Thursday, February 26, 2009
I took this several months ago down New Point. What exactly it's a picture of I cannot say for certain. Is it of the marsh grass? That piece of driftwood? The sand and the water? It's rather unimaginative, uninspired and boring. The angle is all wrong. The only reason I'm sharing it is because I have no time or energy to load any better pictures, and this one was already handy. In other words, I'm settling due to exhaustion.
Speaking of unimaginative, boring, and settling for what's put in front of you, I turn now to the topic of the plain vanilla diet we had growing up in the country.
In Mathews there was very little chance for cultural or culinary experiences other than your church social halls, your birthday parties, your sleepovers, the skating rink or the tastee freeze--hardly hotbeds of epicurean experimentation.
In our household, at least, we were strictly a Meat, Potatoes, One Side Vegetable, Bread and Butter family. Vanilla ice cream for dessert. Nothing fancy, no condiments, everything Plain Jane. Seasonings were salt and pepper. The End.
In fact, I never had salad dressing until I went away to college at age 17. Come to think of it, I don't remember having salad until I went away to college, and probably only ate it then because of this newfangled contraption called a salad bar. (Remind me to tell you about the guy who climbed into the salad bar once. Good times.)
If it wasn't fried chicken, hamburger, or fish, we pretty much didn't eat it growing up.
To really put a punctuation mark on this, I remember having my first pizza--a frozen one--at my grandmother's. She called it a peesapie (pizza pie). "Chesapeake Bay Kids, come try this peesapie." I couldn't stop talking about it for months afterwards. These were not your "bigger than a sombrero, cheese-filled crust, super deluxe, make you wanna slap your mamma" pizzas either. It was a very thin, very simple, very tiny frozen pizza. Yet still a novelty.
We just didn't get out much.
Take note of this entry from my childhood diary:
Wednesday, February 27, 1974 (9 years old)
Today I went to school. We had a geography test on the Netherlands. I only got 1 wrong. I got a 95. Mrs. Thomas was taking 5 points off. Today was hot dog day. I helped to serve lunch. I served 1st grade. They eat a lot of JUNK on their hot dogs. They eat mustard, ketchup, onions and relish all on one hot dog! I thought I would throw up before I even got finished serving! When I got home I rode Thunder. She's my pony.
-Chesapeake Bay Girl
I think this was when I began to realize that it wasn't simply Mathews that was responsible for our limited menu options; there was something inherently different about our family. If they were eating all that junk over in neighboring Gloucester County, then surely Mathews must have caught wind of the whole mustard/relish/onion craze. We were being deprived and sheltered.
Legend has it that Chesapeake Bay Father never drank iced tea or ate a strawberry before he met my mother. (Can you imagine? Living in the south and not ever tasting iced tea? I'm pretty sure that's against the law in the state of Virginia. They deport you if you aren't drinking tea right after you're weaned from a sippy cup.) CB Mother--even if she wanted to expand our horizons--was very limited in what she could pursue. Factor in one very finicky sister (I will not say which one, but she liked to say, "Qwah"), and we were pretty much doomed to a life of meat and potatoes.
Over time, we've all changed and expanded our horizons. CB Father is now a member of that wild and crazy club of people who eat strawberries. I have danced in that mysterious world of salad dressings and savor Thousand Island, Honey Mustard, Parmesan Peppercorn--even one that sounds inherently disgusting: blue cheese. "That Certain Sister" eats salmon and sushi. Yes, we've all branched out. No more "just meat and potatoes."
But please do NOT ruin a perfectly good hot dog with junk like relish, mustard and onions. Ketchup only, please. Otherwise, I just might throw up.