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How we ate growing up


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

Well, my parents divorced when I was but a wee little thing of three. When it was just my mom and I, our food was pretty simple, basic Southern American fare. Nothing fancy, nothing gourmet, and when I think back on it, I realize there was a shocking dirth of fresh vegetables. For years and years I thought I hated green beans, asparagus, and spinach, only come to realize that I actually love them - I'd just only been feed the canned versions, which are revolting. We ate a lot of casseroles involving the "cream of..." soups, which we would eat on for days, it just being the two of us. There was a lot of maccaroni and cheese out of the box and frozen dinners. It's not that my mother is a bad cook, she is actually fairly good, but for some reason there seemed to be a drought of good food during my early childhood years. I think the strain of being a single parent while working full time and going to college didn't leave much room for culinary exploration.

My maternal grandmother was an astounding cook. Everything was homemade, fresh. She always put together huge elaborate meals for the entire family, and many of them are still talked about today. We're not talking about serious gourmet or ethnic food here, just really good, basic Southern home cooking. The stuff I dream about today.

When my mother remarried, my stepfather got us into more ethnic cuisine. He'd lived in Japan and turned us on to all things Japanese. When his job moved us to China, the food culture in our family took on a whole new dimension. Suddenly, my mother was cooking everything from scratch, fresh. We started exploring world cuisines in through our travels. Things changed pretty drastically.

Was meal time important?

Yes. Once my mother married my stepfather, and my sister was born, meal times were almost sacrosanct. We all sat down together as a family, no TV was allowed although we did listen to music from time to time. Meals were large and rather a production.

Was cooking important?

Yes. She started playing around with recipes and different foods. Magically, everything got so much better.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

A harsh look and verbal punishment. Manners were emphasized, and we were expected to follow the basic rules at a relatively early age.

Who cooked in the family?

Mother. My stepfather could make the occasional tuna salad and call out for pizza, but that's about where his cooking expertise begins and ends.

Side note: My father is also quite a good cook in his own right. But, that's a different story I think since my family dynamics get kind of complicated. It's just easier to stick with the side of my family I lived full-time with. Realize as well, though, that my father and stepmother had a tremendous influence in my culinary education, but this post would turn into a novel if I went very far into that.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Half and half. When we were still living in the States, restaurants were pretty much once in a while type deals. We got the odd burger or take out fried chicken here and there, but nice places were saved for birthdays and such.

When we moved away, things changed pretty drastically in that department, and we started eating out all the time. Mainly because we were travelling so much, and for a long time living out of hotels, and we had no other option. It was so much fun to me back then, because I was getting to try all sorts of strange and exotic things.

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

NO. We were expected to behave like adults, with adults, and if we did not, we were sent away to our room.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

At a party my biological father threw when I was twelve or thirteen. It was also the first time I got drunk. It was like, I'd always been a drinker, I'd just never been given any alcohol.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

If my mother was in one of her religious phases, yes. If not, no. Sometimes we'd say something as a joke like, "For all we eat for all we wear, AMEN! Dig in!"

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

No, but there were something she made more than others.

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

Bits and peices. I don't make anything with "cream of...." soups -shudder-, but my upbringing did instill in me a life long desire to learn about food and experience new foods any time I get the chance. I will literally JUMP at a chance to try something I've never tried before. I also got turned on to cooking by helping my mother in the kitchen.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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

Awakening, Yankee foodie (my mom) and transplanted Midwesterner (my nanny).

Was meal time important?

Pretty important on weeknights, mostly because we had a very strict 8 PM bedtime...my brother and I would usually eat around 6:00 or 6:30, and then Lori (my nanny) and Mom would eat after we went to bed.

Was cooking important?

Incredibly important. We weren't huge on convenience foods - the two that I recall are Kraft mac and cheese and Swanson's Hungry Man dinners, both of which really only made appearances when we had a babysitter.

Lori was an excellent cook, and dinner was always a main, a veggie, a tossed salad, and some kind of starch. I don't remember eating a lot of pasta growing up - I feel like we mostly ate that out until I was a little older, but there were a lot of grilled meats, roasts, and even some casseroles (that whole Midwestern thing!).

Lori moved out when I was 13, and then I went away to boarding school the next year. During summers in high school and college, we ate out a lot until I started learning how to cook. The last couple of summers I spent at home I cooked for the family most weeknights, and my mom cooked on weekends. We had a lot of marinated, grilled stuff those summers. Plus corn, asparagus and tomatoes.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

Well, at Nonie's house (my grandmother), it was a call-out and a withering stare. At home it was a reminder of what would happen to you at Nonie's. :laugh:

Who cooked in the family?

My mom and Lori are both really good cooks; Mom cooked more often on the weekends and at holidays (we had one memorable Thanksgiving where she tried to flip the 20-pound turkey by herself, in her silk blouse...she doesn't have that blouse anymore), and Lori cooked for us pretty much every day.

My dad is a good cook, too - though he was such a restaurant addict from the start that I remember more about the Chinese food and Greek pizza joints we frequented than the food he cooked at his house.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

Absolutely common, though super-nice places (usually in Manhattan) were saved for special occasions. Growing up, restaurants were a weekly phenomenon for us. With my dad, as I mentioned above, it tended to be more Chinese food or pizza. With my mom, it varied - a lot more Italian and French, though, which are still her favorites. Sometimes it was a red-sauce Italian-American joint, but my mom was really excited when a more authentic, higher-end Italian place opened up in downtown Old Greenwich - we ate there once a week from the time it opened till she moved to California about 10 years later.

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

Sometimes, but only if space ran out. Otherwise, we were expected to hang with the adults!

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Gosh, I can't even remember. Besides communion every Sunday (:wink:), it was probably around 12 or 13 at the dinner table. By the time my mom and I went to the UK for a week when I was 15, I was comfortable enough with a glass of wine at dinner that I indulged in restaurants. I think my mom ordered herself a VERY nice half-bottle of Chateau Neuf-du-Pape (her favorite) at a fancy restaurant in Bath, and the waiter poured me a glass, too. She was displeased... :laugh:

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Only at holidays, really, or if the whole extended family was together. Just last Sunday (Easter) I had dinner with my aunt and a couple of my cousins, plus some of my aunt's family (she's my mom's sister-in-law). I said the traditional Esselen (my mom's maiden name) grace: "We thank thee, lord, for happy hearts, for rain and sunny weather. We thank thee, lord, for this our food, and that we are together."

