Family Style

Recently Twitter has been a buzz with mama’s trying to figure out how to feed their kids. I have blogged about novelty, variety and easy recipes when I can. I am even doing the Week In The Life challenge from Adventuroo to chronicle a week in toddler dinners for you. But sometimes, we need to just laugh. And for that laugh, I would like to introduce Tim.

Tim works with me as a writer/editor. He also moonlights as a poet..even with a published work! He has two adorable shelter dogs affectionately named Muggs and The Junk. Lets just say, Tim has a way with words. He never ceases to make me double over in laughter. Recently a coworker asked him to write up one of his many tales of a catholic childhood in Rochester, NY. The minute I read it, I knew it would be a nice break from the “will my kid eat a vegetable this week” woes. You could be feeding 8 kids! This is Tim’s tale of eating at a table of 10 and thus explaining his caveman approach to food and/or life.

With eight kids under the age of 12, my mother conducted our evening meal with the tense efficiency of a zoo feeding. Lugging a huge tub of potatoes to the table, she eyed us suspiciously like someone entering a cage of famished wolverines. My father had built a booth into the wall so we could crowd together shoulder-to-shoulder in a way that would not have been possible with chairs. None of us spoke. Other children might have been encouraged to share their daily triumphs and adventures, their feelings about school or what they wanted to do when they grew up. My mother extended no such invitations. On rare occasions, two of us might pause from our Darwinian scramble to grab more grisly stew or day-old bread–usually to exchange insults or issues threats, but occasionally to ask more or less civilized questions about, say, baseball or human reproduction or the nuns who ran our school. These distractions from the central purpose of filling our stomachs as quickly as possible always evoked the same four-word response from our mother: “Shut up and eat.” When friends ate over, they received similar instructions, a situation whose oddity never dawned on me until I had grown up and left home. Perhaps even more odd, my mother prohibited beverages at what she called “the meal table.” As the oldest, I vividly recall the birth of this curious rule: one night, within the space of a few minutes, we knocked over three glasses of milk as we grabbed for food. Each spill increased my mother’s rage and our own apprehension. When the fourth glass went down, she stopped yelling and simply looked at the ceiling as if praying for the strength to resist a homicidal urge. From that point on, we finished eating and walked to the sink where, like cowboys at a bar, we each chugged a tepid chaser. These varied memories rush back whenever I walk past a restaurant advertising “family style” servings. I always choose another place to eat.

Side note: One day I will share the letter he wrote me about giving a reading at my wedding. I literally almost pissed my pants.

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