|porridge (not Captain Crunch) | photo: VirtualSteve|
What a lovely Saturday it is! Not because its beautiful out, but because we are home relaxing after a busy work week–and that sounds good to me! I was at the grocery store the other day looking for things that I wasn’t finding and getting very frustrated that I was even trying as I knew this stuff wasn’t going to be there. No raw dairy, no full fat organic yogurt, no fertile eggs, no grassfed butter, no organ meats, no artisan bread, no Scottish porridge oats…I know..complain, complain, complain…and then, I saw some liverwurst and I got happy for a moment–ah, offal!!
As I smiled, a wave of guilt came over me so strongly that I almost cried, and I had this HUGE AHA moment! For years I had been complaining to people that my mother had fed us terribly when I was a child. Not that she was a bad cook, but she was just different than all the other American Moms out there. That’s pretty obvious because my mother is from England and grew up in the Yorkshire and Leicestershire countryside. As a young woman, she was a midwife, going from home to home delivering babies and caring for the mothers and babies in the home. She came to America and met my dad, a Greek surgeon, who came from (oh god, thats another huge long story–let’s save it for another time shall we?) China at a party in Brooklyn. Thus our family was born and moved into the American landscape as a couple raising first generation American children in the mid 60′s.
So, when other kids were eating Captain Crunch for breakfast, we were having porridge with treackle, or crepes rolled up with lemon and sugar, instead of flap jacks. When other kids were eating Oscar Meyer and Wonderbread, we were eating liverwurst and lettuce with butter sandwiches or cream cheese and lettuce on brown bread. As kids, we envied our peers their white bread, their big glasses of pasteurized and homogenized milk at every meal (we had water only or a taste of wine, or a shandy, beer and ginger mixed–remember my folks were from Europe!), oh and the thought of Hellmann’s Mayo on a sandwich instead of that GAWD AWFUL butter on everything!!!
Dinner, occasionally, was a child’s worst nightmare. While our friends were eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with Ball Park Franks, we were having Beef and Kidney Stew, long cooked with potatoes. Or we would watch our dad crack open a lamb shank that my mother had braised for hours and drink out the marrow with a satisfied slurp. Snails crossed our plates, tripe, the crackling off a fresh leg of pork, eggs and bacon with bread fried in the grease, Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas…all made an appearance, and while we ate them, simply cooked in my mother’s kitchen, with my granny sitting by her side preparing the veggies, we longed for the dinners our friends were eating.
We did this because we thought it would be better to fit in…to assimilate…to eat what they were eating meant we were one of them. I remember sitting in terror and dread the first time my mom let me have a birthday sleep over and she served spaghetti and meat sauce…everyone loved it! I was so concerned because it wasn’t Ragu!!!
As the years have gone by, and I have explored many eating traditions and nutritional directives, I sometimes used my mother’s cooking as a “poor me” to fit in and explain myself better and why I was still searching. People gasped at my stories of my mother buying beef hearts and having them ground by the local butcher or my grandmother buying cows gristles and ligaments and slow cooking them to release all the gelatin and collagen. It was unheard of, it was unknown and it was unwanted. Surely McDonald’s was better.
Now, sitting in my kitchen, with a pantry stocked full of home made, organic foods based almost entirely on Real Whole Foods recommended by Sally Fallon and the Weston A. Price Foundation, I realize that my mother was RIGHT–she fed us good, wholesome, nourishing, frugal, building, traditional foods! She set the building blocks for future health in every bite of liver and every piece of rye bread we ate!
I am lucky because my kids already know that what my friends grew up on is not good for them, and they love to eat the way we eat (though, they have yet to have a piece of tripe or a lamb shank!). Over the years, my mother stopped cooking traditional foods and became an excellent cook with a European flair. She and my dad are in their golden years and are healthy and happy and travel extensively. They are concerned with health and wellbeing, but I do think I need to sit down with them and explain why kidneys need to be back on the menu!
Here’s to my Mom, and the wonderful food she made me eat as a kid–I am now glad she made me, ’cause I know how deep down good it was for me.