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

No, not really. Actually, definitely not. We went more on a "what do you feel like for dinner?" basis.

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

A good deal - cooking often and from scratch is a huge part of my day-to-day life. I tend not to do the whole starch part of the meal, unless I'm making pasta, just because it's a lot of food to make for one. But if my little bro comes over for dinner, I always do the whole kit and kaboodle. I also routinely make some of my childhood favorites...roast chicken, a special lamb dish called lamb bedford, chocolate chip cookies and, of course - a salad almost every night. :smile:

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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

I have a boyfriend and he HATES Korean food!!!!  He also hates anything that comes out of the ocean.  So, how much of my family culture is being replicated in my present-day '' family life '' ?  NONE.  Only I eat Korean food and if I eat it, I have to eat it before he comes home because he says my food is stinky. 

Any single men out there who like Korean food/seafood?

Of course!

Isn't there a thread somewhere about compatibility and incompatibility in food preference among couples? I think that must be a big issue for many of us. If anyone could please link that thread, I'd appreciate it. If there isn't such a thread (but I think there is), we should start one.

Meanwhile, I think you must like your boyfriend a lot to be with him in spite of his dislike of the food you love.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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

I grew up in an immigrant Korean household in Pittsburgh, PA. My mother had come from a well-to-do family and had never even boiled water prior to marrying my father. After their wedding, she took some cooking classes and learned some rudimentary Korean cooking. Unfortunately, my mother is not a natural cook, and due to lack of desire/interest, her cooking skills never really developed. My father, being a tradition Korean man, did not cook (although, now that he is retired, he is really keen on learning how to cook).

When my mother immigrated to the US (2 years after my father did), one of our neighbors was a lovely Italian-American family. The mother in the family befriended my mother and taught her how to a) make lasagne, b) make tomato sauce, and c) make cherry cheesecake. Normally, all of our meals were rice, various banchan, and a protein (typical Korean meal), but on birthdays, my mother would prepare her Italian meal: lasagne and cherry cheesecake. In fact, she would also cook this same meal anytime one of our Caucasian friends would come over. I think she got tired of cooking the same meal over and over because sometime in my early teens the lasagne and cherry cheesecake dissapeared for good. Hmm, must ask her about this...

If my mother had to branch out beyond the lasagne and cheesecake, it was to grab something processed (Cambells soup, Kraft Mac & Cheese, frozen pizza, etc).

My mother, as I mentioned above, is not really a skilled cook, and my father encouraged me to cook in my teens (probably to get a reasonably edible meal once in a while). The first thing I remember cooking is Betty Crocker's Boxed potato gratin. After I made the boxed thing a couple times, I wondered why no make it from real potatoes, and it started there...

Another strange thing I only discovered after leaving home...we never ate chicken at home. I thought it was just because they didn't eat chicken in Korea. Turns out that my mother refused to eat chicken because she was born in the year of the chicken, and also refused to cook it!

Was meal time important?

Very. Although we would have dinner together as a family most nights, dinner time would vary anywhere from 6pm to 8pm. My mother insisted that we wait until my father came home from work to eat, but as he was an OB/GYN, we were never sure what time that would be. If by 8pm he wasn't home, we started dinner without him.

Was cooking important?

Ummm, see my answer to the first question.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

No. My parents didn't grow up with Western table manners, so they weren't instilled on us. This is not to say that we ate like barbarians, just that the nuances weren't considered that important.

Who cooked in the family?

My mother. Later, I contributed.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Restaruant meals weren't common. If we did go out to eat, it was Korean or Chinese. We would go out for Christmas and Easter brunch to a nice hotel. Actually, the first "restaurant" meal I remember enjoying was when I was 4 years old. It was Thanksgiving on my father was on call in the Hospital. My mother thought that we should have a family dinner on Thanksgiving, despite my father's call schedule and brought my brothers and myself to the hospital to have dinner in the cafeteria. It was the first Western Thanksgiving food i had ever eaten. I marveled at the rubbery, dry turkey breast swimming in the plastic gravy, the reconstituted mashed potatoes, and JELLO! I loved it!

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

Yes, simply because there wasn't enough space to the table.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I don't remember exactly how young I was, but it was Champagne on New Years when I was in grade school

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Yes, my parents are avid churchgoers (although even they admit that it's more for a social outlet than a religious thing).

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

Yes, the same thing every day...pretty much.

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

Very little. We have few family meals as my husband works late, and my son's bedtime is 6:30. My goal for this year is to instill more family meals into our routine, particularly in weekends. We all eat the same thing, just at different times.

I cook all of our meals from scratch, and love to cook all cuisines...except Korean. I actually don't know how to cook any Korean dishes, and as the only Korean dish my French husband likes is Bulgogi, there aren't too many reasons to learn. Also, unlike my mother, we do love roasted chicken, and I usually roast one a week.

Edited by jennahan (log)
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What was your family food culture when you were growing up?

South Indian. Being from the coastal region of Mangalore, our diet mainly consists of rice, fish, coconut, beans and plenty of vegetables.

Was meal time important?

It was more than important - it was the highlight of the day. I have many fond memories of our mealtimes, particularly those at weekends.

Was cooking important?

Very important. My Dad loves bringing home the freshest of ingredients and my Mom loves to cook with them. When we were kids, weekends at home were generally a whirlwind of activity in the kitchen with all of us helping out - then came reward time - the lunch we looked forward to all week.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None - elbows on the tables aren't considered rude in our culture.

Who cooked in the family?

My Mom, with all of helping out.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

For special occasions.

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

No. If there was a large number of guests, the children were served first. The table would then be cleared and cleaned for the adults.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Since we don't have a tradition of drinking wine, I think I was 25 when I had my first taste.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Again, this is not a tradition, so no, but that doesn't mean we didn't give thanks for all the food before us.

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

No, not really - the menu varied with whatever was in season and available fresh. However, it was a given that for lunch every weekend we had chicken or fish curry and the best basmati rice my Dad could lay his hands on.

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

About 60%. My husband works late and/or keeps irregular hours. The children and I have our dinner by 7:30 pm - if DH is home by then, he'll eat with us, otherwise he eats much later. We always have breakfasts together at weekends though. I hope we can eat more meals together as the children grow older.

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

My mother was born and brought up in Nicaragua, of a Jewish family that was almost assimilated. My father was born in the US of Ashkenazi parentage but no great religious background at home either. All the family cooked from scratch, took pride in their food, and enjoyed eating. Discussing food and recipes was part of the pleasure. We loved it when friends from different countries would come and fix dinner in their own way for us. We'd get all the recipes and try some out ourselves, later.

