Second look

Dad, food, memories

As children growing up, my two sisters, my brother and I used to enjoy our sometimes trips to McDonald’s on Friday or Saturday nights. We didn’t get to go every week, but when we did, it was a special treat to bring home the giant bag full of food and dig in.

EXCEPT for the part when I ordered, because I wanted something special. Two hamburgers. Plain. Nothing on them. Plain. Period. As anyone knows who has eaten at McDonald’s, it is not about exceptions. McDonald’s makes money by making everything the same. Exceptions slow down the show. We always had to wait on our food because mine was the last to show up. I always felt badly about it. But I still ordered it.

Dad always had to explain my wishes very clearly to the person taking our large order for our large family. I know it used to make my father nuts, because he asked me, “Why can’t you eat what everyone else eats?!” in exasperation. But because my father is a good man, he ordered it, and we waited.

Sometimes we would get home and the plain burgers, in fact, had ketchup scraped off the bun because someone had screwed up. What did that mean for us? Dad and I had to get back in the car and get plain ones, with no evidence of scraped off condiments. (I was such a pain, but very appreciative.)

I have always been a picky eater and I don’t think dad ever got that aspect of my personality. He grew up during the Great Depression and was an Army veteran who was used to eating whatever was put in front of him.

But I was different. White bread, for example, made me gag, so my parents bought me wheat bread, long before it was popular or widely available on shelves.Mayonnaise makes me sick to my stomach to this day. Think of all the food with mayonnaise (including pre-made sandwiches) that I won’t eat. Even when I made my own mayonnaise I couldn’t stand it. Something about the texture doesn’t agree with me.

When I was very young I remember my father serving me eggs that I said I wanted. But when they showed up on my plate I decided I really didn’t want them after all. I paid for “telling a story” and was put to bed as punishment (at that time, I thought telling a story meant something akin to The Three Bears. In other words, I didn’t get what he was talking about until later in life.)

I remember dad and mom putting all of us kids to bed with no dinner one night because they were arguing. Later, dad got us up and cooked a late night meal.

Another occasional indulgence in our family was orange soda. With four kids, a six-pack went pretty fast. Once my sister put a sign on the last bottle, letting people know it was hers (“This belongs to Carol! Do not drink!”) My dad gave a little chuckle, hid the full bottle in the bottom of the fridge, then replaced it with an empty bottle with a piece of paper taped to it that said “Sez who?” My sister whaled when she saw it. My dad fessed up and pulled the real bottle out of hiding. We all got a kick out of it.

Food connected us in many ways. Dad didn’t teach me to cook. But over the years, we had special moments with food. He had a sense of humor about food, and he cared about feeding his family, especially his kids. And now that I’m an adult and cooking for him, we’re still connected. I don’t think my father has ever refused anything I prepared for him, which is more than I can say about myself.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. May we share many, many more meals together.

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