Food, Love and Affection

by Elouise

Fall 1965. Sometimes it seems I’ve died and gone to heaven! I’m living with a man who knows, loves and respects me. He doesn’t seem a bit perturbed about things I experience as shameful or diminishing. You know: my hair not looking ‘good enough,’ household tasks not completed as planned, or a new recipe that isn’t so great.

D eats whatever I cook, helps with the cleanup, has a positive attitude toward almost everything, and doesn’t fret the small stuff. He’s definitely into the idea that food is to be eaten with gusto, and sometimes used as a tasty reward for hard work. We find and frequent as many cheap ice cream and dessert parlors as we can.

Just as wonderful, I get to cook whatever I want to cook. Well, whatever we can afford. This is the first time I’ve ever had to cook for myself, by myself. When I lived at home and at college, almost every meal was prepared for me. Mom taught me to cook, but she was the chief cook. I helped out when needed, or served as part of the setup or cleanup crew.

Before we left Savannah for Boston, we worked with Sister #2 and her new husband to prepare dinner for my parents and other sisters. One last meal before we went our separate ways. It was also a way to thank them for helping us with the double wedding. Especially all the cleanup afterwards! As I recall, meatloaf was on the menu. It was a big deal for Mom to sit down at the table without having been in the kitchen all afternoon.

I still have my first cookbook, Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book.  Pages are falling out, the cover is totally unhinged, and there are remnants of spilled food and liquid all over the pages. One page in the index is taped together.

Here’s a list of favorite recipes and food choices—all prepared with help from Betty Crocker herself.

  • Main Dishes: Pink Bunny, Cheeseburger Pie, Hamburger Stroganoff, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Cookies: Jubilee Jumbles, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Stir-n-Drop Sugar Cookies, Brownies, Peanut Butter Cookies, Snickerdoodles
  • Vegetables: peas and carrots, baked potatoes with sour cream, corn, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, broccoli, scalloped potatoes
  • Breakfast: pancakes with syrup, waffles with syrup, French toast with syrup, cheesy scrambled eggs

No food list would be complete without survival recipes I brought in my head and on index cards from Mom.

  • Creamed tuna on toast
  • Tuna casserole made with thin egg noodles and covered with melted cheese
  • Leftovers of any kind turned into a casserole with melted cheese on top
  • Meat loaf made with oatmeal and catsup
  • Chicken and noodles made with thin egg noodles
  • Chiffon pumpkin pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Strawberry jello ‘salad’ full of strawberries and chilled in a Tupperware mold
  • Jack Robinson spice cake
  • Oatmeal cookies with raisins
  • Cheesecake in a graham-cracker crust; filling made with cream cheese, evaporated milk and lemon juice, then covered with a can of cherry pie filling

We have no ‘good girl rules’ in our new home about what or how much I can eat. We do, however, have a certain amount of money that runs out when it runs out.

On our first Valentine’s Day we received a package from Mom. It was heavy. When we opened it I was stunned to find a canned ham. Food. Mom’s “I love you” message. I was grateful and teary. The food money had nearly run out.

Looking back, I can’t help asking myself this question: For what was I so hungry? I know what it was. Affection and unconditional love. Also food. All three were scarce when I was growing up.

Mom was incredibly resourceful about food. Using very little, she prepared tasty food and made sure both table and food were a feast for eye and stomach. Perhaps it was her way to express motherly affection and the love she didn’t feel free to show physically or emotionally. When I married D, I was still hungry. Especially for love and affection.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 March 2015