Dinners at my house growing up were heat-and-eat type meals. Neither of my parents can cook. For that matter, neither could my grandparents. No one that I knew, until I was a grown-up, was a good cook. Our family had a standard rotation of dinners: fish sticks, mac and cheese, spaghetti, spatula (depression dinner…a fat noodle served with butter…and toast), creamed beef on toast and fried perch if it was ice fishing season. All of this carb-loaded, processed dinner was served with your choice of: canned veggies or canned fruit. In the summer we would have tomatoes from our garden. We also used to live in a house where wild asparagus grew in the ditch—I kid you not! We always had a stack of white Wonder bread on the table and, you guessed it, whole milk. Dessert was usually fruit cocktail…out of a can. I didn’t know any different and thought it was fine; you can probably see why I was a chubby girl!
When I got to college, it was during the fat-free craze. Remember that? As long as what you ate was fat-free, it was healthy. I lived on bagels, fruit, veggies and fat-free anything else. During this time, I once had a boss, who was kind of an a$$hole, tell me that he would never want to eat dinner with me because I didn’t enjoy food. Well, duh! I was starving! I wouldn’t have known a good meal if it smacked me in the face. On one of our first dates, Matt took me to this nice restaurant and I ordered the fruit plate. Sad, right? I didn’t eat meat, nothing with fat in it and counted every calorie. Food was definitely not my friend.
One time, when we were newly dating, I decided to make Matt an apple pie. That and chocolate chip cookies are his absolute favorites. Since it was during the fat-free craze, I was determined to make it as low-fat as possible. I found this stuff, I can’t even remember what it was called, that was a fat-free substitute for Crisco. I know, I know. What was I thinking? I made the pie and it was gorgeous! The crust was a beautiful shade of brown, the inside looked just perfect and I was so pleased with myself for making my boyfriend this awesome pie.
It was horrendous.
Poor Matt tried to cut through a piece and couldn’t even cut through the crust! He tried so hard to keep a straight face and try to act like it was fine, but we just ended up in hysterical laughter over it! It was the worst thing I’ve ever made. I’ve made some doozies over the years, but that pie still wins. We still laugh about it!
It took me years and years of trial and error and determination to get to be a good cook. I am not a chef by any means, but I am a really good cook. I like it that I can make healthy, tasty meals for my family. I now understand those Moms (like Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond) that are constantly making their kids food and wanting them to eat. It’s definitely one way of showing you care. Every night I make something delicious and really enjoy seeing everyone chow down. I’ve come a long way from fish sticks and Wonder bread and fat-free apple pie, that’s for sure!
The best thing is that I’ve learned to enjoy food. I appreciate all different kinds of food and tastes and textures. There’s not much that I won’t eat or don’t like. It’s so nice to be friends with food now instead of viewing it as the enemy.