Saturday 25 March 2017

Eating Habits as a Child / How We Were so Different

I was just reading comments on a forum where somebody had posted the question -  when did junk food / sugary desserts become the norm as opposed to special occasion treats food? The replies varied and many people described the meals they ate as children. It really got me thinking.

Children do not purchase their own groceries. They eat the food that is bought or prepared by a parent. I grew up in the late 60's to 70's. I lived in rural southern Ontario. We rarely if ever ate out at restaurants . It was a huge treat if my father brought home Kentucky Fried Chicken on his way from work. My mother made much of our food, and we sat and ate supper together. However, we had an enormous amount of processed / packaged food available to us as well. Here is a list off the top of my head: chips, cheese whiz, sugary cereals, chip dip, candies such as jelly beans, chocolate bars, Tang, kool aid (kool aid popsicles), unlimited flavours of pop, packaged Hostess brand "cakes", cookies, frozen mini pizzas, cinnamon spread, barbecue flavoured peanuts, Carnation Instant Breakfast, ice cream. These were not occasional treats. They were almost always kept in stock in the house.

My father quit drinking when I was about ten years old, maybe a bit older. He substituted sugary junk food for the alcohol. We had a "treat" drawer in the kitchen. It was never empty. My mother cooked and baked a great deal. While she made dinners like roasts and vegetables, she also heated up quick and convenient food like canned alphagetti. Dessert was not for special occasions. There was almost always a cake, pie, homemade cookies, or rice krispie squares available.

I knew no different. I am not "blaming" my mother. She was no doubt tired of making meals by the time I came along (youngest of four). The marketing of convenience foods was strong. There were absolutely no limits placed on me. I spent a great deal of my youth at my uncle's / grandmother's farm. My grandmother baked and made her own food but also placed a weekly order at the bakery whereupon things like donuts, coffee cake, and Chelsey buns were the norm. A dinner always included dessert. If pie or cake or apple dumpling or custard was not available, at the very least, a piece of white bread swimming in real maple syrup was offered. Canned pop or Shop Pop bottled pop was in constant supply.

Needless to say, I was a heavy kid. My sister, closest in age to me, but still five years older, was not heavy as a child. I do not know if she just had better self control, or if the amount of junk food in the house increased as the years went on.

Contrast this with my husband who is only two years older than I am. His mother also made almost all of the family's food. Dessert was a rarity. Fruit was offered if they wanted something sweet. She was the one on the block who gave out apples or little boxes of raisins at Hallowe'en. He did not know what Cheese Whiz was until he married me, then would clandestinely eat it from the jar with a spoon late at night, like it was some sort of edible oil crack. An after school snack he made for himself as a kid was ketchup sandwiches. He considered that a treat. Ketchup was limited in their home. It had too much sugar. I don't think the words "too much sugar" were ever spoken in my home. My husband was not a heavy kid.

Why the difference between the two families? I'm not sure why my family embraced the world of processed food and sugar and his did not. My mother was raised in a hard working farm family that ate its own beef and grew much of its own food. She was of German descent. My father grew up in a small rural village of Scottish descent with little extra cash flow.

My husband's mother is Yugoslavian and had a very difficult childhood, spending some of her youth in a work camp and the rest of her youth in boarding school, or in England. She did not have the experience of having a mother who showed her how to cook and family meals around the table for a lot of her childhood.

Neither one of our fathers did any of the meal preparation, although every once in a while my father got it into his head that he would bake bread. He made loaves of white "potato bread" which he loved but I quite despised as it was not the soft, fluffy crap white bread that I was used to eating.

I had / have a very different relationship with food than my husband. It is comfort for me and I love a variety. It is sustainance for him and he could eat the same meals over and over.

I like to think I found a balance for our own children. Neither one of them binge eats. They would actually have leftover Hallowe'en candy for weeks if not months after. (Note I did not insist that it be thrown out after a certain time period? One does not waste good candy!) I generally made the meals for them growing up and tried to pack healthy lunches with veggies and fruits. They did receive treats, but they were treats, not daily consumption. I chose whole grains for them, cooked homemade soups and stews, offered a variety of vegetables and salads with dinner, and grew many of my own vegetables and raised chickens for eggs.