(Over the years, the family took on more religous observance and today I keep an entirely kosher kitchen.)

My mother has been an excellent cook in her time, reproducing the Latin fare of her childhood with discrimination: rice cooked so that each grain is tender and seperate; black bean soup, plantains, perfectly roasted chicken, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, a salad at least once a day. We knew and appreciated dishes cooked with saffron, cumin, and coriander leaf. Back in the 60s in the Midwest, cashiers in the supermarket would ask my mother "what that purple thing is" - eggplant. Later Mom's curiosity, encouraged by Dad's love of dining well, led her to master many more kinds of dishes. I especially remember her duck l'orange. Yet when she first met and married my father, she knew nothing about cooking, for she had grown up privileged, in a house full of servants.

As a war bride, Mom lived with my dad's parents. My grandmother, who later took courses at the Cordon Bleu, taught her the mysteries of lamb stew, flaky crust apple pie, and of course, the dish that cures all ills, chicken soup. Grandma's own mother, like all women coming from the shtetl 140 years ago, fermented her own sourkraut and beet borsht in barrels and brewed mead for Passover. She is said to have been an excellent cook too. I wonder which remote ancestress began the line of good cooks in my family. At any rate, by the time Dad came back from overseas and bought her the Fanny Farmer Cookbook, Mom was well on her life-long pursuit of fine home cooking. Mom still has that edition of Fanny Farmer; the pages are yellowed, stained, and pierced by the meanderings of the bookworm. I guess I'll receive it from her some day.

My father had his signature dishes: carrot candy and matzah brie for Passover, honey cake for Rosh HaShannah (which always include a shot of slivovitz in the batter), and the Shabbat cholent was his big speciality. But stay-at-home Mom, who raised five kids while Dad traveled the world on business, was the main cook. One of the things that impressed me deeply in connection with cooking was Mom's satisfaction as she sat at the table receiving compliments from the people that mattered most. She would smile with contentment as we plied fork and knife. We would praise her talent, and she would beam.

Was meal time important?

Yes, we usually ate dinner together. Our varying schedules made family lunches less frequent. However, on Shabbat, that is, Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch, we were all expected to be at the table on time.

Was cooking important?

I think that was explained in my first answer.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

We were reprimanded. The atmosphere was easy, but basic table manners were expected. With one exception: the youngest, a girl, was indulgently allowed a certain leeway which we older ones never knew. In fact, I remember an occasion when my parents, this sister, and one of our brothers were dining together on roast chicken at home. My sis picked up a drumstick and proceeded to eat it nonchalantly with her hands, while our brother Daniel fixed a baleful eye on her.

"Why," he demanded resentfully, "does Dina get away with eating with her hands? We were never allowed to do that."

My father looked at Daniel over his glasses and delivered the ultimatum: "It's because Dina is the baby of the family, and Mama's favorite."

We "kids" were all well into our thirties at the time.

Who cooked in the family?

As above, my mother, and on occasion Dad. As we grew older, one or another of the teenagers would sometimes take over a simple meal.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

We ate at home on special occasions, but would eat at a restaurant once in a while, when Mom was tired of cooking or we just all felt like it.

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

No, the children sat at the common table, unless it was some really big gathering, when peers spontaneously gathered into groups and sat together.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Earlier than I can remember, on some Sabbath night. My parents didn't keep much table wine in the house till we moved to Israel. Here, with the abundance of good kosher wine available, it's natural to drink more, so we do. But Dad always had a bottle of slivovitz or grappa around, and on summer evenings the folks would make daiquiris.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

We would say a blessing over the food before eating. My father would say the Grace after Meals.

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

Nah. As my mother's work was in the house, she bought whatever was in season, and cooked accordingly. Except for when we were snowbound, which happened at least once every winter in Michigan. Then she of course had to cook out of cans and packages from the emergency stores in the cellar pantry.

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

Most of it.

The way I cook is more Mediterranean now, but many of the familiar, well-loved dishes, both Latin and North American, appear on my table regularly. My husband and children and I eat together as often as possible. My Dad is no longer with us, but Mom comes over almost every day for lunch. The siblings are scattered all over the States, but our international get-togethers are always centered around great cookings and carryings-on in the kitchen. Shabbat meals in my home are eaten the same way: with family and guests. My own grown children cook well, and all are thoughtful, critical eaters, even the nine-year-old. It must be in our genes.

Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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

Strictly middle class. Some things, like pies, were always made from scratch. Mom insisted on "real" butter; Dad ate margarine. Mom gave up on making rice, so we used Minute Rice. Vegetables were canned, except for the iceberg lettuce salad, on which bottled dressing was poured. The emphasis was on having 'wholesome' meals for the least amount of money possible. My mother's cooking was considered to be better than that of most of my friends' mothers. But there were definitely some cheapskate elements; it wasn't uncommon to buy the kind of steaks that are used for chicken fried steak, and simply brown it with salt and pepper on it. Pure cardboard! My favorite dinner was sausage patties, hash browns, and fried apples. Or maybe it was weiners that were split open, and strips of Velveeta cheese tucked into the pockets, with a strip of bacon attached with toothpicks, to cover up the pocket. This concoction was broiled until the bacon was cooked and the cheese was melted, and was not served in buns. We probably ate green beans with it.

Was meal time important?

Pretty much. My father worked rotating shifts, so he wasn't always there. But we still ate at the table, even if he wasn't. Eating from trays in front of the television was extremely rare.

Was cooking important?

Yes, but "cooking" could mean making hot dogs or heating up a can of Chicken Noodle Soup. It could also mean a half-day marathon of making spaghetti sauce from scratch.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

We were calmly reminded to mind our manners. I remember when my sister's friend got into a huge fight with her mom because she used her fingers instead of her bread to push her mashed potatoes onto her fork; we thought her mother was downright bizarre. No, one doesn't do that, but one also doesn't get hysterical over a minor infraction.

Who cooked in the family?

Usually my mother. Dad would make pancakes, or would reheat leftovers, but the actual cooking was done by my mother.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Strictly for special occasions. And we ordered the most inexpensive things on the menu.

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

Only at relatives' houses. We rarely entertained. I loved the "kiddy table" at my grandmother's; we got to put as much sugar in our iced tea as we wanted, and no adults were there to stop us.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Probably at home, around age 10. Whenever my dad had a beer, I was allowed a couple of sips.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No.

