Not really, though meatloaf was definitely a regular item. As befits a Kansas Citian, beef and pork dishes made up the bulk of the menu items, but there was also chicken, and fish from time to time. And, for a while, Dad would reguarly buy frozen rabbit.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

The casual approach to eating together definitely is, though I have a friend who comes over almost every Tuesday for dinner and enjoy cooking for guests (which I guess is replicating Mom's food culture). I definitely share my Dad's love of cooking.

Even though other threads cover memories of specific foods or dishes, please include those memories here if they illustrate your family's food culture.

Mom was no respecter of traditional borders: chitlins and kielbasa would often show up together for one of her spreads (though not too often--I never could stand the smell of chitlins cooking.)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

My parents were grad students and then professors. Our food culture was very 1960's academia, a strange mixture of Julia Child, Joyce Chen, and meatloaf. My mother subscribed to Gourmet, and had that "1000 Recipe Chinese Cookbook"

Was meal time important?

It was determined by the time my parents got home, a bit late by middle class American standards of that era (around 7). We usually all ate together, until our high school years when activities started interfering. Sometimes my father would work late, but my mother would eat with us. Our dinners tended to be LONG - over an hour - and we liked to sit and chat at the end of the meal. Our dinners were talkative and loud. Even in high school, I made an effort to be there because our dinners were usually more fun than high school activities.

Was cooking important?

Extremely. I can still remember watching the original B&W Julia Child shows on WGBH-Boston, wiith my mother taking notes (no VCRs in those days).

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

I never was aware of that rule until later when I read stories about other families. However, we did not watch TV at dinner (half the time we didn't even own one) and we weren't supposed to open our mouths when chewing. My sister used to yell at my father because she thought he cleared his throat too much at the table.

Who cooked in the family?

My mother. My father was, and still is, a terrible cook. He likes to eat good food, he just doesn't understand how it is made.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

We ate out more than most people in the 1960's, but far less often than people do today. When we were living in cities (we moved a lot), we ate a lot of takeout Chinese. Keep in mind that takeout Chinese only existed in large cities in those days. We also ate at some really awful "kid-friendly" places, for birthdays and so forth - like Red Lobster, Steak and Ale, Spaghetti Factory, and so on. When we were kids, we thought those places were awesome.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

Never. Often, though, we would be fed first. Still, we were allowed to hang out and harass the guests and taste some of the food. My parents were really into these gourmet dinner parties in which they would show off their knowledge of food trends.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Around 10 or so.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No way! We never went to church, and my parents were somewhat hostile towards religion.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

No, my mother was much too experimental. She would get some idea from a magazine and dash off to the store to get the ingredients RIGHT THEN.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

Quite a bit, although we eat out more (like everyone nowadays) and our food horizons have expanded to include things my parents wouldn't have even conceived of. Our dinners are still long and talkative. I can only hope that my two kids also prefer to eat dinner with us over doing high school activities when they get to be that age (right now they are preschoolers).

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What was family culture?

Italian on holidays, homemade ravioli, tons of food. During the regular week, it was average american single mom menu, baked chicken, spaghetti, steak potatoes and peas....

Was meal time important?

Yes, and no. When mom wasn't working the night shift, we'd all sit down together and eat and catch up. If she was working, it was in front of the TV, fighting about what to watch.

Was cooking important?

No, my mom was too tired, and too busy to get into cooking. Except at the holidays, when she'd bake cookies and the best pies.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

Hmmm don't remember.

Who cooked in the family?

My mother. I played around a bit, mostly baking then.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

Special occasions, until I grew older, then we'd regularly go to lunch on weekends.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

Yes, but moreso at the grandparents when all the kids would be there.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Beer, very young. Wine not 'til college.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Yes! I grew up actually convinced that there were only about 5 different meals that existed. My mother just didn't have the time or energy to get creative with her cooking. Her favorite meal was steak, potatoes, and peas, so we had that a lot. Except that for some reason, though she'd always order her meat medium rare when we went out, at home, it always was cooked well. So I grew up hating beef. Didn't have my first taste of the wonders of medium rare until I was in college and went out to eat with friends, and tried Prime Rib. The pink, juicy meat was a revelation! A whole new food group had opened up for me.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

The Italian side from holidays is definitely here, lots of pasta, and seafood. And I'm also a meat lover now. :)

Even though other threads cover memories of specific foods or dishes, please include those memories here if they illustrate your family's food cure.

