Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Memories ... It's Whats For Dinner!

One of the many talents I am known for is FEEDING EVERYONE! All the time. You'll pretty much offend me if you don't eat!

Cooking is love. If you think back to mom,dad, grandma, aunts, and all the special memories from a lifetime there is always a kitchen or a grill nearby. Breakfast,Lunch,Dinner and everything in between usually happened in the kitchen. It's were my bro and I always took our greatest arguements (cuz our referee was in there), it's where I did my homework (so mom could see us and dad could answer questions wondering back and forth from the grill), it's where we all played 'Mouse Trap' (biggest table in the house), where I had my 1st cup of coffee (with my mama K), where we cured J Girl's 1st heartbreak (there was ice cream)!

So many memories--so much LOVE at every table.

Granted I give my mother the hardest time for not always being a whiz in the kitchen when I was younger. She actually burned fish sticks on the OUTSIDE, but they were still frozen on the INSIDE! Now there are so many things that she can do in that kitchen. In all fairness when my brother and I were younger she was hardly home to cook dinner, but always there to eat it with us. When I got old enough it was me who cooked the sides and my Dad (step-dad) grilled something. EVERY NIGHT except Friday...we ate out! Always the grill...summer,winter,fall and spring. Digging his way through rain, snow, or leaves out to the Weber and lighting charcoal...never fail with charcoal. The greatest gift we ever got my Daddy (my dad dad!) was a propane grill. My sister and I went in on it together and proudly presented it to him years ago. He still uses it and still makes the best pork steaks you will ever eat (my bro is a close second)! I love sitting out there at the grill while he cooks and fights fire. We've talked,laughed,argued and resolved out on that back deck. My Dad's were the Kings of the kitchen at our houses!

Every holiday is my Aunt B feeding everyone...all the aunts actually...but at Aunt B's house. The summer I was pregnant with Audree she spent so much time teaching me recipes. Small reminders of the times I spend with my Gma J in her kitchen as a child (mostly in time out w/a cousin or two...so Gma could keep an eye on us)! Gpa J bringing in fresh anything from his garden. The extra stove Gpa put in the garage for her as to not heat up the house in the summer time. All the mason jars down yonder dwindling down and the time spent watching my Grandparents work together to replenish what we enjoyed. Time in my teens at my Aunt V's house making ice cream,monkey bread and memories! Tears stream down my face now as I think about the turmoil my Aunts are in arguing with one another. Not my business, but I would give anything to be back in Gma's kitchen (Aunt V's kitchen now :) chasing my cousins-tattletelling-stealing Gpa's juciy fruit gum-laughing-and LEARNING. I learned everything I needed to know about being a mother from that room without knowing it. My Mama K's (my step mom) family taught me so much as well...mostly that no house is too small to host a family dinner! And that EVERYONE is family! If you showed up and at least 2 redheads could vouch for you...dinner was yours :)

My house has always been the same. My first husband was kinda like my very own lab rat sent to me by Betty Crocker herself. We were Marines...stomachs of steel back then. Thank goodness cuz I had to feed us both on about $50 a month. The Chaplin gave me a cookbook for a wedding gift...I no longer have that cookbook BUT my famous lasagna remains! I was stationed in Okinawa as a newlywed. My dinner time was my mothers middle of the night...3am call from your tearful daughter trying to figure out meatloaf...what mother wouldn't value that an emergency? Her response was 3 words: ketchup. crackers. hamburger. Then a dial tone. (I am laughing thinking about this...but I was crying at the time). There was not really internet like there is now. I couldn't just hop on and find a zillion blogs with answers; I was in Japan I couldn't pop over to the neighbors and ask. My husband wanted meatloaf and I wanted to make it...I did. He ate it. Yes, he is still alive. Living happy in SoCal with a beautiful wife (who I pray can cook like a champ...he earned it)!

Lesson learned. My cooking no matter how awful wouldn't come close to killing anyone (if you don't count the time the glass pan exploded and we ate the chicken anyway...we all suffer from an unrational fear of knock-off Pyrex)! So I couldn't stop cooking people had to eat. That year in Okinawa I single handedly cooked a Christmas meal for about 70 Marines. We rented tables and chairs. If 2 Marines could vouch for ya...you had dinner! Somehow with all the Christmas memories I possess from a lifetime that is my fave! Easter that following year was just as amazing. We were Marines. We only had each other. We were brothers and sisters in arms. Amazing memories.

By the time I met and married the handsome pilot my cooking skills had improved. Not greatly. But his life was not in as much danger as the Marine. There is only one meal he can make fun of me for. FILET OF BEEF with Avocado! (ummm.I have no defense for this meal.It was like warmed up beef jerky with melted green goo.) Also, don't get Filet Mignon from WalMart. Lesson learned. No one died.