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

No, but Mom tended to have a repertoire of just a few dishes, and I grew bored and disgusted. I still can't even think about eating pepper steak.

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

Less and less. I'm making more and more things from scratch, in fact, pretty much everything; my parents continue to use boxed and canned items. We lived in an isolated part of the country, so as indicated above, vegetables were canned. I use mainly fresh vegetables now. But to this day, I blow a gasket (internally) when friends routinely allow their children to eat meals in front of the television, even though I would never say anything out loud.

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

Grew up during the 60/70s in an environment where food and cooking wasn't really an issue. Fresh produce was bought wherever possible and massacred by my mother who didn't care. My father could cook but was always busy with his business. I started cooking from about 12 yrs, kept pigs for about 4 years after that, which developed into a general interest in culinary matters.

Was meal time important?

Not really, if you were present you got fed, if you weren't you ate the leftovers later (before the pigs got them).

Was cooking important?

Only in terms of avoiding eating raw food (which was never always attained).

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None (why does that matter anyway ?)

Who cooked in the family?

My mother inflicted some incredible mayhem on really good produce. My maternal grandmother was an excellent baker, especially fruit pies of all descriptions.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Once a week, mostly on a Friday night or Saturday lunch. In the late 70s, just before I left home, we ate out every other night.

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

No point, no guests.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Around 12, had beer from 10 yrs. Went into bars with my dad from 15.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Only when my hypocritical baptist paternal grandparents were around.

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

Not really, at 13 I got quite good at Sunday lunch and prepared some excellent roasts. So you could say that was rotational.

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

Absolutely nothing whatsoever (thank the lord).

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Family's food culture? Um....We were your basic Anglo-Saxon/Celtic mongrel working class family I guess. Mom worked pretty long hours so some things were homemade(spaghetti sauce) but mostly my mother did her shopping based on what kids could cook or heat up without supervision, Kraft dinner and Campbell's Soup etc. Dinners were usually chicken or meat with potatoes and vegetables (usually frozen) except for salad and corn on the cob.

Was meal time important? Not really. Mostly my 2 sisters and I ate dinner together but the adults in the household sometimes ate later.

Was cooking important? Yes and no. Holiday meals were fairly important to my mom....she was an adequate cook who thought she was an excellent cook. We were on a tight budget and she didn't want us eating junk, so there weren't many processed snacks in the house, cookies and muffins were usually made by me. Everyday cooking was a chore that got passed off to me when I was 10.

No penalties for elbows on the table, we were just expected to behave ourselves in general.

Mom did the cooking for weekend and holiday meals.....weeknights she would leave instructions on the counter for what to make for dinner and how to make it.

Restaurant meals were not in the budget, just the occasional breakfast or takeout. My grandmother or grandpa would take us out for restaurant meals when we visited them in Peterborough.

There was no "kiddy table" in our family, during my childhood there was only my mother's 3 children and 1 first cousin at family gatherings. If there were a lot of people we might be fed first.

First sip of wine? I think I began being offered a small glass of wine (not watered down) at the age of 10 for special meals etc.

Was there a pre-meal prayer? No

Rotating menu? Yes and no....we did tend to eat the same things again and again....spaghetti, roast chicken, burgers, chili but there was no formal pattern to it. Mom was raised Catholic so occasionally she made fish on Friday.

How much of my family culture is being replicated? Not much. I'm a single parent now but I work around my youngest child's school hours so I am home for dinner every night and rarely used prepared foods. I don't remember my mother ever making allowances for her children's food preferences....I don't even know if she would even know what foods we individually disliked. I have a vegetarian child, a semi picky eater and an autistic child to cook for and I try to accomodate their needs (within reason). The biggest difference stems from Emma becoming a vegetarian......holiday meals in my home do not revolve around roasted animals served with gravy. My two girls are also enthusiastic about anything asian influenced so I use this angle to convince them to try new foods. I'm a pastry chef (who according to my children NEVER makes desserts at home) but I do bake a lot of bread and all of their pizzas are homemade.

Edited by Teri Everitt (log)

If only I'd worn looser pants....

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

Mid-western farm, fresh everything

Was meal time important?

Extremely, a command performance.

Was cooking important?

Very much so.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

A reprimand by whoever saw you first, mother or father. Manners were very important.

Who cooked in the family?

My mother and she was a fantastic cook by any standards.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

Somewhat common since we traveled a lot.

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

Only if there were a large number of guests.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I don’t remember, but very young.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Always.

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

Never, and even less so when my father, who couldn’t make a cup of instant coffee, discovered Gourmet Magazine.

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

It played a major part in my immediate family and now with my children grown I see them following almost exactly the same with their children.

Edited by Jim Charles (log)
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What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None (why does that matter anyway ?)

I think it's considered rude because it takes up other people's space at the table. That's what I've heard, in any case.

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What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None (why does that matter anyway ?)

I think it's considered rude because it takes up other people's space at the table. That's what I've heard, in any case.

Hmm. I was always told it was because it looked unattractive to be sitting at the table with your elbows and arms all splayed out. Who knows? In all honesty, my mother probably didn't know either, and that's the reason she just made up. :rolleyes:

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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It seems to me that the basis for table manners is consideration for others. For instance, I was taught that after serving myself, I should offer the dish to the people sitting around me. I do get annoyed to see a person unconcernedly sitting in front of a pileup of all the hot dishes because he or she just took what they wanted without passing it around.

It doesn't seem exaggerated to allow people space by keeping elbows off, when several are seated together. But when relaxing with a friend over coffee or wine, no big sin to casually place an elbow on your own side of the table. One should be flexible, I think. Using a toothpick in the presence of other diners, for another example. In some places I've lived in Latin America, it doesn't bother anybody; in others, and I must say in my home, one takes care of such things privately.

I'm reading through this thread over several days, and one thing struck me as particularly interesting was the specific rules or rituals we were expected to observe. The Chinese custom of eating a little rice before anything else; another family's custom of saying what each was grateful for at Thanksgiving...these things add a different sort of substance to the family meal. Would it be out of place to discuss that here?

Miriam

Edited by Miriam Kresh (log)

Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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

Standard middle class New Zealand (with fairly heavy Scottish/Irish influence)

Was meal time important?

Yes. We all had to be at the table at the same time every night or we would be in very big trouble.

Was cooking important?

