Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 21: Day 21

It seems I have been blogging now for twenty-one days straight. I'm getting dizzy. As I sit down to write tonight, I don't have any particular subject in mind. As with most days, I'm just hoping something comes to me.

So after posting about sleepovers the other day, and getting so many wonderful responses (to see a nicely expanded response, go over to Betty the Wood Fairy's site and read her post), I thought someone should put together a collection of essays about sleepover memories, the good, the bad and the ugly. That idea reminded me of another idea I had not too long ago for a collection of essays--babysitting memories.

Did you babysit? I started babysitting for our next door neighbors when I was in fifth or sixth grade. What amazes me now is how much responsibility people were willing to give me at a very young age. It wasn't unusual for me in eighth and ninth grade to spend the night or even a weekend babysitting while the parents went out of town. This was when we lived on a small Army post in Germany. I suppose it was a safe place, because I often babysat until midnight, got paid, and then walked home by myself. Yikes!

I wasn't the world's greatest babysitter. Mostly I was in it for the cash and the snacks. I didn't particularly like playing with children, though I was always willing to sit down to draw, color, do puzzles and read aloud (I was the same with my own children, by the way). I snooped around, looked for salacious reading materials, and talked on the phone. Nobody ever got hurt on my watch, but plenty of children got vaguely neglected.

After writing about vegetables yesterday, I came up with another subject for yet another anthology of essays I'd entitle What My Mother Made for Dinner. My mother made creamed chip beef on toast; did yours? In the 1970s she made Hamburger Helper casseroles, which we all loved, especially when they were "pizza" flavored. The funny thing is, she was a good cook. When she cooked for company, watch out! She could make Beef Wellington and cheese puffs to die for. She made a mean French onion soup.

But in general, my mom tended to cook the foods of the day. Lots of casseroles, lots of meatloaf. It wasn't unusual to have hot dogs for dinner. We never had pasta, because no one outside of New York City had pasta, or if they did, it was considered weird.

On Sunday nights we had steak, french fries, and french cut string beans. The french fries were frozen (almost always crinkle cut), but my mom deep-fried them, and they were delicious. Sometimes she deep fried onion rings, too.

Here's the interesting thing: My mother's father was a gourmet cook. This was a man before his time. He lived in Louisville, KY, where he was an architect. He knew about wine, he knew about cheese, and once when he came to visit he made us our first homemade pizza. Before that, the closest thing we got to homemade pizza came out of a little Chef Boyardee box that included a small can of tomato sauce and some sort of dried cheese. My grandfather's pizza was a revelation.

I wonder what meals my boys will look back at and giggle about. I cook mostly from scratch, so there'll be no Hamburger Helper to mock. But I'm sure they'll find something to shake their heads over. "Remember how she made us eat whole wheat pasta?" "Yeah, man, what was she thinking about?"


magsmcc said...

Oh no, I hate this! (That's faced with my suasage casserole.) I will never, ever eat fish again. (Not Charlie and Lola, but Mattman after surgical extraction of fishbone.) Uuurgh. (Potato gratin, or Maris Piper slow cooked with chicken in wine and stock.) Brutes. I'd take even vaguely neglectful babysitters, frankly; any type of babysitter would do- let us out! Dawn French autobiography has EXCELLENT chapter on her babysitting- she should definitely make the anthology, and write the foreword too. Don't think I'd be the Nigella of the meals my mother made. I ungratefully remember nothing of my owm mother's repertoire, except that it was all good. But Saturday nights were Dad's culinary time- huge range of cooked from scratch Chinese meals and pies. Goodness, that pastry! My word, the washing up!

victoria said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on sleepovers, a lot to ponder.
Roast brocolli is amazing and I understand why you'd think 'how could something that tastes this good be healthy?"
LOVING your daily blog stories.

Gumbo Lily said...

I babysat. A. lot. First my baby brother (14 years younger) and also for the neighbor kids who were like my siblings too. I liked the snacks and the money and learned to love James Taylor because the family I sat for had a great music collection.

My mom made cream chipped beef on toast and sometimes creamed peas on toast. I couldn't eat either. She also liked the Chef Boyardee pizza kits and we did too, but Mom always added lots of other goodies to the pizza -- meat, veggies, extra cheese. My mom believed that you should eat a balance of foods so some nights we'd have a "good meal" like roast beef, potatoes, gravy, carrots and etc. The next night would be a "sh*tty meal" (as she called it) -- chili dogs and fries. She felt it was good to have good, sh*tty, good, sh*tty..... She also called a supper of chili dogs "Duck a l'Orange." If supper was somewhat burnt one night, she'd say, "We're having burnt crow." Mom was a character!

I'm sorry, I hope I didn't swear too much in your comments. I think you had a good life, Frances. I could've sat beside you at the table and been your big sister.


Tracy said...

My kids don't know how good they've got it. They were brought up with the joys of multicultural food and a mother who enjoys cooking. Living overseas was the best thing that ever happened to my Mum's cooking!

Melissa E said...

Oh I have a funny sleepover story about the time my friend and I broke my bed (which was an antique) buy jumping on it and swinging on the posts! My mom didn't really cook so I dont have any favorite meals from growing up. I also babysat some, and was floored when my cousin recently told me she was having a 12 year old babysit her 18 month old! Then I remembered babysitting lil' ones when I was that age too! It just seems so young!

Sandy H said...

I was a child of the back-to-nature movement and ate some very odd things at times...mostly at my father's hands. Mom stuck to the more run-of-the-mill Mother Earth stuff like homemade jams, pickles, and lots of wonderful, warm, fresh loaves of bread on Saturday nights. With Dad--well, just just say that with green things, put enough butter on it and it all tastes pretty much the same. Sleepovers: I had one every February with several of my gal-pals. Sledding on the hill in our back yard (7 acres), lots of junk food, giggling. The best.

The dB family said...

I babysat a lot. My charges were often vaguely neglected too. I think I could say the same about my children too :oS. My mom wanted me to take early childhood education, but by that time I'd had enough of looking after other people's kids. No chance I was taking that. Now I have seven kids. What was I thinking?!?

I remember my mom putting wheat germ on our oatmeal and making us eat despite our protests that it was disgusting. When she went to eat her own and had to dump it down the drain for that reason, we haven't let her forget it yet :o)! Did you ever eat liver? I actually like it, but haven't had it in YEARS.