I was reflecting on how our eating habits have evolved over the past 30+ years of marriage. When we were first married, I didn’t know how to cook. Somebody took pity on me (or actually probably on my malnourished hubby) and bought me a Betty Crocker cookbook at some point, after having attended a “special occasion” dinner party at my house, which consisted of Shake & Bake pork chops, boil-in- a- bag broccoli WITH cheese sauce if you please, frozen French fries, topped off with a nice Mrs. Smiths frozen apple pie. You put that with a nice bottle of Baby Duck and BAM you had yourself a 1980 gourmet meal.
Next I learned how to be a by-the- book -cook , and my repertoire expanded so that I was making us delicious little numbers like authentic Caesar salad, which the two of us would romantically eat together by candlelight, from the same large wooden bowl, while gazing into each other’s eyes.
Then the kids came along … and I morphed into some sort of Organic Power Ranger type. I spent hours painstakingly making nutritious meals and snacks. I made all my own baby food, and became a bit of a freelance in-your-face nutritionist, recoiling in horror when people tried to contaminate my offspring with the likes of hotdogs. At one young and overly zealous point I joined forces with my close friend Meryl Streep in a letter writing campaign to government officials, demanding they immediately put a stop to pesticiding the hell out of veggies and fruit. I think we know how that turned out. I blame Meryl.
Once the kids were in school, I mellowed somewhat, but still carefully prepared home cooked breakfasts, and sent ecoli- proof cooler packed lunches. Snacks were strictly home baked treats. Of course I found out later, that these home baked treats got very old very fast, and were widely traded on the school market at a ratio of one of my chocolate chip cookies to two for Oreos and Chips Ahoy. And as for the poisonous threat of hotdogs, I was fighting a losing battle. The school itself declared an actual day in honor of them, and peer pressure and the fear of being shunned as “different” was stronger than the drive to avoid death by nitrates, so on a weekly basis I sent hotdog day money, constantly torn between my own maternal instinct to protect my children from avoidable toxins, and the more immediate and pressing need for me to have a day off from packing lunches.
As the kids got older, they became even pickier with the school lunches. I was no longer allowed to send egg sandwiches because they stunk up their locker and the hall and the schoolbus, and, they were constantly being accused of having just farted, which was wreaking havoc with their social lives. They were increasingly jealous of the cool lunches other kids had – loaded with various plastic delicacies posing as food, such as “cheese” strings and “fruit” roll ups. Side note – It didn’t help that my sister also had a teenager at the same time, and enjoyed some fleeting fame as the coolest mom in the world when she, by accident, sent beer on her Grade 10 son’s lunch not once but twice. The can looked the same and was located in the same area of the pantry as the pop, was the official explanation. He was thrilled, both times, and his own cool factor at school reached Fonzie-esque heights. But I digress. ..
Nowadays, our offspring are out in the world and preparing their own meals, they seem to have a healthy appreciation for all the food groups, which I take total credit for. They read the nutritional information on the labels, and make wise food choices.
Meanwhile back at home though, mom and dad have taken a giant leap backward. A lingering pre-dinner cocktail (but only on the days that end in “y”) now means that dinner is either: A) non-existent or B) a bag of chips or C) cereal. Where I used to feel a need to cover all the food groups and make meat, veg and potatoes every single day, now I’m in the kitchen dumping snack bags into bowls, preparing a basic wine and cheezie tray, or muttering about how potatoe chips are technically veggies, and too much meat isn’t good for you, plus I’ve revised the threat level of pesticides up to red, so vegetables are obviously out.
Hubby and I do still on occasion huddle together sharing a Ceasar salad out of the same big old wooden bowl, but we have abandoned the candlelight in favour of Clapper controlled lighting, and we’re usually sitting side by side on the couch, each with a cat in our lap, yelling out incorrect Jeopardy answers to an ever- pompous Alex Trebec.
Vive la romance!
As a partial homage to Betty Crocker, here is my somewhat bastardized version of her Ceasar Salad recipe, and a pic of my 32 year old salad bowl.
1/3 cup oil (I use ½ canola, ½ Olive)
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp salt
Fresh Ground pepper
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
Crush 1/2 large clove garlic and smash it all around inside bowl. Add dressing to bowl (start with about ¼ cup) toss with washed and spun romaine lettuce pieces, adding more dressing as needed, just enough so leaves glisten but not so much that they get wet and gross.
Lastly, toss with ¼ cup shredded parmesan or even better, those fancy parmesan “petals” and add croutons and crumbled crisp bacon (but not those gross fake bacon “bits”), if desired.