Yes. Mummy is a housewife and she would start cooking as soon as the kids were at school and the chores done.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

No penalty - just a firm reminder. None of us put our elbows on the table.

Who cooked in the family?

Mummy and Daddy both (Daddy always did the Schnitzel, french fries, and mushroom sauce on a Saturday night). Any one of us kids could cook on a Sunday if we wished.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Not for anything. We never ate out. Special occasions were an opportunity for Mummy to cook something special - we usually got to pick what we wanted for our birthday dinner.

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

Yes. We were expected to be as well behaved there as at the main table.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

When I was toddler. Wine was never forbidden though obviously quantities were very closely watched.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Always.

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

Yes - roast mutton every Monday, schnitzel and french fries every saturday.

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

Very much so. I demand that we sit at the table every night and we still follow the same rules as we had to (plus a few more I have picked up over the years).

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

From when I was 5, my mom was a single parent, and not inclined to cook. Meals were indifferently slapped together, often consisting of prepackaged convienience foods. Lots of fast food, as well. My father was the cook, and when I lived with him, briefly, I learned an appreciation for food, and cooking. After that, I handled most my own meal prep, and took over cooking for my mother and I.

Was meal time important?

No, we often ate at different times, often eating different meals.

Was cooking important?

Not at all. My mom viewed it as a chore, as well as my grandmother, and there was no real love for food, or cooking. I developed that, myself, as I grew up.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

Not really, but I was taught table manners, at an early age, and it never really occurred to me not to behave.

Who cooked in the family?

When my dad lived with us, he did, mostly. What my mom provided as meals when I was growing up, I wouldn't call 'cooking', but around age 12-13, I took over the detail.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Besides frequent visits to McDonalds, and Burger King, resturaunts were for special occasions, only.

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

Very small family, I'm an only child, so no. My first time actually getting quarantined to the "kiddy table" was a catastrophic dinner, at my paternal grandparents' house when I was 22, and had a child of my own. We're still talking about that one.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I remember all throughout growing up, both my parents would let me sip whatever was in their glasses, so I would guess around 4-5. Same with beer, coffee, anything like that. I remember sampling a strawberry margarita, around that age, by licking the bottom of the straw...I was smitten.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No.

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

We ordered pizza every Friday, but besides that, not really.

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

None. Cooking, for me, is a form of love. I do it because I love it, and I do it because I love the people I cook for. My mother never made those connections, and viewed food indifferently (like she viewed many people, but that's another topic, for another board).

I don't use "convenience foods", at all, and even fast weekday meals aren't indifferently slapped together. Our housemate once said "You even make boring old hamburgers and hot dogs, into an event" I try, heh. I shop almost daily, and use fresh ingredients whenever I can. Me and Whole Foods are great friends. I have a handful of favorite things that I cook, but I try new ideas, new cuisines, and new ingredients as frequently as I rely on old standbys.

We eat out semi-frequently, but almost never fast food. My 7 year old has had McDonalds, perhaps 10 times in his short life... Our "fast food" nights are trips to the local Italian deli for sammiches. Growing up, "ethnic food" was a trip to the local Chinese takeout place, for some chow mein, and that was regarded as a wildly different thing, saved for birthdays and whatnot. Now, my family favors Indian and SE Asian cuisine, and we're always looking around, trying to find great little dives to eat at.

I'm strict, almost fanatical about meal times, and eating together. My husband works very long hours, and we have very little "us" time. Our mealtimes have almost become a ritual, he gets home showers, and changes, as I'm setting the table, and thus kicks off our evening together. Since we eat so late (8:00 pm, during the landscaping season) my son eats with us, then gets ready for bed. I view it as an important practice, to ground and connect us. No TV, no distractions. It's the one time of day we can share 20-30 minutes enjoying food and each other's company. Many problems have been resolved during this time, and many life-changing discussions have happened over dinner.

This thread is incredibly theraputic, and it's nice to know that as diverse of a group as eGullet is, many people share common elements, from growing up. It's definitely a journey, to read these, then write my own account.

Edited by Lilija (log)
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  • 6 months later...

Very cool topic, thanks for the bump so I could find it!

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

I grew up in Central PA. Both of my parents were of German/Penn Dutch heritage so we had a lot of 'Dutchy' stuff. Mom liked to experiment within limits, and liked cookbooks, so it wasn't all pork & potatoes. (Thank goodness) My best friend from 10 on was Italian, and I learned a LOT from her mom.

Was meal time important?

Sort of. My Dad (small family business) spent a lot of time at his office, so most weeknight meals were just Mom & me, but we enjoyed it. As I grew older we had a lot of "talks" over dinner. Sunday breakfasts were also big deal family time, Saturday nights out, and Christmas dinner.

Was cooking important?

Not much. I always perceived it as more of a basic chore than anything else, at least for regular meals. But Mom had a contagious kind of passion for the big deal parties and things.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

I learned my Manners but also learned that they were 'for special' and not necessary for everyday.

Who cooked in the family?

Mom, almost always. Dad had his 'concoctions' like oyster stew, but most of them were on the scary side. But he was the BEST orange juice squeezer in the world.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Saturday was always Dinner Out night. My folks had a few favorites that we rotated between. I was expected to practice my table manners and mostly listen to grownup talk. I learned quite a lot that way. :wink:

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

Often, especially as our family grew. That's one thing I've continued.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

At my best friend Phyllis' house when I was 10 or 11. Her family was off-the-boat Italian and her dad made his own wine. :wacko::blink: (It's truly amazing that I like wine now, after THAT trauma.) At home, I can remember being allowed a sip of champagne for New Years when I was 12.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Nope, we're a family of Heathens. :raz:

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

Sort of. Mom fell into some patterns depending on what was seasonal.

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

It's funny, I probably cook more of my best friend's Mom's dishes than my own Mom's. I just love Italian! I'm also working on losing weight, so roasts with heavy sauces and noodles is a bad idea (sorry, Mom). My Mom was a good basic cook, but not terribly adventurous, so my repertoire is much more varied. But now & then I get homesick/hungry for those old classics like potato soup, beef barley soup, chicken & dumplings, and simple apple crisp. And I'll always make Mom's (actually Grandma's) potato filling for Thanksgiving/Christmas. I hardly even tinker with the recipe.

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

middle class America meets Julia Child

Was meal time important?

Yes, and where I received much of my education.

Was cooking important?

