My Food History, part 1

Now that we (me and the kid) have gone vegetarian, I’ve been doing a ton of reading on what we need to know to be successful with this. And so this, naturally, has led me to reflect on how I’ve eaten in the past. It’s been a varied past. Some good, lots bad (not because of you Mom, I promise,) and lots learned. Seems lately I’ve been shaking up the ol’ eating about every three years, with what I hope is an increasing knowledge about food and nutrition and the best way to fuel our bodies.

Add to seeing this old gem of a commercial (anyone else remember the Big Fig Newton?) and I got to thinking about my dietary habits growing up. So, I thought I’d make this  series of blog posts, talking about how I used to eat and where I’m headed next.

Now, a disclaimer. My mother may disagree with some of my memories and she could be right. That said, this is how I remember food growing up in Clemson in the late 60s and early 70s.

1. No white bread. My mother was an anomaly among my friends as she refused to serve us white bread. “The bread is brown, the milk is white, she would say.” So we grew up being forced to eat wheat bread. Maybe if we were lucky, we’d get to eat lunch at a friend’s house and we’d get to eat that precious Sunbeam bread. The end result is … I don’t like white bread! I remember seeing Sleeper years later when I was in college. The doctors are thawing Woody Allen, who had been frozen after a botched sinus surger. He apparently woke up and asked for alfalfa sprouts and granola or the like, something healthy. The doctors, who are all also smoking, are shocked. One says to the other “Doesn’t he know that steak and potatoes are the best thing you can eat??” This really made me laugh. It makes me laugh for sad reasons now, with Atkins and all.

2. No fun cereal. I had to put my foot down with the Shredded Wheat (this is before they figured out that “frosting” it made it palatable to younger mouths.) What we REALLY wanted was Cap’n Crunch. What we loved most of all was the Cap’n Crunch with the berries, which had some sort of freaky spotted monster on the front. Once, she finally relented and we got a box of the magical stuff, but alas, we argued over opening it and it went all over the floor. We ate it off the floor anyway, we loved it so. We knew we’d never get another box any time soon. My sister’s favorite was the Freakies. Hey, we watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons, what I can say. We weren’t immune to the marketing machine! I can STILL sing the jingle. But Mom was resolute. Heck, the woman even sprinkled wheat germ on my cereal. We’d put the milk down for the cats to drink it and on the side of the bowl, there’d be a clump of wheat bran. Even the cats wouldn’t eat that stuff. Finally, we settled on Golden Grahams and I ate that for years. Now, of course, I don’t eat Cap’n Crunch nor do I let the kid eat it either. Actually, when she was young and was being sucked in by the marketing, I told her that those kinds of cereals were not good for her belly. She bought it. (Yeah for me!) That said, her dad introduced her to the magic of Pop Tarts. (Boo for Dad!)

3. Not a lot of fruit. I don’t remember there being a ton of fruit in the house, but then again, we were probably not eating it either, so she gave up. My father loves fruit, so there had to be some fruit in the house. But we didn’t eat it and she didn’t push it. Mom isn’t a huge fruit consumer herself. She’s more of a vegetable gal.

4. Meat. The centerpiece of every meal back in the 70s. Neither my sister nor I were big on eating meat. We were also fairly small kids, so we never ate a whole lot. I do remember liking ham hash and spaghetti. She also made a mean macaroni tomato cheese casserole that had kielbasa in it that everyone always ate. I was not crazy about beef stew night. Otherwise … I don’t remember a lot of meals! (Sorry Mom!)

5. Eating out. It didn’t happen a lot. First, my parents didn’t have a lot of money when we were young. Second, we grew up in Clemson. Sure, we’d eat at Hardee’s here and there. But that was it. And that was it because that was it. We didn’t get a McDonald’s until 1976 and I think Wendy’s was next, in 1981. (No I didn’t have to look up the dates. It was that momentous that they came to our town.) So, if we were going to eat fast food, well, it was going to have to be Hardee’s. When we did eat out, we would eat at Capri’s. There are still a few of those around, but the one in Clemson is long gone. They made a very fat noodle with a rich meaty tomato sauce that was always a favorite. The only other “restaurant” (besides pizza and burgers) in town was KFC. That was a bucket of chicken and a couple of sides, usually cole slaw. I avoid both like it’s laced with arsenic. (I know, I’m southern and I should love fried chicken. I DON’T. I also don’t drink sweet tea. Sorry.)

6. No sodas. We just didn’t have sodas in the house. We did, however, have lots and lots of Kool Aid. I guess it was cheaper! We’d buy the packets and mix the sugar. A pitcher was usually in the fridge. There was milk and OJ too. Oh, and High C Punch too. (Yuck! We drank that stuff?)

7. Cookies. There were usually some cookies around in an actual cookie jar. Mom did teach us to bake, but not so much cook. She usually preferred to cook alone. (She would also cook while reading a magazine, but I digress.) Her mother was not a particularly good cook (ok she was a terrible cook) so Mom was more or less self-taught, so I guess she was used to cooking alone and it stuck. The cookie I remember the most were Nutter Butters. Again, I suspect this was for two reasons: first, possibly the more nutritional among the choices and second, I didn’t really like Nutter Butters so I wouldn’t eat the entire pack and they would last the whole week. I would eat them, because I had/have a huge sweet tooth, just not quite as eagerly.

8. Salad. My parents idea of salad consisted of: iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes and maybe green peppers. For years, I thought that was what salads were and thus I didn’t like salad. It took me years to figure out, because I am slow that way, that salads could be made up of different veggies. Or heck, even fruit.

So, those are my earliest memories of food. Next time, Christine goes to college.

Anyone else remember these foods or have a different experience growing up?

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4 thoughts on “My Food History, part 1

  1. Carla

    i remember capri’s bc we always went on wednesday and i was in 4th grade. I remember it because every time i went, my 4th grade teacher was also there. guess wed. was their one night out a week too. the last person i wanted to see on eating out night. i did not like salad either until i discovered romaine, spinach, spring mix… well anything but iceberg, basically. i can tell you what we had to eat most nights: cube steak, meatloaf, pork chops, spaghetti with meat sauce, beef stew once in a while (not often enough) the casserole or ham hash, and if we were lucky (i know it’s gross but i liked them), hot dogs. we were served milk though i preferred ice water. and yes in general we girls didn’t eat much. i found my baby book, which mom kept notes in, and apparently i drank “gallons” of koolaid as far back as age 9 months. i think sodas showed up around age 13 or 14 for me in the house, which means you were 15 or 16. we had more cookies by then too. around age 15 for me, we started getting really tempting cookies like fudge stripes and deluxe grahams in the house. i figured out on my own in 10th grade that if i ate a pop tart for bfast i’d be hypoglycemic by 2nd period of school. so then i ate 2, and i was hypoglycemic by 1st period. that’s when i figured out how to scramble eggs in the microwave… i think i went my entire childhood without touching a piece of fruit. except maybe some OJ.

    Reply
    1. cuprado Post author

      I’m with you on the red meat. I barely ate red meat once I left the house and in fact haven’t eaten it in a while. Mostly because the taste wasn’t worth the cost, at least early on. I do remember Fudge Stripes, because I used to try to eat them a stripe at a time. I used to also try to eat M&Ms by breaking them in half with my teeth. Weird huh? At least the carrots and cheese thing has some redeeming nutritional value! Mom says she doesn’t like iceberg lettuce either, that that is Dad’s preference. Hmm.

      Reply
  2. Carla

    BTW my weird habit in 10th grade every afternoon, at least when there were supplies, was to grate up a bunch of carrots and cheddar cheese and eat the whole bowl.

    Reply

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