Yesterday I had a little afternoon snack, and as I took my first bite I was inadvertently thrown back in time to my childhood. Suddenly I wasn’t eating a delightful nibble of pâté and crackers… I was in my school lunchroom, eating what was then known to me as a meatspread sandwich. It was completely humbling.
As a child I really disliked meatspread. Little did I know then that it was a grocery store version of what I would covet as an adult, under the name of goose liver pâté. It was an inexpensive sandwich filling, a change-up from canned tuna or egg salad. My mom did her best to make it appealing: she put it on fresh French bread and added sliced sweet pickles.
The problem was, in those days “French bread” was in the shape of a fat baguette but it was still soft bread. The meat spread was rather firm stuff, and by the time it got distributed across a slice of bread, there could be squished places or even worse, holes, where the pickle juice would seep through and give the sandwich a soggy spot by lunchtime.
I ate my meatspread sandwiches anyway. They were certainly my least favourite, but I was a growing girl who was perpetually hungry so I wasn’t going to not eat. I saw other kids that had lunches with less appealing ingredients than meat spread, in my opinion. I was lucky my mom was a good cook, and a crafty packer of a bag lunch. (Her best trick was to take a piece of Chocolate Wacky Cake and pull the bottom half away, sticking it on top of the icing. Then you didn’t lose any icing when you unwrapped it from the waxed paper!)
I had a rueful smile yesterday as the memory of pickles and meatspread washed over me. It didn’t taste that bad at all, on one of my sourdough crackers. But then, I’m a much wiser foodie now, aren’t I?
Are you old enough to remember the days when most of us had Sunday roast? That was back when we all had a bag lunch with a sandwich in it – before microwaves were everywhere, and before everyone went out for lunch. You needed leftovers for the week, and a Sunday roast provided that. I won’t mention the concept of everyone sitting down together at the table, because it happened more often than not, “back then”.
Am I really so old that the concept of a sit-down family dinner is a casualty of dining evolution? I always thought that even when we got to the time of food replicators, like on Star Trek, we would still be sharing a table. The thing I don’t understand is what did we gain by giving this up… do people really think they are more efficient by multi-tasking a meal into their day’s list of “to-do’s”?
I don’t have children, which is probably just as well, as I would want them to be home for dinner, something that is obviously un-cool. My kids would be ostracized for missing whatever people do on Sunday night, and then they would suffer the ridicule of bringing a bag lunch as well. Many people I know who do have kids talk a lot about often being too busy to eat a proper meal. Personally, I think some of them drank the kool-aid and believed the TV ads that told them they didn’t have time. They started to buy frozen food and prepared mixes and their menus evolved in that style. Others simply aren’t interested in food, so eating was never something they considered as possible quality time. It used to be the case that your parents made you eat regular meals, but now there is official research you can cite to defend your right to eat at odd times, or in odd combinations.
The demise of the Sunday dinner has occurred on numerous fronts. Even if we try to invite people to our Sunday dinner, we have to deal with all the possible combinations of allergies and sensitivities. I am happy to cook for a group, and I empathize with people who cannot enjoy certain foods (or choose for moral reasons to follow a certain regime.) But if I harken back to my childhood, the occurrence of allergies was more of a rarity than a common phenomenon. Nut allergies are so pervasive now that many schools ban foods with nuts. If you had tried that when I was a kid, half of the students would have starved! Again I ask the question of dining evolution… what happened to make so many of us unable to tolerate foods that we have been eating for generations?
I never thought I would say this, but I miss the kind of food I got in my school lunch. My pet peeve was “meat spread” sandwiches. You certainly couldn’t call it pâté, as it was a distant relative at best. And the only other ingredient inside the sandwich was sliced dill pickle, which made for a sad, thin effort for a lunch. The bread got squished when Mom put the spread on the bread, too, so it was not a pretty sight. She didn’t drop the apple on top, though – my Mom was smart that way. She even knew how to save the icing on Chocolate Wacky Cake (click on the link for the recipe and her secret). Nowadays, the stuff I see advertised that is supposed to rival the “crackers & cheese pizzas” or “tuna snacks” you can purchase in the grocery store is something that must have been designed by someone with a nanny. What busy Mom today has time to make “fruit kabobs with honey ricotta fondue”?
Perhaps Sunday dinner has gone the way of the dinosaur and the PB & J. Maybe a family that orders pizza together is a family that stays together in today’s world (I just saw the commercial on TV, so it must be true.) But I sincerely hope that when we stop at my stepdaughter’s house years from now on a Sunday, she might remember enough of her chef father’s rants that she could still cook a roast chicken. After all, he started quizzing her when she was 7…
Do you eat a homemade Sunday dinner at your house? Do you have to deal with allergies or special diets in your regular menu planning? What’s the food experience you miss most from your childhood? I’d love to hear your rants. (Milder comments are welcome too – I just thought I might stick with the theme for this post. ☺) Thanks for listening.