I saw a commercial tonight that reminded me of childhood food antics.
Tyson Chicken Nuggets: kids hiding their food, giving it to the dog or throwing it on the floor. Like all kids my brothers and sisters and I wouldn’t eat our broccoli. My parents tricked us into eating it by pretending we were dinosaurs destroying trees in our paths. This usually resulted in lots of growling and using our hands and occasionally throwing some broccoli to the ground but whatever, we ate most of it. This also proves how diabolical parents are. JD and I also used to eat Cheerios off the floor that the babies dropped and pretended to be vacuums. I don’t think we had a dog then. We also used to have feasts of newspaper food from the grocery ads. Sometimes it was Thanksgiving and sometimes we were just rich people but we would tear out the foods and eat the paper like it was a real meal. I always thought it was funny until one time when we were reminiscing JD said “I heard that kids that eat newspaper do it because they lack nutrients.” We giggled then just looked at each other. I don’t ever remember ever being hungry though. I think we just loved Jubilee ad turkeys.
Another food story from when we were younger involved the infamous Beer Noodles incident. I give my mom credit for trying to feed 7 people all the time. It was hard to not repeat things and to have things we would all eat. She refused to let us eat tacos and pizza all the time so she would try out these new recipes and we usually hated them. The Beer Noodles were the worst though. The basic recipe was simply spaghetti noodles and fresh vegetables tossed in a light oil. The misstep in the ingredients was a cup of beer. Mom added Labatt because that’s what you drink in WNY. Somehow the noodles soaked up all the bad tastes in the beer instead of the delightful parts I so dearly love now. It was like she used the ass ends of 40 beers. Luckily for us my parents ate dinner in the living room because there wasn’t enough room for all of us at the table. At least that’s what they claimed. I think they probably just wanted to eat and watch the news in peace. The table was on the other side of the kitchen and out of sight from them. We sat there for a long time just picking out the vegetables that somehow had avoided the worst of the tastes. Normally we weren’t picky eaters so the folks knew something was up when no one was done after 10 minutes. Dad came out to check on us and after realizing we weren’t eating gave us the old ‘no one moves until their plate is empty’ threat. Feeding that many kids, and occasionally their friends, wasn’t cheap so I understand that they didn’t want anything to go to waste. I do blame them for having to eat everything on my plate to this day, which is why I can’t afford to not go to the gym. Back fat is no laughing matter. Anyway, after he left we all started moaning and griping about having to eat the terrible Beer Noodles. One by one we attempted to eat but no one was brave enough. We felt as though we were doomed until my brother spied the stack of strawberry containers in the corner that mom had saved for canning and making jam. The jam turned out to be better suited for ice cream instead of bread but the containers would save us. So we wouldn’t arouse suspicion, my brother carefully filled up one container from each of our plates. He ran out back and threw the contents into the Erie Canal, which our property backed up to. After the second trip Dad came back to check and noticed that we were making progress. “Almost done!” he said then disappeared back into the living room. I kept the little girls from giggling while the boys took the last load and gleefully flung the noodles into the canal. We happily collected our plates and then ran off our separate ways to do other evil child things. Mom knows the truth now since we instituted a seven year statute of limitations on things that are still punishable by parental law.
An incident I will never live down was the Ketchup pasta incident. Grocery days were always pretty sparse when it came to food in the kitchen. One day when I was in high school Kara and I were home alone. The other kids were all out, Dad was working late and Mom had gone shopping. It was pushing dinner time and we were both hungry. I decided to be Martha Stewart MacGyver and make something with what we had. A big household that included two teenage boys and a neighborhood of moochers usually left little in the cupboards. I found spaghetti noodles and ketchup. Rock on. Kara, being about 8 or 9, naturally started complaining. “I don’t want ketchup! I want spaghetti!” Ok fine, smarty pants. I poured a bowl full of ketchup and added dried garlic and some basil to taste until it mildly resembled cheap sauce and ta da! Dinner was served. I believe she told my parents “no really, it was good!” but I still get shit to this day. For the record, I have survived 8.75 years on my own (I turned 26.75 last week) and haven’t starved yet. So anyone can knock my skills but they haven’t killed me yet.
The thing about having four kids in four and a half years means that you don’t have a lot of extra money and that they all have roughly the same mindset, which means you can entertain them easily. Mom was taking a well-deserved nap the day Idiots on Ice was born. Grandma had bought our sisters dresses from Goodwill to play in a few weeks earlier. They were typical old 80’s prom dresses, pastel and frilly. The kitchen also had that fantastic old green linoleum from wall to wall. Imagine three children, two boys and one girl, ages 8 to 10 in 80’s prom gowns running the length of the kitchen in a game of relay race. The game was simple: whoever ran to the opposite side, touched the wall and got back first won the game. The stakes were raised by spraying the floor with Old English and wearing socks and the rule that you could step on the train of the other runners’ dresses to make them fall. Now imagine those same children in the dresses running back and forth across a wax-coated floor stepping on the trail of each others’ dresses and falling smack on their already-toothless faces, giggling and laughing until they woke their mother up from the one nap she had in five years. The expression on her face was one of anger and confusion: anger from being woken up and confusion that her sons were in their sisters’ dresses. “What the hell are you doing?!” she wanted to know. “We’re playing Idiots on Ice,” JD announced, very matter of factly. And thus the term was coined. The game lives on in family infamy now. I don’t think we ever played it again. It was just one of those beautiful moments you could never recreate, like a perfect sunset or a party with only your favorite people, except this was deliberate bodily harm caused by a couple of pre-teen drag queens and their awkwardly-tall sister on a skating rink of spray wax and pastel lace.