Yes and no. When it was Mom and Dad took the times and really put something together, but most of the time it was utilitarian, but good.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

It was expected that at formal meals that elbows would not be on the table.

Who cooked in the family?

Mom during the week, and often Dad (and Mom) on Sundays and holidays. Dad is more instinctual mom is more recipe oriented.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Special occasions and when traveling. However, I usually ate at restaurants with my grandparents at least twice a month.

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

No. The most we every hosted for meals was twelve (tight fit).

When did you get that first sip of wine?

Believe it or not it was the day of Di and Charles' wedding. I was ten, we were in Cambridge, and everyone was drinking "buck fizzes" (mimosas).

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Only Sundays and holidays.

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

No, but I do remember a lot of beef stroganoff, homemade mac and cheese, and chicken with sherry sauce.

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

I live alone, so not that much. However, it all comes back when I am with my parents. I tend to be a little more complicated in my cooking when compared to my folks, but we like food equally.

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

Middle-American wheat-state with a slight German/Penn Dutch influence. If they serve it at a church dinner/social, we were eating it.

2. Was meal time important?

I think so - even as we got wrapped up in our various social activities, we tried to be home for even a quick meal together before we scattered. And holidays were (and still are) all about food.

3. Was cooking important?

Yes -- both because we couldn't afford to eat out more than once a week or so, and because we preferred dining together around the family table. All 4 of my grandparents were great cooks (both grandfathers ran restaurants/lunch counters, one grandmother ran food service for a couple school districts).

4. What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

I don't remember it ever being brought up, but I don't remember seeing blatant elbows on the table.

5. Who cooked in the family?

My Mom, primarily, until we got old enough to help/take over (I cooked my first full family meal, with some help, when I was 6), although my Dad cooks a good breakfast and can grill flesh of all forms. All four of their kids are competent cooks now.

6. Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

In our small town, dining options were limited to a couple family diners, a family-run mexican restaurant and a burger shop, but we'd eat at least one meal out a week, venturing up to Wichita (20 minute drive) a couple times a month. It wasn't until much later that we got a Pizza Hut, Subway, A&W, etc.

7. Did children have a "kiddy table" when guests were over? Only when we couldn't all sit at one table, although it wasn't segregation as much as convenience.

8. When did you get that first sip of wine?

Er...legally? Real wine? Not counting the screw-top swill (back before screw-top wine was acceptable) I drank in high school, probably Christmas after my first semester at college. Dad's still trying to bring me around on the joys of wine, although I don't spend a lot of time analyzing the nuances -- I just drink it and enjoy it.

9. Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Most Sundays, holiday meals, and whenever someone from church was dining at our table. We were regular church-goers, but not overly pious at the family table.

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

My Mom had a repetoire of 20 main dishes or so that made appearances over the course of a month, and Fridays or Saturdays were likely "Taco Night" (which entailed Mexican dishes in many forms), and you could count on Roast a couple Sundays a month, but no, there was no planned rotation.

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

Family tradition is VERY important to me, and I still replicate many of the old standards, although I certainly "tweak" the recipes, and I don't overcook the beef. Okay, I don't HAVE any recipes, which is going to make it VERY difficult to pass them on to my daughters.

Regretfully, we eat out more than we should, but I try to cook a couple sitdown meals on the weekend and my wife covers the dinner shift during the week. And at family gatherings, I'm still militant about making sure family traditions are maintained, i.e. Christmas morning brunch, Easter dinner, Oktoberfest, the Super Bowl...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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As a reformed lurker I have had the genius idea of using this wonderful thread to introduce myself to you all (gulp, a bit more intimidating than I had imagined)...so, here goes. Be gentle with me.

1. What was your food culture growing up?

Grew up in Sydney, Oz, one of 4 kids, with a mother who's forebears were almost convicts and a dad who was the firstborn of Russian Jewish immigrants. An unusual marriage at that time. The expression 'Australian food culture' in the late fifties was a contradiction in terms to put it mildly.My dad's mum lived with us and my earliest memories are of helping her in the kitchen as she chopped and cooked and turned out stunning food that was totally different from the stuff I was eating at my friend's places (thank god). And her baking was sublime. My mum's parents had owned butcher shops so we also ate things we thought we normal, that grossed out my friends. Oh, how I laughed after swapping my crumbed brain sandwich at school which was thoroughly enjoyed until I spilled the beans about the contents. :raz:

2. Was meal time important?

Pretty well. And we all had our set places around a large table in the kitchen my dad had built especially to fit us all. Breakfast was wonderful. Our parents loved the water, so every morning, except for the colder winter months we would get up early and go to a nearby beach to swim for a hour, just at that time when you can feel the promise of the heat of the day to come, and the cicadas are already singing their song. Back ravenous and our bodies sticky with dried salt, and mum would cook us stacks of pancakes and scrambled eggs and sausages.

3. Was cooking important?

Supremely. I didn't quite realise how well we were eating at the time but I was drawn like a magnet to the stove, and picked up prep and cooking skills quite young, but also didn't realise it. I just remember that I loved the rhythm and routine of creating a meal with the adults.

4. What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

Nothing said specifically. Us kids were just expected to sit up, use our implements properly and never talk with food in our mouths. However mealtimes were fraught with danger in our house. Dad was a practical joker. You ate your cereal with care in case you bit down on a small plastic diver swimming submerged in the milk, freshly baked cakes had mysterious animal footprints across the icing, and on one memorable occasion dad hid a small firework we called a tom thumb in mum's mashed potato and lit it when she had her back turned. Years later there are still stains on the ceiling and I still have the image burned in my mind of mum's eyebrows looking like twin snowdrifts. :raz: But I was horrified to hear my best friend's mother burp loudly one mealtime at their place and I am afraid I rather disgraced myself by bursting into hysterical laughter.

5. Who cooked in the family?

Mum and Nana and me regularly, dad when he was in a creative mood. A bonus was being entertained by nana's stories of her life in Russia, and then England and the States while we worked in the kitchen. Probably why I left Oz when I was 19 and have had wanderlust ever since.

6. Were restaurant meals common or for special events?

We NEVER ate out. Was uncommon then and, unlike now, no local restaurants, especially ethnic ones. Was only much later when a Vietnamese family moved in next door when I was about 13 and passed us titbits over the fence that I had eaten Asian food. Amazing, in retrospect. We have lived as adults for many years in Hong Kong and Thailand and before that in New Guinea, Fiji, Nigeria, Bahrain and I couldn't imagine not eating out.