I still personally struggle with my food issues. I go through phases of "clean" eating and being very diligent versus eating sugar laden food in private and eating way beyond feeling full. Would I have these issues if I had been fed a more nutritious diet as a child? I'll never know, but it is all fodder for thought.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Last Twenty Minutes

We are in running shoes and I have on my jeans. We are sitting in the lobby of the testy waiting for the shuttle bus to take us back to the airport. I have a sneaky ziplock bag of muffins and a banana that we grabbed at breakfast for the three hour wait at the airport. I have no idea if we will be fed on the plane (we weren't on the way here).

This was a very nice week with the weather being generally sunny and hot. Although it is a nice resort, it is not spectacular so we will not be returning. In fact, there are only two places we would go to again: the Majestic in Punta Cana DR and Playa Pesquero in Cuba. We priced them out for this trip but both had gone up in price.

We don't relish returning to blowing snow, but that's life as a Canadian. It will be good to see our son, although with texting and FaceTime these days it is a very different experience than when the kids were little and Nana and Papa stayed with them and we placed one very expensive collect call home during the week.

I shall catch up with blogs in between loads of laundry tomorrow.

Wednesday 15 March 2017

By the third day

We arrived Saturday afternoon and it is now 1:30 Dominican time so it is our third day here. We are now getting the hang of things and know that the metal lounge chairs are better for lower backs than the plastic ones, the "quiet pool" is better than the main pool for reading and relaxing, and our new room that we moved to yesterday is infinitely better than the first one they put us in.

So here's what happened. My husband booked this trip a few months ago with a company called Red Tag. We were under the assumption that we were paying for a standard room and nothing more. After reading reviews on Tripadvisor (anyone else do that?) I knew there was a separate upgraded part called the Sun Club. I had even spoken to my husband about it, saying that it doesn't seem to matter about being in the Sun Club, that most amenities were available to anyone and it all sounded very elitist.

Fast forward to our arrival where we were whisked to a separate area to check in and were told what we could expect and what introduction meeting to go to (NEVER go to those, they're just a sales pitchabout time shares)... and then it occurred to me that we actually were part of the Sun Club! I guess the package we paid for just automatically put us in it. I felt a little sheepish. So off we went to our room which was nothing special but nice enough. It would have been fine if it had not been for the slow draining poorly designed shower area that flooded back into the rest of the bathroom area, or the family of fluttering squawking birds that lived under our roof tiles. So, we kindly and politely (Canadian after all) requested a room change. No problem. They asked us to come back to the Sun Club lounge the next day at noon which we did. They gave us room keys for a different building and asked us to check out a room to see if we would prefer that. If we did, we were to call them and confirm and they would send someone to bring our luggage over. I'll let you decide:

Here is our first room.

Now here is/are our current room (s):

I must share  with you that  it has  taken  me  about a day and a half to go back and forth between iPhone and tablet to get pictures to show up and go in the order I want them. I think I will  save  the  rest  of the fake exclusivity story for when we return and any other "adventures " we may have. I'm about to hit publish. Wish me luck!

Sunday 12 March 2017

Beach side

I am currently looking out at the water and listening to a variety of languages in a variety of accents. The one thing we have in common is that we all scraped together the money to come to this resort in the Dominican Republic. We arrived at the resort at about 2:30 in the afternoon. We had been awake since the morning before because we left our home in Ontario at about half past midnight to try to drive in what appeared to be a window of opportunity according to the radar. Following what had been a period of mild and unseasonably "warm" weather, Mother Nature decided to unleash some pent up frustration by providing snow squalls and a ridiculous accumulation of snow in a very short amount of time. We literally crawled out way over roads that barely revealed a hint of car tire tracks to follow. Squinting through what I describe as Star Wars snow, we managed to stay on the road and were glad of the very few cars that were out there at that time providing a little more illumination. Eventually we made it to the Park and Fly close to the Toronto airport. Like every Canadian out there, we shed our winter coats that we travelled in, tossed them in the back of our vehicle, and donned a heavy hoodie so we could stand, shivering in the cold until a shuttle bus could take us to the airport.

