Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Oct 21

Foodie Memories: Father-Style

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



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  1. Thanks for sharing memories that are both amusing and poignant…you remembering your Dad in this way makes me think of mine too.

    And it makes me think about my husband’s mother, who died in 1982 and thus I was not able to meet her, although, believe it or not, I’ve had dreams about her. Tim says that she would have loved me.

    As for this, “food shouldn’t be associated with happiness because it gives power to something that is simply supposed to provide us with sustenance,” I disagree. That’s like saying that sex shouldn’t be enjoyable because it’s simply for making babies. Humans are wired for pleasure. Addiction is not pleasure and so when food, sex, drugs, alcohol, what-have-you becomes an addiction…a way to abuse oneself, that’s different.

  2. Caron says:

    My father had odd tastes in food. I didn’t know him that well. He liked weird things like pickled pigs feet. I say ugh to that. He once brought home salt cod and didn’t want to wait to soak it overnight. It was like eating soft salt. It was disgusting.

    My best memory was getting ice cream after I slammed my finger in the door of the brand new Studebaker he had just brought home.

  3. Munchberry says:

    That last paragraph brought tears to my eyes.

    I think that notion about memories and food is Utter Freaking Hogwash. We can pretend food is just sustenance, but it is also something shared, something that nourishes and sustains us (physically and emotionally), part of friendship and relaxation. Pfft. I remember lots of meals shared with people I love, during trips made with friends and loved ones or where I met amazing people and did amazing things. Are we to carve the memory of the event out for our memory and somehow blur out the food part? Hoo… ey.

    I love the story of your dad’s hoarding. It was part of him – and a downright amusing one. My husband’s father loves mint jelly. I attribute it to the 70’s. All the people my parent’s age have mint jelly in the fridge.

    Velamints. Do they still make those? I wonder if your aunt shared the penchant for food collecting. Bless her. I hope she passed gently.

  4. NewMe says:

    Ellen, you always write so movingly!

    Here’s what I think of the idea of food just being for sustenance. Well, if that’s so, then we should only have sex to procreate. Simple as that, or should I say “stupid as that”?

  5. Val says:

    Hmmmphf – in my family, food is practically everything apart from sustenance: love, affection, celebration, you name it!

    A great & touching post, Ellen… (thanks I needed that)

  6. Ronnie says:

    I don’t know how old your dad was, but mine was the same way… he got it from my grandma. She was alive during the Depression so she definitely hoarded food – she had it everywhere!

    Just another way to think of it, I suppose. :)

    It’s good to keep him in your thoughts, I know one of my favorite memories is walking down to the corner store with my dad and getting ice cream or a gallon of milk.

    Food addiction is so strange, it’s literally the one thing you can never be cured of because obviously you need it to live.

    Hope you and the hubby have a good time this weekend!

  7. LauraJayne says:

    I adore this post – it reminds me of stories of my great grandmother, who used to ask my mother if it was okay if we had “crackers”so she could give us kit-kat bars (my mother was famously anti-candy). Food brings up so many memories, and I need to remember the positive ones, not just the negative “weight-gaining” ones!

  8. Roz says:

    Awww…such a sweet sorry. So sorry for the loss of your aunt!! Hope you have a lovely weekend.

  9. debby says:

    Oh Ellen, thanks for sharing that story! I grew up with mint jelly and lamb. Lamb was my dad’s favorite meat, and we could not have it without a jar of mint jelly! You brought back some very happy memories of my own.

  10. Ah, mystery meat. Oddly enough, one of my wife’s 32 things to do in her 32nd year was to try SPAM, which she’s never had (she grew up in India and South Africa, with vegetarian parents). Of course, then she got pregnant, and apparently SPAM is frowned upon for pregnant women. So no Stuff Posing As Meat for my wife.
    I think it’s unreasonable to expect us not to associate good memories with food. Some of our happiest times come with food attached, so it’s only natural that we make the association. I can see their point, intellectually, but in practice, it’s just not doable.

  11. Thank you for sharing a story that brought a smile to MY face. My father loves to find deals, but he’s pretty good about limiting them to foods and products he’ll use. I think their pantry has 40 or more boxes of oatmeal. :)

    As for the statement: I disagree. Food memories are a (wonderful, in my case) association with family and friends. They’re just *memories*, not predictors of current or future behaviors. [I really like Karen Anderson phrased it.]

  12. I’m so sorry for the loss of your aunt. You and your family are in my thoughts!

    I love this story. I think when the weight loss books say not to give power to food, they are speaking to food addicts. Food is meant to keep you alive, but I believe that it is for enjoyment as well. When you’re inhaling a buffet in order to make certain feelings go away or try to bring back a certain feeling then you’ve given food too much power. Your beautiful memories of your dad and the memories you are creating with your husband are just fine. :)


  13. I love the mint jelly story!! I would have NO CLUE what to do with it either.

  14. My biggest food memory of my dad is that he was a proponent of the clean plate club. You didn’t waste food! He’d take our chicken bones and pick them clean. My other food memory is that every so often on a Sunday he’d get the hankering for a sub for lunch and head out to pick up one. And, if we had not eaten, he’d ask if we wanted one too. I often put off lunch as long as I could on Sundays, just in case:)

  15. Jan says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I’m thankful that you have fond memories of your Aunt though and that she reminds you to think of your Dad.

    I loved hearing about the mint jelly. And heck, I forgot all about Velamints (I use to LOVE those!).

    And food brings people together (family reunions, dinners at the family table, etc…). How can food not be associated with happy thoughts.

    Praying your 1/2 bath fix-up goes smoothly!

  16. I think I will always have food memories and happiness that I associate with food – there is nothing wrong with that. I strive to make new memories associated with other things and not about the food. When they do involve a meal, I try for healthier foods but I no longer banish the old ones simply because they involve foods that were not in my best interest.

    When my dad passed in 2005 it was just 3 weeks after he visited me in Florida. It took me 2 years to throw out what was left from a bottle of Karo dark corn syrup – which he used on his pancakes. I hated the stuff, no one else in my home ever touched it, but I could not throw it out for 2 years.
    Luckily, we get better with time.

    I am sorry for your loss.


  17. teresa says:

    One of the best Dad stories EVER! Seriously. The stuff of great characters.
    Isn’t it great to have siblings to share those smiles with?
    I’m so sorry about your aunt and that your dad didn’t get to meet your wonderful husband.

  18. I simply adore this story. My dad passed away (from a head on collision) 2 years ago. Oct 23 is the date and I find myself extremely emotional right now. He had been writing a book and I brought home his computer, which holds this masterpiece. Like you, I feel that ANYTHING that keeps his memory alive is the perfect vessel. Smells and tastes are often the strongest senses we have, the ones that can evoke memories when our minds fail to remember exactly how our loved one’s looked. I can struggle to remember the shape of his eye but certain foods can bring me his laugh…like you, I wouldn’t trade them either.

    • Ellen says:

      The need for our dads never really goes away, does it? Even after all these years I find myself writing about him all because of baking bread, or yeast rising. I’m sorry you are going through a rough patch, Lynn. Thinking of you and sending comforting thoughts your way.

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