My relationship with food: Food and family

I grew up in a family that loves food.

We weren’t ‘foodies’ by any stretch of the imagination, but we always had fresh, home-cooked, handmade, delicious food on our table. My Dad has long been recognised as being the world’s biggest sweet tooth: this man could eat Willy Wonka under the table where confectionary is concerned. My Mum is one of those gorgeous European women who only uses real butter, believes in the power of the potato, and makes the best scones – ever (even according to my farm-raised father).

My sister and I had a childhood filled with happy food memories. We always had homemade birthday cakes; poor Mum has been asked to do many things including, but not limited to, butterflies, witches, and The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz (that one was mine!). Treats tucked into lunchboxes were made in our family kitchen, and to this day there is nothing better than my Mum’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies (I’ve adapted it so I can eat it too…) or my Dad’s recipe for melting moments (this one is a gluten free work in progress).

We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always ate well. Vegetables every night for dinner, carrot sticks and fruit for snacks, and no sugary breakfast cereals. Going out for dinner was a treat, and my sister and I would get all dolled-up when Mum and Dad took us to the local KFC or Pizza Hut for dinner ‘out’. It might seem funny to other people that we considered these restaurants an occasion to dress for, but when I was a little girl I knew that those were splurges for our family, and so proper attention and care should be paid.

This is a lesson that I have carried through my life. When I go out to dinner, I enjoy the ritual of planning a proper outfit, putting on make-up and perfume, and showing respect for the time I get to spend with my dining companion/s.

Little sis and me in the kitchen

I was a chubby child. Once I hit about eight my height didn’t quite keep up with my weight and so I grew into what I call a ‘pleasingly plump’ child: pure genetics at this point. Until I hit about fourteen it didn’t really bother me overly much. I just accepted that I was larger than my (still) fairy-sized sister, and that all the kids at my school came in different shapes, colours, and sizes. Although there were some at school who would tease me, I was okay. I spent many of my lunchtimes buried in a book anyway. The characters went on adventures where no one cared what brand of clothes I wore, or that I couldn’t play sport, or that I was the child known as ‘teacher’s pet’. King Arthur, the knights at his round table, and I went swashbuckling across England to defend Camelot; Tamora Pierce’s characters showed me worlds unknown; Terry Deary entranced me into non-fiction wonder with Horrible Histories; and, Amy, Jo, Meg, and Beth were female role models when I was looking at what sort of lady my parents would want me to be.

I digress. Up until early high school food was just something yummy. Something I didn’t give much thought to except that I was okay with eating Vegemite sandwiches for lunch everyday, that I liked red apples not green ones, and that I was the chocolate flavoured anything and Jess was caramel.

Food was family meal times, and love packed in a lunch box.

17 thoughts on “My relationship with food: Food and family

  1. Love this entry! I remember this child you speak of in primary school and adored her love of books, her disposition and the fact that her strong family bond shone through her smile each and every day! Amen to food (and European Mothers, or in my case Grandmother’s and mother’s who deliver it!)

  2. I remember this child you speak of, her love of books, her beautiful disposition and her strong family bond shining through her smile each day. Amen to food and the European Mother’s or in my case Grandmother’s and Mother’s who deliver it and pass on their recipes.

  3. I remember those little girls and I remember that your lunch boxes were the ones I would look at and say “when I have kids, that’s what I want their lunch boxes to look like” because in all my years of education I would just shake my head at the stuff people would shove through their kids.
    You two were both so happy and healthy.

    P.S. I only discovered Tamora Pierce’s works a few years back – and read everything I could. Loved them.

  4. Its a trip down memory lane…. I remember spending many of childhood hours indulging in those foods… You introduced me to many a sweet treat :)

  5. Such a beautiful piece of writing about food and family – you are such a talented writer. I really enjoy reading your blog – it is one of my favourites.

  6. You are such a gifted writer. I love the adorable photo of you and sis and your honesty. I equate food with love to. My Mom is always trying to feed everyone, she is an amazing cook. Loved this post! xo

  7. oh my gosh, i swear that my childhood was eerily similar! we maaaaaybe would go out to dinner once every three months and when we did go to even McD’s it was a HUGE deal and ‘adventure.’ both of my parents loved, loved food…we’d go on family vacations and the main attraction was deciding wat we’d eat. i started going thru my own chubby phase starting in 3rd grade but i was completely ignorant of food/weight and i never even thought of it. it wasn’t really until 7th grade that i started hearing things said to me that made me think, “hmm, okay i guess i really am a little chunkier…and what is this?? a calorie, and maybe it’s not so good that i eat whatever i want in any kind of amounts??” i had always been active and just thought of food is food, something pleasurable and uncomplicated.

    then i think lots of us grow up and have those reverse ‘aha’ types of experiences where we start to over-think the whole food thing and start giving food much too much power. it’s sad because i think back to the times when we were little and completely ‘naive’ and that’s how it should be, it’s certainly MUCH easier on the mind. but then u go through things and to get back to that happy/healthy relationship with food takes a LOT more work than you think, and more work that it should.

  8. Such beautiful childhood memories and culinary memories. I’m the same with you about going to dinner and dining out – I treat it with the greatest respect. We always ate well too, my mum made all sorts of things and coming from a mixed parentage we were lucky with the variety of food we had. I was always the tiny one and my sister was a little fuller than I was – and we both suffered through awful comments about weight (or lack thereof!)…but my did we enjoy food!

    • My little sister was the tiny one, and I was the bigger one. Now that things have gotten on a more even keel we still enjoy our food! Especially when we get to share a bag of peanut m&ms….

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