Anyway, we eventually got on the plane where I watched three old episodes of Dharma and Greg (so funny to see Hotch from Criminal Minds in a totally different light) and tried unsuccessfully to nap. After a refreshing mint and a glass of water, we landed in Puerto Plata and began our holiday. Now the only decisions we have to make are beach or pool? Beer or banana mama? And before you hate me too much, it rained last night and it's starting to spit again. But at least it's not snow!! Please excuse any typos I'm doing his only phone!

Monday 6 March 2017

Get the Milk

Recently, a blogger posted something about milk (I think it was about remembering when milk was delivered to homes). Well, that got me thinking about milk, specifically about my youth and milk. It actually played a very big part. Allow me to begin.

I grew up in rural Ontario. My parents built a house when I was eight years old. This land was severed off of my uncle's acreage. He was a bachelor dairy farmer. His mother, my grandmother, also lived there. We were surrounded by farms, but did not have a farm ourselves. However, I spent a considerable part of my childhood at my uncle's farm. Many of my memories of the farm are good. Most of those good memories have to do with animals and time spent in the barn.

My uncle had a herd of Holstein dairy cows, like the ones in this picture.

My mother helped out on my uncle's farm at certain times of the year, specifically planting or harvesting. She drove tractor at those times. As well, when the "hired man" had a weekend off, my mother helped do chores like milking. Do not visualize a milking stool and a metal bucket. This farm was as mechanized as it could be in those days. Milk went directly from cow through pipeline to bulk tank in the milk house. Fifty cows were regularly milked twice a day. As well, the barn housed heifers and calves and an assortment of barn cats and one faithful dog.

not the actual bulk tank, but very similar

Because of this ready supply of milk, we grew up drinking whole milk straight from the farm. Now, of course, it is very controversial to consume non-pasturized milk, but we never thought twice about it. My uncle was fastidious with his cleanliness, practices surrounding medication, and the milk in his bulk tank was tested every time milk was collected by a tank truck that came every two days (I think it was every two days).

Periodically, my mother went to the farm (a two minute drive away from our house) with a very big white plastic bucket. She extracted milk from the bulk tank in the bucket and brought that back to our house where she would ladle it into glass milk bottles. Several bottles were filled and placed in the "downstairs fridge", an old fridge that was a constant and compared to modern day fridges, lasted a lifetime!


In my brain, this is what the fridge in the basement looked like. Of course, I could be remembering it incorrectly.

I am the youngest of four siblings. We are spread pretty far apart, with four or five years between each child. When supper time rolled around, or at other family gatherings, inevitably the milk would be used up and the familiar phrase, "Jenn, would you get the milk?" would be uttered. It would be my job to leave the table, go down to the basement and bring up another bottle of milk which would be poured into a pitcher. This got really, really old by the time I was a teenager.

In keeping with whole milk, this was full fat, cream included milk. After it sat in the milk bottle for a while, the cream would rise to the top. Some might consider this a decadent, rich bonus, but I hated it. The thick cream kind of made me gag. I kept a small metal strainer beside my plate at the table, so I could pour the milk through the strainer to catch the bigger blobs of cream and keep them out of my glass. To this day, I do not buy whole milk. I prefer 1% milk.

I can still conjure up the sounds and smells of being in the barn during milking time. It was a pleasant, homey time for me with these big animals chewing away at the hay that had been placed in their troughs, the hissing sounds of the machinery being attached and detached, the background mooing sounds, the presence of a favourite barn cat, all very nice. That was the association I had with milk, not purchasing milk at the store, or having milk delivered to our home, although my father had mentioned that experience in his youth and that the horse knew the milk route and stopped automatically at each house. Because milk was essentially free, we drank a lot of milk! If we ever ran out (which we never did), there would always be a ready source at the farm.


So those are my milk memories, perhaps very different from your own. Chime in.