One thing hubs and I have always done was sit down and eat. TOGETHER. Even when his work day sat him down for dinner at 11pm I sit with him. We end our day at the table. The way a family should. Even during our separation he would request meals that he missed or arrive and share some new ones he learned. We sat down for a meal each night he was here. Never letting go of the family table we originally created. Intentionally. With purpose. One that worked! Our plan was for our table to always bring us together and unite us. It has. It does. We are all the better for having valued the importance of praying and eating as a family.

We always had friends over. Ribs and Crab Legs were an epic college meal (rare BUT amazing)! Taco Night. My BFF lived across the hall in mine and hubs 1st apartment. We ate together. Rock Paper Scissors who would do sides and who would do meat. My greatest friend Mary Carol lived below me. She was nearly 70 years old at the time and also taught me about being a mother and about cast iron skillets. From the time I was pregnant with Grayce. She was who I turned to with my Mama's so far away. Amazing times. Amazing meals. Amazing people.

When the beauties came along none of that changed. Family sits at the table. Whether you are 2 days, 2 years, or 29 years (like me now ;) )! Prayers ALWAYS. We have our fave family prayer printed and framed to hang in our dining room because we needed a cheat sheet learning new ones. AJ was our toughest little one. Always a fight at the dinner table. Pickiest eater. Never eating. Grayce was allergic to everything under the sun. Audree perfection. 3rd times the charm I guess.

So many of my friends come to me for advice on all of the issues I went through/go through with the beauties and eating. My family teases me about my Hollywood all (okay mostly) organic diet for the girls. How do I do it? How do I afford it? Why? Isn't that a lot of work? Don't you let them have any fun? No candy? Your not a fun mom!
WAIT A MINUTE on the last one :) I was so anal about their diet...I get that. I have let up over time. We have special days. They finally got to try Chef Boyardee from a can...and loved it! (gagging a little in my mouth right now). The day after someones birthday we eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast. Once a year we eat ice cream for dinner (well they think it's dinner, careful planning of actually           healthy meal earlier than normal has to be accomplished...I know its dessert,but let them think it's dinner)! They are allowed Sprite or Root Beer when we are not at home (eating out,birthday parties,etc)! Every now and again I bake monkey bread (see Aunt V's house)! There are plenty of times to 'cheat' on our organic diets. There are so many ways to make what we are baking,cooking and sharing with the ones we love healthier than the original.

Most of all I finally have something close to my dream kitchen (work in progress)! It sits in the middle of the house. No walls. Everyone can find me. Everyone can join me.
I believe wholeheartedly that we have all gotten so disconnected from our food. Precooked. Frozen. Fast. In the car. On the couch. Grab and Go.
The best way to teach them is to show them. My girls rarely get kicked out of my kitchen. The last one was too small and cramped so sometimes they had too, it just wasn't practical!
Taking them to shop for food with you is the start. Farmer's Market is our fave place. We touch. We smell. We ask questions. We taste.

Then we go home. I chop. They touch. Mix. Create. MAKE A MESS. Cook. Bake. ENJOY!

What I am actually creating is a relationship. A healthy relationship with food. Where it comes from. What we can do with it. How we can create a taste to be enjoyed by mixing it together. A respect for our bodies, what we put into it, and why it is important. Somewhere in all of that we have made a memory and strengthened our relationship with one another. Someday I hope they will share these same experiences with their own children (way way way long time from now).

You can't get family tradition out of a can!

Now that is not to say that after all the activities and days we are running behind that I don't keep some box mac and cheese in my cabinet (but there is NO JUNK allowed in our cabinets. NO fruit snacks, chips, candy...I don't even waste my money cuz we won't eat it). Or that Tim doesn't always have a standby quick meal plan/idea in his back pocket or at the very least some McNuggets on the way home. We do those things too. Lately with the move and the hectic that is basketball season it seems as if though our family table has transformed for a moment. But we share, love, and enjoy all the same. Tonight we even had our first guest for dinner in quite sometime...1 kid and 1 cat vouched for him...so he got dinner. The same plate of dinner waited for the pilot. We wrapped up my day and began his. We adapt and overcome while still meeting our goals. Tim cooked...I ran passing drills with Grayce in prep for her game tomorrow. Together we shared our days missed with an old friend. We laughed. We had a toddler trying to bail from the table. Simply perfect.

Mama's come a long way from Ramen in a Cup.

Kitchens...also GREAT for bathing baby.
*NOTE to Dad's must remove baby before washing dishes.
Doing both at the same time is NOT multi-tasking.
But I like that your thinking :)

Audree and Grayce 2010
(Our 1st HollyHome)

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