I’m not going to write about myself today. This morning I read the assignment for Writing 101, and it is about happy childhood memories related to meals. Yeah, after thinking about it all day, I haven’t figured anything out. My happy memories don’t seem to revolve around food.
Funny thing though, I told Will the prompt. I was about to tell him that I was having a hard time coming up with anything, but before I could he started talking about his top three childhood meals and what they meant to him. Right there, off the top of his head, no hesitation. He knows me really well too – when he finished talking he just kind of looked at me and said that he could tell by the look on my face that I had nothing. I don’t want to make it sound like I had a terrible childhood and we were starving, because that would be an inaccurate statement. But I just can’t make this about me.
When Will was a kid, his family was pretty poor. Despite his parents frugality, there were always concerns about money. When I was pregnant with Wildling and we were discussing how we wanted to raise her, Will admitted that as a child he was always afraid there wasn’t enough money, and he didn’t want to raise her to always be afraid that the money would be gone and we’d lose the house (in my very different upbringing, we had money, but not enough love or emotional support).
One thing that’s funny about how Will ate as a child – the choices they made that were dictated by poverty are pretty similar to the choices we make today that are dictated by health. They never had pre-packaged meals because they couldn’t afford it; we never have them because we don’t want the additives (full disclosure – we have occasionally purchased dino nuggets for Wildling). His mom would mix bread and textured vegetable protein into the cheapest packages of ground meat so it would last longer; when we still ate meat at home we’d reduce our intake by mixing whole grain bread in with lean ground turkey. They cooked everything from scratch; we cook everything (almost everything- I did mention the dino nuggets) from scratch.They raised chickens before it was cool to raise chickens; we haven’t jumped on the backyard chicken trend because – true story – as a child he was attacked by a rooster in his parent’s backyard (later, it was delicious).
Every once in awhile, the Mexican restaurant near their house would issue a coupon for a discount on ten ground beef tacos. That was the special treat. They wouldn’t eat there; his family would order at the restaurant, but take the food home to eat. It was very important, Will insists, that they get home quickly before the tacos got too soggy and soft on the bottom. It was rare for them, eating food they hadn’t cooked themselves, and Will loved it. He loved that they didn’t have to cook or wash dishes, he loved how fast and simple it was. And most of all, what he loved was how happy he and his parents were when they could afford to buy tacos. To him it was a symbolic meal. It meant they didn’t have to worry right then, his dad’s job was safe. That wasn’t always the case – his father’s work was grant funded, and there was the constant threat of non-renewal or loss of funds. But on taco night, Will knew that for a little while at least, everything was fine.