I nibbled the last bits of meat off the chicken wing and laid the bones on the edge of my plate. The skin and the crispy coating were my favorite, fried and seasoned to perfection. I used my spoon to scrape together the thick, creamy goodness that was left of my scalloped potatoes. Though at least forty bowls, casserole dishes and platters invited tasting on the food table that day, I chose our mother’s offerings.
It was the Harvest Festival potluck at West Bethany Lutheran Church. I sat next to Mom at one of the long wooden folding tables that lined the basement. She and Etta Mae, our neighbor from up the road, were discussing their hens and the recent price of eggs.
There was a rule at our house: “no dessert until you’ve cleaned your plate,” so of course I passed by the dessert table when I followed Mom in the serving line. Now, only bare chicken bones remained on my plate. Expectantly, I glanced up at the dessert table just in front of the door that led to the church kitchen. I slid off the cold metal folding chair and grabbed my plate.
Some of the ladies were already in the kitchen, cleaning up. Laughter and clattering of plates and silverware spilled from the open window. I scanned what was left of the desserts. Oh no! Mom’s apple pie was gone! I stared in disappointed disbelief at her empty glass pie plate. Only crumbs of flaky crust clung to the rim.
I really wanted dessert. There was one tiny sliver of pumpkin pie in a blue porcelain pan, but it had no whipped cream on it. Just a few slices remained of a white cake with fluffy frosting, but a thick layer of coconut coated the top. Just then, I spied a plate of cookies at the back of the table. There was a cut-out turkey coated with orange frosting, and a few store-bought sugar cookies with holes in their centers. But wait! Peeking out from under the turkey’s tail was a golden, crispy-edged cookie with three dark brown bumps protruding from the top. Yes! My mouth watered at the prospect of a chewy, sweet cookie with chocolate chips melting in my mouth.
I carefully extracted it from under the turkey and scooted back to the table to enjoy my find. I climbed back up next to Mom and with a smile of chocolate anticipation, I bit into that cookie. Something was not right, but I kept chewing. All at once my teeth and taste buds hit the bits of brown. EEWWW! They were raisins!
When I was a kid, I detested raisins. Sometimes, Mom put them in turkey stuffing. That was just wrong! Sticky, sweet dried-up grapes should NOT go in savory stuffing. Unlike Mikey, the kid in the Life cereal commercial, there were quite a few foods I did not like. Asparagus and onions loomed on that list.
After checking in with my siblings, Delmer and Deloris agreed with me about asparagus. We ate one or two pieces because we were supposed to at least try the mealtime vegetable, but that was enough. Cabbage? Absolutely not! Not cooked, not fermented, not in coleslaw.
Popeye’s pecs protruded the second he downed a can of spinach, but cooked greens held little appeal for the Wolkow youngsters back in the day. Even a pat of butter didn’t help. We never heard of eating it raw in salads or sautéed with bacon.
We grew older. Times changed. The variety of foods available grew, and for some reason our tastes changed.
Today, I sprinkle raisins on my almost-daily breakfast oatmeal. Oatmeal-raisin cookies are my very favorite cookie. As for my siblings, every one of us now loves asparagus. Spinach adorns our spring salads and adds crunch to sandwiches. We love cabbage and toss it in soups and crock pot dishes. Coleslaw on the menu? Sauerkraut? Of course! And we’ll take onions with that.
Why have our preferences changed? Was it the present-day hype about the health benefits of eating certain veggies? Was it new terminology, like “superfood,” that changed our perspectives?
Or do we simply want to savor childhood memories, and we’ve decided that maybe, just maybe that stuff wasn’t so bad after all? Chew on that!
Kruempel’s newest book release, Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, as well as her 5-book series, Promises to Keep, are available on Amazon.com. Once Upon a Midwest Sunset (an excellent gift of memories) is a compilation of the stories from her NOOKS AND CRANNIES column, which was published in five newspapers in 2020-21. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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