My father was a very interesting man, and he had a very interesting way of looking at food. He didn’t horde it, but if there was an opportunity to get food in bulk form, he wouldn’t think twice about stockpiling it in our basement, giving little thought as to what it was or whether he would eat it.
A running joke in our family comes from a time when my dad worked for a tow-truck company. He was dispatched on a call that a semi-truck had overturned on the highway; the goods that the truck was hauling was spread out like a deck of cards all over the road.
When he came home later that night after his shift, he wasn’t alone. With him was a full box of jars filled with mint jelly. When my Mom asked why on earth he’d bring so many home, he told her of his good fortune: out of all the boxes that lay on the road, this was the only one that wasn’t shattered.
The night my father brought those jars home, I was two years old. When we moved to a bigger house, the box of jelly found it’s home in a cabinet down in the new basement and it wasn’t alone. It had boxes of tomato soup and packs upon packs of Velamints and discontinued gum to share space with. When I was a teenager – you guessed it, the jelly was still sitting there, part of the family. ‘There’s nothing wrong with that jelly,’ he’d say. ‘You can tell if things go bad by their top. If the lid is bulging, THEN it’s no good.’
Obviously, the mint jelly story is one that still makes me, my brothers and my sister smile when one of us brings it up. Dad passed away in 1998, and I think it took us a couple more years before we finally parted with those jars, and as far as I know not more than one or two had ever been eaten. Heck, I didn’t even know who in their right mind would want such a thing; it tasted terrible on peanut butter! But then I was informed that mint jelly is usually served with lamb. This made the jelly story even more funny because my father had an aversion to lamb and couldn’t be in the same room with the stuff. But the price was right, and that jelly wasn’t going anywhere.
When it came to food, my Dad could never pass on a good deal. Sometimes he’d come home with canned goods, except the labels would be missing. We never knew what we were going to get; sometimes it would be a can of peas, sometimes stew. Sometimes, a mystery meat that no one would eat – not even Dad.
My aunt – my dad’s sister, passed away earlier this week and since then, while thinking about her I’ve also been thinking a lot about him. It’s odd that most of the memories I have of him are also related to food; odder still, that these are some of my fondest memories.
I’ve read in several weight loss books about the importance of realizing that food shouldn’t be associated with happiness because it gives power to something that is simply supposed to provide us with sustenance. What do you think about that statement? I guess I understand the concept, but in this mind, I’m stuck with the memories I have and I wouldn’t trade them for anything – even if they’re kind of corny or oddball. I own them; they’re mine.
Our contractor and construction workers started back up again this week at our home, this time to finish up on our first floor half-bath (the unplanned job because of the discovery of the leak and subsequent rotted floor). Next weekend my husband and I are going out to celebrate the end of Operation Bathroom Surprises and the fact that our home will once again be ours. How? By going out to dinner, and I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful time. I suppose we could choose to celebrate with a nice hike in the woods, or by going for a nice drive somewhere. But, in all honesty, I’d rather go out for Mediterranean and linger over kabobs while sharing with my husband about my dad’s quirky foodie obsessions. We’ll laugh and I’ll end the conversation by saying what I always say when I bring up my father to him: “I wish you two could have met, because he would have loved you.”
Have a good weekend, everyone. Keep old memories alive, and make new ones. Try and include some mystery meat in there somewhere. That’s always fun. lol