I am a survivor of culinary abuse.
Rice Cheese Savory.
Peanut Butter Tofu Stirfry.
Red Dragon Bean Pie.
Black Bean Casserole.
There were a lot of casseroles. All of them vegetarian. Six nights a week. It’s true that I am by most accounts a picky eater. I don’t like squishy. I don’t like mushy. I don’t like sauces or dressings or marinades or trying new things. I certainly didn’t like this. So it came to pass that every evening became a mediation between what I could choke down and what I could hide in a napkin. The key was to focus on a starch like a potato and eat your way around that. Lunch was no better. My friends got Gushers, Fruit Rollups, Cool Ranch Doritos, Dunkaroos, honey roasted peanuts, teriyaki flavored beef jerky, Handisnacks with processed cheese and a small red plastic stick to smear it with, Lunchables lunch packs full of crackers and deli meat cut into tiny discs, leftover slices of Pizza Hut stuffed crust Pizza and Soda Cans wrapped lovingly in tin foil to keep them cold and carbonated. I got an apple. I got apple Juice. I got two organic brown ricecakes held together by organic all natural chunky peanutbutter. No sugar added. Some kids traded their food. I begged. I thought it was because we were poor. I assumed McDonalds and Taco Bell were just beyond our means. The truth is that my mother was both health conscious and had started getting arthritis. She had been told to stop eating meat. So we stopped too.
Except Friday Night. My mother drove four hours round trip once a month to the nearest Kosher butcher so we could have meat.
Friday was Steak with a side of Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce.
It was Broiled chicken or Chicken Morengo.
There was Goulash with delicious gravy perfectly mopped up by a fistful of Challah.
And one can of Soda.
If you were lucky there were leftovers.
Though this was rare, and getting to them before my father was even rarer.
I loved Shabbat…. it got me through.