Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Food, Folks, and Fun!

These are the foods I loved eating when I was growing up.  Rice-A-Roni.  Nothing was better than a big heaping salty side of Rice-A-Roni; it even sounded vaguely international since it was the San Francisco treat (yes, I am aware that San Francisco is in THIS country- that's why I said "vaguely.") Tater tots.  Oh man, were tater tots delicious.  I had a ritualistic way of smashing each individual tot into a small patty and then dressing with a little ketchup before eating.  White bread.  We didn't buy white bread very often, but when we did it was a treat, and I would savor toasted slices slathered with margarine. I had a steady love affair with ramen noodles and condensed chicken noodle soups.  Once I got old enough, I was in charge of making the instant mashed potatoes, another weeknight staple. We ate a lot of refrigerated biscuits, too.  You know the kind- you have to peel the cardboard cylinder and wait for it to "pop."  I still wince every time I open one of those things, fully expecting a to scale reenactment of the Hindenburg in my hands.

My mother didn't cook meals as much as prepare them.  Most foods were from the box or bag.  My dad is the cook and he was the chef when he was home.  I really liked his chili, and I used to swirl in whole slices of yellow cheese product to really amp up the flavor.  This was my special gourmet touch.  He made a good clam linguine and humored me the one day that I decided to go red meat free with a tuna spaghetti.  Sidenote.  After twenty-six hours, I found myself accidentally eating three Whoppers from Burger King.  Once again, a bout of healthfulness was easily defeated by beefy, flame-broiled deliciousness.

The food that we ate growing up was ok.  Not great, but not terrible.  Sometimes I wonder what my kids will remember about our meals.  I know I'm a better cook than my mother, and honestly I think I might be better than my dad, too.  I would cook a full meal every night if I could get even a small amount of appreciation out of the three young beings that rule my life.  Alas, most nights we're eating pasta with jarred sauce, frozen pizza, or a bag of nuggets and some microwaveable corn.  No Rice-A-Roni though.  I haven't had any Rice-A-Roni in twenty years, and I'm afraid if I make some now, the last of my childhood illusions would dissolve up the kitchen exhaust fan.

There are certain things, though, that my kids really do love eating.  There are items that they may one day list semi-nostalgically in their own blogs, or maybe just tweet about in a concise, adjective free 140 characters.  Here they are.  Non-concisely.

White Trash Casserole.  I don't call this White Trash Casserole in front of my kids, because I have a great deal of class, so they know it as Beefy Macaroni.  It's the macaroni and cheese I might have eaten as a child but it's so much better.  I mix it with ground beef, tomatoes, and extra shredded cheese and bake for twenty minutes.  It's the heartiest, yummiest dinner, and all the kids love it. However, I am very close to having to make a double batch of this stuff just to get us through one meal.  When the boys get bigger and Emily is eating full servings- jeez, I'm going to be running a full on catering company.

Baked Tilapia.  Alex and Emily are less than complimentary about the fish, but Andy loves it.  He likes to help prepare it, too.  Tilapia fillets are seasoned (a little randomly) and then baked with some olive oil and lemon.  Delicious!

Meatballs.  My kids think I make the best meatballs!  I've tasted better, but I love that my kids hold
such high praise for them.  We usually make them together, which might be part of the appeal.  Of course, then I serve them after they've simmered in a jar of sauce, which to me is perfectly fine and delicious but to Chris is a travesty.  "You should make your own sauce!"  he often declares, by which he means opening eight cans of tomatoes instead of popping open the one, perfectly delicious jar that I used.

Beef Tacos.  Not to be confused with my chicken tacos, which have been boldly and loudly declared as disgusting.  Andy gets excited about beef taco night, and although he only adds cheese to his, I excited await the day when the children eat the tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and sour cream I painstakingly put out for them.  One day.  One day.

Pork Tenderloin.  This is a grab and go item from the grocery story that I literally cut open from its plastic, drop onto a sheet pan, and stick in the oven for 40 minutes.  Pork is the meat that everyone will eat.  It was Emily's first solid meat last winter, and even though she had explosive diarrhea afterwards, I still counted it as a success.  Even picky Alex will eat all of his pork, and sometimes- just sometimes- he'll ask for MORE.  This is a rare occasion in my house, and I have to remind myself to act cool.

Meat loaf.  I am definitely falling into the kingdom of pre-packaged godsends with this one, but I have to give a shout out to the fine people at Stouffer's for making a truly amazing frozen meat loaf. The gravy, the beef, the little to no effort I have to excise.  Yet another meat that all of the kids will happily eat.  And bonus, it's preservative free.  #stillagoodmom.

Cheeseburgers.  Andy especially loves cheeseburgers.  He says that Red Robin has the best cheeseburgers followed closely by mine, which are absolutely nothing special and are fried up busy mom style in a skillet.  The patties are sold four to a pack, which is fine for now.  One for me, one for Chris, one for Andy, and Emily and Alex share.  This is one of those times, though, when I think to myself, "The world is truly made for families of four" and cringe to think of how I will feed my family when Emily and Alex are eating full burgers.  Do I buy two four packs?  Then I have eight? Five for one night, and then three extras?  Or do I hope that Emily will transcend on some misguided no-red-meat journey, so it's just the initial four burgers plus a helping of tuna spaghetti?  Only time will tell how I solve this particular riddle.

Crescent rolls, garlic toast, saltines, buttered toast.  We love carbs.

Lobster.  I'll add this last one only because Chris insisted on giving the boys their own lobster tails the last two times we scrounged up enough money to go buy some.  This angered me.  "You're going to give the CHILDREN their own LOBSTER?"  I fumed.  "You might as well throw the money directly in the trash!  These kids won't appreciate it!  Sometimes they eat hardened fruit snacks from beneath the couch cushions!  They do not have refined palates."

Of course, spoiler alert, turns out they love lobster.  LOVE lobster.  Too bad we can only afford it once every two years, otherwise I'd find myself fuming even more frequently.  It's our lack of disposable income that truly keeps me grounded.

Next week's post:  A complete list of all of the baked items I have completely ruined, and the subsequent tears of children.

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