It’s amazing how some of life’s most enduring preferences come about from the most humble beginnings. A discussion over breakfast the other day brought it all to mind.
Our daughter and son-in-law have very different food life than my wife and I. Both couples have a male as the primary cook in the family but I cook very much differently than does Michael.
I cook for a meal. Michael cooks for leftovers. That’s a rather freehanded way of delineating the difference but it is fundamentally accurate. I almost always cook amounts of food that we can consume in one meal. The only exceptions being if I am roasting or slow cooking a joint of meat in which case we will eat the first portion of meat hot from the cooking process and then divide what remains into portions to be used for future meals. The primary difference between our styles comes down to the fact that Michael is still actively a breadwinner in his family and he doesn’t have the same kind of “spare” time that I do. As a result Michael cooks almost everything in excess quantities with the idea in mind that having cooked once he can repurpose anything and everything for “fast” meals throughout the week. He tends to make items that take longer to cook initially, I tend to do the “whatever I can cook in 20 minutes beginning to end” approach. With microwaves and such we still have baked potatoes and rice and other longer cook items but we eat a lot of protein and veg and not a lot of carbs.
So, where am I going with all of this. Michael is far more likely to cook up an entire tray of sausage patties or links, save the uneaten ones for another meal or two or three and have a container in the fridge with the precooked items all ready to pop into the pan. Premade sausage patties tend not to release nearly as much fat and so whatever is there in the pan gets disposed of.
I on the other hand buy 3 lb packages of bacon from the local restaurant purveyor, but I keep them in a bacon keeper and I portion out one, or two, or three strips of bacon as we need. I either cook eggs in some of the bacon fat, or save it in a container reserved for “bacon fat” to be used in cooking at other times. There’s a lot of flavor in bacon fat and used in discrete amounts it’s wonderful.
The thing is, I grew up in a very different home than did Michael. My food choices are very much the food choices I grew up with. You see I have long felt that “Normal is what we grow up with.” And I grew up in a family with a father who worked rotating shifts. He was a boiler operator for our local electric utility. He spent most of his days in an air conditioned control room occupied by one other worker and about 85 gauges and graph plotters making sure that there was always a head of steam to keep the generating turbines whirring away and providing electricity for the thriving metropolis of Milwaukee.
AND, my dad hated sandwiches. Why should he eat a sandwich when he had a multimillion dollar “oven” right outside his cubicle door? He often told friends and strangers alike that mom packed him a lunch, and when he got to work he “threw it on the floor, covered it with a rag and by the time lunch-time rolled around it was ready to eat.” That all sounded a lot cruder than it was, after all he was the Scoutmaster who was hardest on the Boy Scouts when it came time to inspect dishes after they were cleaned — he was rigorous about sanitation, but a meal in a metal container sitting on a hot steel grate protected from contamination was a wonderful way to warm up his leftovers from the night before.
Of course the fact that dad got the hot leftovers in his lunch almost always meant that mom and I were left to eat something else for our meals. He was the breadwinner so he got the best. As he should. And with a stay-at-home mom who had time to cook I always had fresh meals, and I had the “husky” size waistline to prove it. But, bottom line is that I never grew up eating leftovers. I had meals prepared for the time, and that was “normal” to me.
“Normal is what we grow up with.”
I wonder, if you look into your own life how many choices you make you can find that are the direct result of whatever “normal” you grew up with? Once I started thinking about this I realized there are nearly an infinite number of little things I do that I can trace directly back to life choices other people made, which affected me, and which I adopted as de rigeur.
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