Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why my family is weird: Part 2

I know that you've all been eagerly awaiting the second chapter of this feature to learn more about why my family is weird (in the most positive way possible, I keep reminding my mom...) This part will focus on food.

I got thinking about this picture last night, at a potsticker party hosted by Erin and Reid. While folding potstickers/wontons and discussing the potstickers pooping out fillings and potstickers being generally goopy, I remembered making wontons as a child. My strongest memory was making wontons on Christmas day in 1994. That year Christmas fell on a Sunday and so instead of a Christmas turkey dinner, we headed to church and came back to snacks and food we didn't get the rest of the year. The next day we had our traditional Christmas dinner. Christmas day we got wontons, chips, onion soup dip, and other goodies that didn't resonate as strongly. That year my cousin had been studying in China and her dad, while visiting her, had also picked up a "Mao suit" for my mom, which mom wore while frying the wontons with chopsticks.

There was a brief period of time in which I could wear the same clothes as my I dressed up in the Mao suit for Girl Scout Thinking Day. I also made a poster on China and Chinese currency and made fortune cookies from scratch, I think. This was probably early 1995.

In middle school, my "go to" after school snack in the fall was a chopped up zucchini sauteed until golden brown with italian breadcrumbs and cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. I both invented and cooked this snack. It was based on one of my favorite treats, deep fried breaded zucchini slices. Luckily my version was much faster and involved less flying oil.

In elementary school I was the envy of my classmates because I made my own classmates and picked what went in my lunchbox. (In first grade it was a fashionable Minnie Mouse lunchbox, if you were wondering...) For a while I brought cold hot dogs every day. My other gold standard was cream cheese and jam. I was really anti-PB&J. This made me a rebel in the eyes of the other kids. I'll also note that this did not last long...

My parents tried to raise us to be aware of other people outside our social setting and this involved a number of things. As Alaskans, we got a check from the government (Permanent Fund Dividend) for $800-$1800 a year. Most of the check went to fund visits to our relatives and deposits to our college funds. But first we got to pick where 10% (our tithe) would go. Anthony and I almost always donated our money to Heifer Project International, an organization that aims to end poverty and hunger by distributing animals around the world and having the recipient families distribute the next generation of chickens or cows to other families in the community. So, based on this, it wasn't surprising that my parents were frustrated by the food consumption and waste in our house. So every once in a while they'd institute a "rice week." This was a week where we'd have rice 3 meals a day, for seven days. The rules were fairly simple. For breakfast and lunch you could add butter or milk and sugar. For dinner there'd be a simple vegetable stirfry, sometimes with a small amount of meat. The idea was to remind us that we were fairly well off and that if I had to eat a PB&J sandwich for lunch some day that would not be the end of the world. Neither was oatmeal the end of the world. Or not having a drumstick/thigh per person for dinner. Or a different starch for every meal. I didn't like the rice breakfast cereal plan, so for rice week, I had rice with butter for two meals a day. It was that it wasn't. (Oh, and we're not talking wild rice or brown rice here. Just plain medium grain white rice.) We never had rice week during the school year. In part because cold rice isn't appealing for school lunch and in part because there might have had to be some explaining to our teachers.

Today I was discussing this with my parents and my mom was remembering rice week differently. She remembered it as coming after a time of indulgence, such as Thanksgiving. Dad suggested we do rice week starting on November 27. (I'm home from Nov 24-Nov 30) I think I politely declined...while I think it's a great idea and might try to do it again sometime, while I'm at home with full access to my dad's cooking is NOT the time to start!

There may or may not be a Part 3 of this series, depending whether or not I can think of more things to add to the list. If you have ideas to add (remember, this is the positive side of weird!) please comment on this post or email me. Or you can share why your family is weird. Really, I just like comments :) But not the spam sort, so if you're trying to sell me a rolex watch or help me make $5000 dollars a week FROM HOME, you don't need to comment. But all other commenters are good.


tatgeer said...

1. That picture of you makes me feel really old - in 1995 I was driving and looking at colleges. :)

2. My family has one birthday candle. Well, it's a candle holder. Small, blue, ceramic, old. When it's your birthday you get to blow out the one candle. We often celebrated a few birthdays with one party, so we'd re-light the candle and pass it down the table.

2a. When there's someone new at the table, my uncle will offer them the first cut of cake. He then puts the knife through the cake once, smiles and says "There you go! Now, who would like the first *slice* of cake?"

Katie said...

1. LOL. Funny how five years now isn't that much of a difference, but 15 years ago it was massive.

2. Do you know where that got started? It's an interesting tradition.

2a. Is this the mandatory goofy uncle? I think almost all families have one. You learn precise wording quickly around someone like that :)

tatgeer said...

2. I have no idea how it started - it's been that way for as long as I can remember. Maybe I should ask my mom.

2a. Well, one of the goofy uncles, yeah. There's another one on my dad's side. The one on my mom's side is the one at the wedding that kept cracking me up early in the ceremony. I don't know if you could see it or not (I think you were on the side that could see my face well) but every time I made eye contact with him I got the giggles. Anna asked him about it after the ceremony, and he thought it was because so much of our relationship has always been based on humor, that was what came out (due to nerves on my part, perhaps?)

The one on my dad's side most memorably swapped the heads on my Barbie and Ken dolls. I was heartbroken because I didn't think they were going to go back, and since my mom was violently anti-barbie, I only had them at my dad's house, and I only had a couple of them*. But then he fixed it and it was all ok. :)

*what a run-on sentence!

Katie said...

2a. I remember you being giggly at the wedding, but that being a very good thing :) In part, that's how I often view you in life. Not as a constant giggler, but as someone who really enjoys life. So it made perfect sense that you'd be the same way at your wedding, I just didn't know you had the eye contact causing it. I have an uncle who would have the same reaction on me though...

I'm now trying to envision head-swapped Barbie and Ken dolls and as a grown up it's a kid (with no barbies of my own) I imagine it would have been traumatic.