Community Greens

People of all colors discussing evergreen ideas.

Growing Up Morrisania: Dinner Lessons

I was invited to a friend’s house recently and it was nice having a home cooked meal including a green and a yellow vegetable as part of the meal (salads don’t count). I’d say the meal was old fashioned but my friend is not old enough to be in that category. She’s just a great cook. She served, and handed me a plate that was fuller than I would have made for myself, but it smelled and looked so good that I wasn’t going to suggest she take anything back. I stuck to my latest eating habit; half loaded my fork, put it down after every mouthful and enjoyed every bite. The meal was a real treat, especially the corn and okra.

After I had cleaned my plate, the host pleasantly asked if I wanted more, to which I quickly replied no, really wanting to say yes. Oh well. I like a good cup of coffee with dinner when I am out so I offered to brew some up and followed her into the kitchen. The good host said she’d make the coffee as I spied at least another generous serving of corn and okra. Noticing that I noticed, she again offered second helpings. This time I agreed and ate all the remaining vegetables enjoying the guilt of having a second helping of something that’s good for you.

The after dinner conversation over coffee was about the great meal and when prodded I had to admit I wanted seconds by was so entangled by my “eating habits” that I hardly ever have seconds (except for any type of ice cream). Sure, when I was a bicycle racer, I loved my 4,000 calorie a day diet which barely kept me from losing weight, but those days are well behind me and these days, I very carefully watch my diet and my waistline.

Growing Up Morrisania, always there unconsciously, sometimes surfaces consciously at the most peculiar times like dinner. Growing up in a single parent household with a Grndmother and 3 siblings meant that everyone had to get a fair share of dinner and portion control was built into every loving ladleful of stew and every 1/2″ slice of pound cake. You ate everything on your plate, even the vegetables you didn’t like. Not finishing a meal was not an option nor were huge portions or seconds. Sometimes I went to bed still hungry but now I realize had I eaten until I pushed myself away from the table, I would have learned overeating rather than to appreciate food.

Meals were generally planned and usually balanced and even though there wasn’t any hard science behind some of them, they seemed to have always been in moderation and not slathered with gravies or sauces beyond recognition. Grandma was from Baltimore and Mom was a New Yorker who loved a good steak. There were some family food traditions but when Mom took over “cooking” most of them came from the dog-eared Betty Crocker Cookbook I stiil have and use. Mom had been groomed for business, not to become a domestic as Grandma had been. Still, Dinner, as I remember and maybe imagined, has stood the test of time.

As a kid, dinner was always eaten at the table with the rest of the family, until I was 10 and my grandmother passed away. Mealtime was a chatty, egalitarian affair with everyone getting appropriate food portions and a share in the conversation. Everyone got and ate vegetables, a green one and a yellow one, because Mom felt having both at dinner was an integral part of a balanced diet that also included a meat and a starch. Occasionally there were seconds but not usually as leftovers were generally someone’s lunch the next day. If there was really a lot left, it was repurposed into the next day’s meal.

I realize now that Mom had a healthy sweet tooth so with most meals there was also desert: fruit, apple sauce, fruit cocktail, jello, pudding or pound cake. Sunday dinner was more elaborate as was desert and cakes were multi-layered and frosted and even jello had Kool Whip on it or fruit mixed in it. I didn’t realize it at the time but my eating habits and social habits were being shaped.

Now that food has gone from convenience, to fast, to microwaved and everyone eats at counters, in their cars or on the run I wonder if there is a correlation between the illnesses,ills and obesity that plague us and society. You be the judge and carefully consider your next meal.

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2 Responses

  1. Three cheers for home cooked meals!

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