7. Did the children have a kiddy table when guests were over?

We would normally eat first, although I do seem to have a sort of memory of a wobbly card table at some stage. Probably when we had nana's brothers and sisters and families visiting from the States.

8. When did you get that first sip of wine?

Beer, actually, now that's a surprise; I must have been quite young, it was another very hot, blue day and dad gave me a sip of what he was drinking when we were having a BBQ. Blech. Wine, I was 15 and got supremely drunk on crappy liebfraumilch on a double date, whereupon the poor bloke I was with propped me at my front door, rang the bell and ran. Dad held my head while I was sick most of the night and never said a word. Never again. (sort of)

9. Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Surprisingly, given our mix of religion we did say simple grace when we were very young but it petered out. I know mum and dad only sent us to Sunday School so they had a bit of peace.

10. Was there a rotating menu?

Sunday roast lunch, with chopped herring or chopped liver to start. Soup and sandwiches Sunday night.

11. How much of your family's culture is being replicated in your present day family life?

The children are away (uni and work) now but we always sit at the table and we always eat pretty damn well. Kids have inherited a love of food and respect for ingredients. We eat a huge range of cuisines. I do 90 percent of the cooking. Husb. just uses the excuse that I do it so well. Son sometimes cooks (just turned 18, left school at 16 to follow his dream to be a chef, now commis at 2 michelin star, working 18 hour days with half-hour mealtime, skinny as hell, and no social life but loving it. I admire his dedication totally.

And we do occasionally still find plastic toys in our food.

Yikes, very long, promise other posts will be the soul of brevity.

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My turn to share.

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

My mother comes from a long line of acclaimed fiesta cooks (from Cavite City, Philippines). My dad comes from not only a long line of good cooks but from a family with impeccable picky tastes. Food from Cavite city are spanish in origin. My father's family boasts of a "Luto sa Atay" stew (Beef simmered in liver sauce) that makes my husband weep with joy. From my mother's side come foods like Menudo, Mechado, Sarciado, Kare-Kare, etc. Families from Cavite are also well-known for their sweet tooth (which somehow skipped me). We got desserts like sweetened chick peas, sweetened macapuno (candied coconut strings), ube (purple yam jam), etc.

Was meal time important?

Dinner where all the family sits down together and share what happened to them that day. You can eat breakfast and lunch somewhere else or on other times but dinner was mandate by my father as family time.

Was cooking important?

Cooking was very important in my family. So important that even the cut of the meat and vegetables for certain dishes must be followed. There are even procedures that need to be done (like the garlic must be golden brown before the rest of the ingredients are added during sauteing). Doing shortcuts are frowned upon and will earn you a long and monotonous sermon.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

An admonisment from mom and a sharp look from dad.

Who cooked in the family?

My mother, nobody else, even if we had maids. My dad was adamant about that.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Only for special occassions.

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

Yes, we did. There were four of us siblings and we had a short square table where we would eat, one table side for each of us.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

First Communion during the second grade. I thought it tasted nasty.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

No, my dad was an atheist and my mom a non-practicing Catholic.

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

The meal was whatever was the freshest produce in the market. If my mom saw fresh crabs, that would be supper that night. Only during the weekends would there be a chance to request something special like grilled porkchops with kinilaw na tanigue (fish cerviche).

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

A whole lot since I am now cooking for my own family and try to do as much of my native dishes for our meals. We also go out to eat in a restaurant when there is a special occassion to celebrate.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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

Middle class. Dad lived on a farm as a kid so we did raise some of our own food.

Was meal time important?

Yes.

Was cooking important?

Extremely. If you couldn't cook in my dad's family, there must be something wrong with you.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

"Hey, were you raised in a barn?"

Who cooked in the family?

My father. And if not, we wished he had.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Special occasions.

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

No.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I don't remember wine. I do remember beer at age 6 or 7 and thought it was bitter.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Only on holidays or at grandparents' house.

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?

Most of it. I generally cook meals at home, fresh and not from a box, and am TRYING to teach my teenage son to cook.

Aquarius (Jan 21-Feb 19): Cranky. And rude and tactless. - and a perfect description of me!

"Is there alcohol in this furniture polish? Mmmmm, tastes like I might die!" Roger the Alien, "American Dad"

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

Very middle class; Texan married to Cajun. Eventually Mom's cooking was much more Cajun than Texan, cooking gumbo with the best of them, but I do recall wonderful Sunday dinners of fried chicken, biscuits, and milk gravy. Once Dad died (after 50 years of marriage), she'd sometimes revert to the comfort foods of her childhood, like cornbread and pinto beans.

Was meal time important?

Yes. Most nights Mom and all four kids sat down to supper together, but Daddy often worked too late to have supper with us. We were all together for Sunday dinners, though.

Was cooking important?

There were different phases. Mom was a working mother before it was the thing to do, so sometimes it was just important that she get a hot meal on the table. Later, when she had more time and more money, she experimented more.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

Gentle reminders, no penalties. I was a voracious reader and occasionally Mom would allow me to read at the table, but it was the rare exception. Maybe she was distracted.

Who cooked in the family?

Mom was the regular cook, and Daddy would handle things like outdoor fish fries, crawfish boils, barbecues. He would sometimes "doctor" her cooking and then try to take credit for any compliments the meal earned. His favorite line, "Tell the truth. Isn't that the best _________ you ever ate?"

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occassions?

Not very many restaurant meals when I was younger, except for breakfast at a little cafe after early morning Mass. In my mid to late teens, we increased our restaurant patronage a thousand fold. More money, better eats.

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

The kiddy table came into play when the crowd was too big for everyone to be seated together. I never minded the kiddy table. It meant I was either with my cousins or the children of my parents' friends, both good things.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

No memory of it. I do recall sneaking a sip of Daddy's beer, only to discover there was a cigarette butt at the bottom of the bottle!

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Yes.

Was there a rotating menu?

Saturday lunches were chili dogs! Other than that, not a regular rotation, although rice and gravy was featured heavily.

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

Not as much as it should be. Our first child was profoundly handicapped, with difficulty eating. By the time our second child was born, we were in the habit of working our meal around Matthew's feeding and so I'd feed one child and then the other. We just didn't get into the habit of all sitting down at the table together, which I regret.

"I like 'em french fried pertaters." (Billy Bob Thornton as Karl, in Sling Blade.)
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  • 3 months later...