One thing that stayed with us was my mom's baking, particularly the italian pizzelle cookies that you make on the hot electric irons. My sister and I have carried on that tradition, and my grandfather just found my grandmother's old machine, buried in a cabinet. He cleaned it up, and presented it to me just last week with a request for more cookies. So, I'm looking forward to trying it out.

:smile: Pam

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Korean. Specifically Yangban Jeollo-Do style

Was meal time important?

Extremely important. Food was considered a blessing and a joy. The table had to be set a certain way according to tradtion. It wasn't formal in the sense that it was rigid with rules, my parents simply wanted to preserve the old ways of the gentry at least at the table. (And a few other things, that aren't food related :hmmm::biggrin: ). I think preserving mealtime traditions was a bit of an oasis for them when we first moved to the States and they had to work alot of jobs that their "birthrights" hadn't prepared them for. My parents would cut back everything else before they would even consider reducing the grocery allowance.

Was cooking important?

Yes, my parents cooked together alot. My father is one of the few Korean men his age or any age that can really cook. The kids helped out trimming vegetables (lots of vegetable trimming in Korean cookery). It was also a family affair to make mandoo (dumplings). My first memory of this was when I was five. My brothers are older. We were each given a "station" on the table and we would make what seemed like hundreds of them on special occassions. Making kimbap (cooked vegetables and rice wrapped in seaweed) the morning of picnics or day trips was also a family affair. Cooking together was a huge part of the family time together. Everything was made from scratch. Even dwenjang, kochujang and kanjang. We had alot of jars full of fermenting stuff in our backyard.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

Never.

Who cooked in the family?

Both parents did. My mother a bit more.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

When I was younger it was for special occassions, mostly Chinese-Korean, sometimes Japanese. As I got older and my parents became more financially established splurging on eating out was a common thing. Buying expensive ingredients to cook with at home was also farily routine.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

Yes they did. I say they, because I was the pampered baby. I got to sit next to my father or uncles and was generously given the best morsels from the special dishes.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

5 years old.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Sometimes. Not as a rule. Depended on what sort of spiritual phase my parents were

going through.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

No rotating menu. My parents shopped seasonally and for specials. They still shop and cook seasonally.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

A great deal of it. But it's even richer because I married a French chef of North African descent. We eat food from all the cultures. And no, not much in the way of "fusion" dishes. If it's Korean it's Korean with sometimes other Asian influences (usually Japanese or Chinese). Sometimes the North African and French come together, but that's not our invention. It's been going on for some time.

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

Middle-class American with Mexican influences.

Was meal time important?

Yes. When we were called to the table we were expected to come and sit down immediately and either wait to be served or (when we got old enough) serve ourselves. Our dinners were held at the kitchen counter, we could not eat until everyone had food and was sitting, and we could not have the TV on or answer the phone until everyone had finished eating.

Was cooking important?

Yes, although at the time my mom hated cooking. My parents were both teachers when I was growing up and funds were limited. We ate out once a week, on Friday nights, and that was always a big treat.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

My parents were more lax about the elbows-on-the-table thing than they were about talking with your mouth full, interrupting someone while they were talking, and being rude at the table or insulting the meal. There were "leave the table and go to your room without finishing your meal" penalties if you disregarded the warnings you got.

Who cooked in the family?

