I have a favorite conversation question: What was your most hated meal as a child?
This is a great question for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that you get to witness actual time travel as your interviewee is instantly taken back to his/her childhood dinner table. And the scowl you see next is the exact look they produced the first time they ever laid tastebuds on [blank].
Another interesting fact is that one person’s Despised Dinner always ends up being another’s Most Requested Meal. Take, for example, the Cream Tuna on Toast that donned the large table of my youth. Ours was always flecked with peas and hard-boiled eggs, and my singular focus during the meal was figuring out how to make it look like I had eaten more than I actually had. When discussing this topic with my sisters-in-law a few months ago, Janet revealed that Cream Tuna was the meal she requested on her birthday. (Because apparently she had never heard of pizza.)
As a compliment to my mom, there were not many meals that triggered my scowl reflex. She is a great cook who prepares wonderfully colorful and tasty dishes, but we are not talking about her fajitas right now, nor her Chicken Confetti. We’re talking about those few dishes that called for discreet spits into one’s napkin, and long bathroom visits in hopes that the meal would wrap up and end before one’s return to the table. Neither were very successful, but anything is worth a try, right?
So, without further ado, here’s my top five list of Most Hated Childhood Meals:
1. Cream Tuna on Toast. It was almost palatable when served on fresh biscuits, but even then, it was basically just a great way to ruin a perfectly good biscuit.
2. Milk Toast. For years I believed that this was not an actual meal, but something my parents dreamed up and said was a meal. Bleckt.
3. Liver. I believe we only ate liver once during my childhood, and although I don’t remember anything about it, I am deeply bothered by the fact that I can properly describe it as pasty in texture.
4. Prego Spaghetti Sauce. We bought a case of it once, and I guess we were normally spoiled by home cooked spaghetti sauce, because this stuff was like licking tomato paste off the insoles of my brother’s gym shoes. By the time we reached the last jar, I vowed I would never eat the stuff again. Even when Prego is on sale, I can’t bring myself to buy it.
5. Pot Roast with Roasted Carrots, Potatoes, & Onions. I know, I know. Half of you are in uproar, thinking seriously of never clicking on this site again, but I’m telling you—I hated this meal. I’ve never liked mushy cooked carrots, and I prefer my potatoes mashed or fried. I’ve grown up since then and I can tolerate this meal now. But, in the ten-plus years that I have been living on my own, I have never cooked this meal. Not even once.
Okay, that’s my list. A list I will probably regret writing as soon my mom reads this and feels guilty and apologetic for ever disappointing me as a child. She’s funny that way. But she should know that most nights I was delighted with my dinner, often asking for seconds. Unlike my children who, upon seeing their dinner each night, could only be more devastated if Disneyland burned to the ground and I was holding an empty gasoline can.
So, please tell me—what was your Cream Tuna?