In our home growing up we were expected to eat was cooked for dinner. Strangely as my mother aged and we left home only to return for family gatherings the rules changed and my mom started cooking to people’s preferences. Now I completely support her decision to offer three vegetable options instead of one, because, quite frankly so of her food is weird and akin to gross, so having a plain dish of cooked frozen peas with butter is a nice option. It’s bad parenting, but it’s fine grand-parenting.
However, like I said, this is not how our house was run growing up and it is not how you should parent either. Kids need to learn to eat what is made, even if it’s purely for the discipline of being polite.
When I was young there were a couple of dished my mom made that were just plain nasty. There was the typical brussels sprouts and pan-fried liver. (Liver. LIVER! Why on earth would anyone eat that nasty, chewy, hunk of iron-tasting cow parts? Blah!) My mom also made this spaghetti casserole of some sort or another that was also low on my list. And, for some reason I don’t remember today, I hated this sort of shredded beef sandwich we had occasionally. But of all the foods that I was forced to eat one is the worst of all: spaghetti squash.
There is a reason that I am feeling particularly passionate about the nastiness of this autumn delicacy, my wife made it the other day. When I saw that sucker in the fridge, I was up front that there wasn’t a hope in Hanover that I was going to eat it. She really did her best with it too. She put a ton of butter and brown sugar in it and I barbecued it (right next to some lovely ribs). And then I sat there like a hypocrite as she put some of that tangled mess onto the plates of our boys for them to eat (because we make them eat what mom has prepared!) But not me. I couldn’t do it. I did manage to taste it, and that resulted in nearly tasting my ribs again. Enough said.
My mom never put brown sugar and butter on our spaghetti squash, if she had maybe I would have been more inclined to eat it. No, mother put shmonfat on it. A couple of things you should know about shmonfat if you aren’t a Mennonite. 1) No one knows how to spell shmonfat. I googled it and pretty much everyone who writes it into a recipe puts “However the heck you spell that word” into paranthesis behind it. 2) What is it? It’s cream gravy. Kind of a roux. Creamy, fatty and salty. It’s the Mennonite trifecta of heart attacks. Normally you would put it on perogies (with a bit of browned butter!). And it’s not actually bad tasting, but if you think you could dress up something as nasty as spaghetti squash with shmonfat, you are seriously mistaken. In fact this probably contributed to my mild dislike of the gravy.
Although I suspect that whether you BBQ spaghetti squash or flambe it, I really don’t think the cooking technique has anything to do with its taste; my mom microwaved it.
And this is where the story takes a dramatic turn.
One day, when I was already out of the house my mom decided to make spaghetti squash (perhaps to relive the happy days when I screamed and cursed at the table when forced to consume it.) The thing is, normally when you microwave a squash you cut it in half first, and literally for decades my mom had cut her spaghetti squashes in half before she cooked them, like a pigeon being sacrificed on the altar to the Lord. But this time she forgot. She actually put the whole squash into the microwave and set it for 15 minutes or however long it takes to make sure it is thoroughly dead.
It blew the door clean off the microwave.
IT BLEW the DOOR clean off the microwave! I mean the door literally flew across the room and spaghetti squash carnage followed. Strands of the nasty dish hung here and there like entrails in a horror movie. It’s a good thing my mom wasn’t standing in the way or things might have turned really ugly.
I’m not sure why I heard about this fantastic moment. I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t tell the family, but then again we may have had questions about the doorless microwave the next time we went home for dinner. Regardless, there have been days when I quite literally will remember this wonderful story out of the blue and burst out laughing. So far it hasn’t happened during a funeral, but if it came to mind, I’m not sure I would be able to contain myself. In fact, last year, I just remembered it one day and phoned my mom to thank her for bringing levity to my day.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “I really thought this was going to be a blog about how to parent picky eaters.” Nope, sorry but you were wrong. There isn’t a moral to this story. Maybe the moral is to not turn your back on a microwaved squash. Maybe there is some sort of poetic justice in the dish of my nightmares blowing the microwave apart, I don’t know. But it sure is a good story isn’t it?
Tales from Glenlea… you’ve gotta love them.