Food Faves and Idiosyncrasies (You Know You Have Them...)

Renae Brabham
I was going through my recipe file earlier for Thanksgiving dishes... Let's see—there's the computer file, the Pinterest file, and torn-out pages from magazines in various kitchen drawers. But my go-to file for family favorites is the old wooden recipe card stand. The cards with scribbled handwritten notes are yellowed with age and stained with food smears and cake splatters from years bygone.
Some read no onion, or no celery, no salad dressing, substitute sweet pickle relish... All are little clues to our family's likes and dislikes. Some of the likes have waned over the years while some of the dislikes are now tolerated.
My granddaughter told me recently that our taste buds change every seven years. Well ever since I was 12, mine still say hell no to one particular dish—a deep South recipe that may even be considered a delicacy now. Who would have thought pig belly and scrapple would be served as delicacies? Anyway, my throw-up-a-little-in-my-mouth dish is Rutabagas and Pig Tails Perlous—a one-pot combo of curly pig tails and 'bagas amidst a steaming bed of rice. Seriously, doesn't rutabaga sound like something that you'd need a stick to walk up on?
We probably all have a bad food memory. Even the most adventurous foodie will throw their hands in the air, tighten their lips like a vise, and shudder when offered their offender again. Then there are those dishes that require counseling to get over. I don't know the story and I won't press... but Corned Beef and Cabbage has been re-introduced every seven years for the duration of our marriage, always resulting with the push it around the plate while feigning fullness act. I retired it officially last year when Don literally prayed out loud, "Lord, if You see fit, will You please banish Corned Beef and Cabbage from this earth?"
Sometimes we can work through those early palate scars. As is the case with Don's favorite, "Not So Red Meatloaf," closely followed by the other now favorite, "Not So Red Rice." Apparently his mother was heavy on the Heinz. A prodigal of the '50s one pot dinner, his mother's meatloaf recipe mirrored every cook's on the block—three-day-old bread, eggs, a little hamburger, and a bottle of ketchup with more squirted on top.
Let me tell you how it was in the good ole days—no, I didn't walk 10 miles to school in five feet of snow in the one pair of shoes I had to last till next year. But in my early days, there was one meal cooked and you either liked it or you asked to be excused with liver cupped in your hands to throw out the back door to the dog.
There were 13 years between myself and my baby brother. And though times had relaxed somewhat, my siblings and I still shook our heads in disbelief when his request of washing the red off of his SpaghettiO's was honored. Not to mention his hot dog getting its skin peeled off.
Most of the time the public is spared our little food idiosyncrasies, thank God. Me—I am the precise food surgeon. For example: ravioli. I lift the ravioli from the pan with a slotted spoon so that I don't get a lot of juice. Then for the next half hour, with only the tongs of the fork, I surgically remove the top off of each ravioli and eat it. Next, the square of mystery meat, and finally the bottom ravioli shell. Lasagna can be a eating marathon. I am also a vocal eater... The one that does the uuuummm...omg...ummmm... with food I really like.
Sometimes our little food peculiarities are habitually inherited. I.e., my sister and I like to roll fresh bread up into small balls of dough and eat them—our grandmother did the same thing.
Don—he is a sleep-walking forager. He has no memories later of what he ate most of the time. I can't count the times I have checked him for a heartbeat after finding the alarming orange-striped Cheetos pillow at daybreak.
Our oldest daughter could sniff out an onion in a manure factory. She ate like a bird, so the other three kids loved her at dinner because she could pass off what she didn't want most discreetly.
Our oldest son had a broad base of food likes, like his daddy. But if he didn't like it? He could cause quite a standoff at the table. May I be excused?... No... May I be excused? No... May I be excused? Yesssssss! Go!!! Our youngest son and daughter, as it usually goes, were the food guppies. Easy to please. Youngest son's logic was that if he didn't particularly care for the meal lineup, he'd kill it with ketchup. Youngest daughter was usually the last at at the table to see if anything else would come her way.
On Thanksgiving, there was always a dish that was most favored by each. I can see each of their faces as they stand over their favorite, fork in hand and ready for the amen...
Green Bean Casserole
Baked Macaroni and Cheese Pie
Baked Ham
Cherry Cheesecake
Cranberry Sauce
Whether they make it to our table or share their traditions elsewhere, their dish is still always part of the menu lineup.
... I put the cards back in the recipe box. Whether you gather with friends or stay at home—look over the dishes at the Thanksgiving table and you'll see a cook who tried to make something special for everyone. Bless the cook, or cooks.
My favorite was always Mom's Ham Rice and Baked Macaroni and Cheese. But... hmmmm... I have never found the recipe that granny had that required Sherry on Thanksgiving...