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

Pretty formal. Every meal had at least three courses and we were expected to dress for dinner. (I mean, we weren't wearing dinner jackets, etc. but we had to clean up and change from school/play clothes.) Guests were frequent. Our food ranged widely from Midwestern family to "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" to a variety of Eastern European favourites. One thing was certain. There had to be excellent bread and always dessert and to quote my father, "Fruit is not dessert."

Was meal time important?

Very! No one missed dinner without permission which was not readily granted. Family meals were essential, the center of the day. Conversation was as important as the meal itself. And of course, no one was permitted to leave the table until after asking for and receiving permission to do so.

Was cooking important?

Yes. My father in particular had very high standards. We had an extensive garden and ate our own vegetables much of the time. We also gathered food by picking berries, harvesting wild asparagus and water cress, etc. My father was a naturalist by avocation. He spent a good deal of time out of doors, fishing and hunting, etc. when he was growing up and he was eager to initiate us to the delights of wild food.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

A severe look from my mother and, if there were no guests, a telling off as well. My parents were strict with us about manners because we had frequent guests. In retrospect, it was excellent training which allowed us to be comfortable in all kinds of situations. When I was in college, I received an invitation to luncheon at the White House to receive an award and knowing that I would not be anxious about the meal definitely helped to put me at ease.

Who cooked in the family?

My grandmother, father, mother and me. None of my brothers ever cooked, as I recall. My father always made breakfast. My grandmother was a fabulous cook, apart from beef which she always overcooked when the rest of us ate our meat rare. Frequently, my mother cooked the beef and my grandmother prepared the rest of the meal, then cooked her own portion of beef until it was as dry as a bone. I learned to cook from my grandmother, mother, and father but mostly my job was to bake. During the summer, I baked all our bread. The rest of the year, my grandmother did so.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

My father thought nothing of driving 200 miles for lunch if there was a special restaurant he wanted to try. Another reason why we had manners drilled into us was that my parents wanted us to be prepared to dine out in formal restaurants without any anxiety or confusion.

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

Our table seated 12 and that allowed five guests to join us at a moment's notice. There were times when my parents had adult dinner parties and in that case, we ate early. My brothers and I appeared at the start of the party to be introduced, and sometimes to pass hors d'oeuvre, before spending the rest of the evening upstairs.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I really don't remember. Neither my father nor grandmother drank any alcohol so wine was not a part of our every day meals.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Yes. Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Was there a rotating menu?

Not that I recall.

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

It's pretty similar. I even inherited the dining room table! :wub:

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

Informal, except that we always ate together at dinner whenever possible, and dinner was always at the dining table, never in front of the TV.

Was meal time important?

It wasn't set in stone, and was moved around as needed when my brother and I grew up and started getting involved in sports.

Was cooking important?

Nobody in my immediate family was what I would call a foodie, but a basic knowledge of cooking was important and from about the age of 12 my brother and I were responsible for cooking dinner once a week.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None that I recall. It certainly isn't an issue now.

Who cooked in the family?

When I was very young, my mom cooked almost exclusively. She is a competent cook of the Betty Crocker school, with some Depression-era frugality learned from her parents.

My dad took over primary cook duties when I was around 12 or so. He was much more experimental, which resulted in some disasters but on the whole he's a better cook.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

We went out to inexpensive restaurants like pizza parlors or buffets pretty much weekly as far back as I can recall. When we became old enough to appreciate it, we started going to fancier places once in a while.

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

No, except at large family holidays.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I think it was at a Passover Seder. I didn't care for it at all.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Only when eating with my mother's parents (mostly Thanksgiving and Christmas and the like). Then there was a brief prayer followed by a song.

Was there a rotating menu?

No, but there were of course recurring favorites. Macaroni and cheese and spaghetti with meat sauce were common when I was young, largely replaced by things like stir-fries and pesto when I was older.

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

Very little. At present my wife and I have no children, so there's very little structure. I the sole cook, but I only cook maybe three or four days a week, generally making enough so there are leftovers for both lunch and dinner the next day. We mostly eat in front of the TV.

I expect that this will all change if/when we have kids, and we'll use more or less the same "culture" as I experience growing up. My wife had a similar upbringing, so there shouldn't be any conflict.

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

Definitely blue-collar. When my dad lost his job in 1986, we ate really yucky food. I remember those grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup nights all too vividly. We also ate alot of Polish food too because both of my parents are Polish.

Was meal time important?

Not really. Both of my parents worked odd hours and two of my 3 siblings were already teenagers. So long as you got food in your belly was all that mattered(and you didn't waste it).

Was cooking important?

Not really. I grew up in the 80's. Processed food was becoming pretty acceptable. I was fine with eating Pac-Man cereal out of the box for all 3 meals. My mom was always on a diet so I think our refrigerator was never without a pot of that cabbage soup stuff. It was not until a few years ago that my parents got serious about eating wholesome, homecooked meals.

What were the penalties for putting elbows on the table?

None. Not that I can really remember having an elbow problem in the family. We had a belching and cursing problem. And that's nothing compared to my ex-husband's gas problem at supper time. Who says Europeans are more cultured?

Who cooked in the family?

Both of my parents cooked. My Dad would usually cook on the weekends, especially after his hunting trips. They still take turns, but my mom has alzheimer's disease so we try to stick around to help her out in case she has a problem. I prepare all of my food because I'm vegan and prefer to take care of myself when I get stuck at home.

Were restaurant meals common, or for special occasions?

From the time I was 8 until the time I was 15, we lived on Burger King. Yuck!

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

I still get stuck at the kiddy table. Yes, at 23 years old, I am still at the bottom. And people wonder why I ran away.

When did you get that first sip of wine?

I don't remember about wine, but I remember sipping my Dad's pop when I was 3 and wondering why it burned my mouth. That was my first introduction to cheap vodka.

Was there a pre-meal prayer?

Every meal we had to say that grace before meals prayer. My parents are pretty devout Catholics, so skipping grace was a big no-no.

Was there a rotating menu?

No. But during Lent we had to follow all of the fasting and abstinance rules on Fridays and such. I still cannot think of tuna, eggs, or fish sticks without gagging.

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

Very little is present. I survived my anorexia, which made returning to regular meals hard. In the last year or so my cocaine/ecstacy binges would have me go days without food, and also sent my culinary school knowledge out the window. My rehab attempts/withdrawls sometimes make regular, good meals difficult. When I stay with my boyfriend, I cook as great as Martha Stewart though. So I guess everyday is an adventure with food.

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