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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Here, dammit! Eat just a spoonful…

Many small children are picky eaters. Perhaps it’s because their taste buds and tongues are still wide awake and sensitive, before tobacco and Time. It was texture, I think, that was the biggest stumbling block for me—things like lima beans, which were dry and mealy. Sweet potatoes were not only stringy, but “funny” tasting. Of course, in kid logic, the main crime of a sweet potato is that it isn’t a white potato, which was one of the few foods I genuinely liked.

In the late 40’s, we had a lot of canned foods, especially right after the war, when we Americans were lucky to have most of the food in the world. In those days, I ate and enjoyed foods like canned spinach, canned tomatoes and string beans, some of them home made by my industrious grandpa straight out of his garden. These didn’t make my heart sink as I climbed into my chair at supper time. Canned peas, though were feared—just the thought of them, even today, is a serious downer.

My parents were of the “starving Chinese would be glad to have…and just a few spoonfuls” school, so I always had to gag down a little of whatever “abomination” was on my plate. Even peanut butter in those days, pre-hydrogenation, was a challenge because it was so dry and sticky. It tore holes in the store bread, and, unless there was a lot of jelly, I could barely get up enough spit to swallow it.

Canned fruit, heavy with syrup, had the kid seal of approval. I loved foods then I’d never choose to eat today, things like “fruit cocktail,” but only if I could leave the grainy little pear bits behind. Canned peaches were excellent. Today, after familiarity with fresh pineapple, the canned tastes flat and boring, but such treats, in those days, were only for the well-to-do.

I was thinking about this, and the amount of easily consumable food we Americans have available, because nowadays there is hardly anything I won’t eat, even the once dreaded vegetables. Beets--greens and all--parsnips, turnips, kale—they’ve got to be fresh—even the once horrid sweet potato—it’s all grist to the mill nowadays.