Thursday, September 10, 2009

Family, Food, and Language

When I was a kid, we were so poor my mama had to stretch a box of macaroni and cheese.

Ok, not really... But my mom did make tuna casserole from Kraft Dinner (for all you Canadians) often. When my dad came over the other night to watch the kids so that BJ and I could have dinner with a new friend, I asked what he wanted, and joked, "Mush McPuna?"

Mush McPuna, for those of you not related to me, is a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese, plus some extra elbow macaroni, plus a can of cream of mushroom soup, plus a can of tuna, plus some frozen peas. Instead of adding the butter and milk as you would if you were making the Mac and Cheese according to the package, you omit the butter and add a soup can's worth of milk. So, cook the noodles and peas, drain, add the cheese sauce powder, the soup, the milk, and the drained tuna. Voila. If you're feeling fancy you can crumble potato chips on top of it.

Dad said, "Sure! I haven't had that in years!!" But I don't eat tuna anymore (due to a bad food poisoning experience - don't eat those tuna pouches. This has been a public service address. You're welcome), and I don't keep cream of mushroom soup in the house (BJ hates mushrooms, even the tiny fake ones in cream of mushroom soup), and I didn't have any peas.

Instead I made it with diced, cooked chicken breast, cream of celery soup, and frozen broccoli.

"Chuck McPockley."

I was thinking about posting all this today while I was re-heating some Chuck McPockley for lunch. The kids wouldn't eat it, so they got PB&J, Goldfish Pretzels, and apple smash.

Apple smash is apple sauce, for those of you who aren't related to Claire (or haven't heard her call it apple smash, yet).

I started thinking about how food and language are such integral parts of family. I thought about how language, particularly language about food, defines a family to a small, probably insignificant but still a little interesting extent. I mean, it's not like the Pretty Babies family is its own culture with its own food that's as separate from your family as Indian food is from Japanese food... Not quite. But still, there are little Us-isms that set us apart.

My step-mom makes orange bow-knots, especially at Easter but often for Christmas or Thanksgiving, too. BJ's step-mom's entire family puts chicken and noodles on their mashed potatoes, and they eat sugar cream pie and take it very seriously. My dad eats cold pizza for breakfast, and popcorn is his favorite (only?) vegetable. My mom and my aunts make great-grandma Shank's peanut butter cookies at Christmas. BJ's mom drinks coffee with dinner, and her mom does, too.

When BJ and I got married, I asked his mom for her meatloaf recipe, I think because I wanted to learn to speak his language, and cook in a way that said "family" to him - even if I didn't realize it at the time. But he still won't eat my Mush McPuna - those pesky mushrooms!

Together, though, we're creating our own little nation - our own heritage for our kids to carry forward. We're adopting the best traditions from each of our families, and we're adding our own weird little touches, like apple smash and Chuck McPockley.

What foods and food related words mean "family" to you?


Anonymous said...

Besides popcorn, pizza is a veggie because of the tomato sauce. Or are tomatoes fruits? I forget.

Auntie Ann said...

I had a friend get quite ill eating tuna from one of those pouches too. No fun for her either!

Charlotte said...

Well, the Sarvers had "Pink Stuff" (strawberry jello, cottage cheese, cool whip, and a drained can of pineapple) at all the holidays. Crepes were a staple. And no Christmas was complete without Rosettas and home-made caramels.

Now that the Harrington-Sarver household has combined, Momma Harrington's pot roast recipe and taco soup have become staples. My kids love crepes but took a pass on the Pink Stuff. :0)

That was a great post and thanks for the warning on the pouched tuna. Those always looked suspect to me.

Heidi said...

My dad's side of the family was not known for their culinary prowess, but they still put out my favorite stove top dinner, Chesky Flesky. Here's the recipe. I just might have to make it for dinner tonight!

GingerB said...

Your "pink stuff" reminds me of our "green stuff" which I do not actually remember fondly, and was, I think, pistachio pudding, cool whip and canned pineapple. Did you ever eat canned one whole chicken with Bisquick dumplings?