My mom, 90 percent of the time. When my dad cooked we got one of three meals: grilled cheese sandwiches, french toast or hot dogs/hamburgers. That was all he knew how to cook for a long time.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

As mentioned above, we had one meal out a week - Friday night dinner. That was usually at a cheaper family-type restaurant. I can count on one hand the number of times we ate out at a place that had cloth napkins when I was kid. Which is not knocking my parents - they couldn't afford it, and they were also extremely sensitive about how we behaved in public. There was none of the "don't do that honey, OK?" discipline when I was a kid. If you acted up in a restaurant, you got spanked and everyone in the family left the restaurant, even if there was still food on the table uneaten. We did, however, go to a lot of local hole-in-the-wall Mexican places when I was a kid, the kinds of places that didn't have American food on the kids' menus. I developed a taste for chile early, and to this day Mexican food is my comfort food.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

Yes.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

It was beer, and I was about 8. I hated it and didn't try another beer until I was well into high school. My parents (then and now) drank extremely cheap beer so that probably had a lot to do with it.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No. Our household was not religious at all.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

We didn't have a schedule like that, but the same meals repeated themselves a lot.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

Not much at all. It's just DH and I right now, so most meals are eaten in front of the TV on the living room sofa, which gives my mom conniptions. (And that's when we're able to eat dinner together, which is seldom these days.) We have a dining room table, we just don't use it. We've already talked about how things will change when we have kids - meals will be at the table with the same rules we had growing up, i.e. talk nicely, no TV or phone calls, etc. I hope we will be able to stick to it because I have great memories of the spirited conversations we would have around the dinner table when I was a kid.

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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

American with a tinge of Jewish (i.e., my mother never cooked pork, except for spareribs! and we never had other ethnic foods at home except for take-out Chinese.)

Was meal time important?

Yes, dinner always at 5:30 p.m.

Was cooking important?

No. Nutrition was.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

No penalties. In fact, we'd often have family dinners where everyone was reading a different book at the table!

Who cooked in the family?

My mother.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

Restaurant meals for special occasions. Chinese, in the neighborhood or a trip to Chinatown, occasionally a trip to West Side Manhattan for a French restaurant. Edited to add: occasionally, we also used to eat in Dubrow's Cafeteria, a Jewish deli where I first had dishes like kasha varnishkes (kasha - buckwheat groats - with bowtie pasta). It was also a rare treat to dine at Horn & Hardart's Automat.

Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over?

No.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Probably when I was about 10 or 12, when we went to a Bon Voyage party on a ship. My parents didn't drink.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No.

Was there a rotating menu (e.g., meatloaf every Thursday)?

Not by the calendar, but my mother had a limited repertoire of dishes, so they rotated pretty fast.

How much of your family culture is being replicated in your present-day family life?

None, thank goodness, except for the cakes and cookies!

Even though other threads cover memories of specific foods or dishes, please include those memories here if they illustrate your family's food culture.

My mother felt that cooking was drudgery and it showed! (Strangely enough, she was a good baker and I fondly remember her cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.) Everything was plain -- she didn't know how to use herbs and spices -- and mostly overcooked. Leathery "minute steaks," hamburgers like hockey pucks, canned or frozen vegetables (with no additional seasonings!). Her piece de resistance, as I mentioned in another thread, was overcooked spaghetti tipped with ketchup instead of pasta sauce!

I do, however, remember going with her to a farm in our Brooklyn neighborhood (yes, there still was one until the 1970s!) to buy fresh corn-on-the-cob, which we rushed home to cook.

Every Sunday was her "day off" and we had Chinese take-out for lunch (always the same dishes: roast pork lo mein, chicken chow mein with no onions, and egg fu yong), and sandwiches for dinner.

My sister and I thought TV dinners were a treat! :hmmm:

Edited to add: My mother took after her mother, who was also a terrible cook. My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, a Russian emigre, was a fabulous cook, though we had her meals rarely -- mostly for Thanksgiving. I have fond memories of her sitting with a wooden bowl in her lap, using a half-moon chopper to chop celery, onions, and chestnuts for the turkey dressing. She also made fabulous apple pies with lattice crusts (and never measured the ingredients for the dough). And she always had an apothecary jar of dark chocolate chips in her kitchen, which she would count out in equal numbers to my sister and me for snacks when we visited.

Edited by SuzySushi (log)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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