The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Pass the oleo margarine, please

Eating in America has changed considerably over the last several decades.

First of all, the location where we have our three main meals has changed. In our home, when I was young, we all ate at the dining room table. Nearly all of our meals were eaten here, as a family, no matter what.

We did have a television, and many times it was turned on...mostly to the news.

Prior to the mealtime, the table had to be set, properly. That was usually my job, as I was the eldest. Plates, forks, spoons, knives, salt and pepper, napkins, and any condiments which might be needed.

Before we sat down, the children (there were five of us) stood behind our chairs until my Daddy was seated. Why? Because we wanted to. I remember asking Mama if we could do that to honor Daddy. Normally, the entire meal was placed on the table family-style and we served ourselves. Now, that meant that the first bowl or food-laden plate went to Daddy and he passed it to Mama, and she passed it to one of us, and so on down the line. My parents didn't make us eat anything we didn't want to eat, but we were encouraged greatly to try it.

Now, there was always talk around the table, mainly educational stuff, but we children did not realize we were learning, and we loved it. Sometimes we would name the states and their capitols, sometimes we would name the presidents in order, and sometimes we would spell. But whatever we did, we visited like a family and it was wonderful! Hats were never worn at the table.

Now, the food. The food was delicious! Mama made it, it had to be good! Sometimes the variety left a little to be desired, but it was very good. And sometimes, near the end of the month, it was harder to deal with, but we did!

My least favorite end-of-the-month meal was canned peas, cooked in mushroom soup, add tuna fish and pour the entire thing over toast. Nope, I did not like that much, but I did eat it. In my entire adult life, I have never made that for a husband or a child!

We ate many things made with ground beef - spaghetti, sloppy joes, meat loaf, goulash, chili, etc. We had pork chops, fried chicken, and, my favorite - pot roast.

At times, my Mama would allow me to make the salads, and I was thrilled. We didn't always eat salads, but I would make them kind of fancy. I used my Betty Crocker Cook Book for Kids and followed the examples to the t. Two examples of these were - salad in the form of a rabbit. I would take a lettuce leaf, which would go on the plate first. Then I would take a pear half and lay it on the lettuce leaf, flat side down. Next would come raisins for eyes and ears, at the small end of the pear and almond slices for the ears. A small dollop of cottage cheese would serve as the tail at the back and bottom of the wide side of the pear. I also made a candle salad - cottage cheese would be the base, with an entire pineapple ring in the center. Then in the hole of the pineapple ring, I would place a half of a banana, skewering in a cherry to the top and small end of the banana.

We ate, what my Daddy always referred to as - real food. He was not a fan of tv dinners. But we children thought they were great....little aluminum trays sectioned off to hold a different food. Not very tasty, but a treat, none the less. Mama must have thought they were a treat, too. Fold back the foil, pop them in the over and out comes an entire meal!

I grew up near Chicago, so fast foods were readily available when I was younger. We rarely ate them. We rarely had Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, or pizza. Any of these would be a rare treat, although loved by all, except Daddy.

Now Daddy wasn't too keen on trying new things. I remember when margarine first hit our family dinner table. No, Daddy was not a fan. We had previously been eating butter with all our meals. But, Mama heard margarine was healthier. For years, and I mean years, when Daddy would need the margarine, he would ask, "Pass the oleo margarine, please." Even after the oleo part of the words had been dropped in most homes, Daddy would still say them, making a grimace when he did so.

The portions of all the meals, tv dinners included, were much smaller....much smaller, than they are today. And we were more active!

In today's life, it is more difficult to have everyone sit down for a meal at the same time, and at the dinner table. But, occasionally it is worth a try!