Culinary Culture Shock in the Midwest

2 Jul

This stay at my parents’ house has reminded me of what my mother (and presumably her side of the family in general) considers to be food. My dad almost never cooked when I was a kid (my parents are stuck in the 1950s), and my mother always cooked greasy meat and little else. She still believes that most vegetables come out of freezer bags and cans, if she thinks of vegetables (other than potatoes) at all. She did most of the grocery shopping when I was a kid, and she’d bring home meat, cookies, and candy. In college, I began transitioning to vegetarianism, and by 1995 I was entirely a lacto-octo vegetarian; since moving to Portland, Oregon, in 2008, I’ve become vegan and have a primarily natural and organic diet.

My dad and I went out for a late breakfast yesterday, at one of my parents’ favorite restaurants. The menu appalled me and grossed me out. It was almost all meat, a lot of it greasy. I almost ordered breaded mushrooms, until I read that they’re deep fried. My dad said that’s my mother’s favorite restaurant, and no wonder! Today she asked if I like fried potatoes. I love potatoes, but she said that (like her mother) she slices potatoes thin and fries them with onions in oil. Gross. She wants to make these disgusting Kansas White Trash fried potatoes for July 4 (she’s from Kansas, otherwise known as the Twilight Zone), but fortunately she’s willing to make parsley potatoes (boiled with parsley) for my dad and me and fried potatoes just for her. Whew.

It’s no wonder I had an upset stomach so much when I was a teenager: bullies surrounded me, I lived with a malignant narcissist “mother,” and I ate disgusting crap.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to eat more than enough edible food during my stay in Indiana. I once got my dad to go with me to the Chinese restaurant that’s downtown (yes, Valparaiso has a total of one Chinese restaurant, zero Indian restaurants, zero Thai restaurants, and zero Vietnamese restaurants). There’s a Mediterranean restaurant that I have repeatedly attempted to convince my dad to visit with me—and I finally succeeded after showing him their online menu. We had a delightful lunch there today. I’ve twice gone with my dad to the Broadway Café because he particularly likes it, and it has a few good dishes (I keep ordering a vegetable wrap sans eggs and cheese). When my dad was in the hospital for about a week, I frequently consumed salad, between the cafeteria and the salad fixings my mother purchased before I arrived. I’ve had no trouble finding stuff at a particular supermarket, and I still have a considerable supply from my care package.

I intend to use up everything that I shipped in the large care package; I don’t want to have any left over to ship back to Portland. This morning I opened the bag of all-natural sesame sticks from Trader Joe’s, and my dad was curious about it, so I passed the bag on to him. He really loved the sesame sticks! He’s accustomed to what apparently white Midwestern Americans mistake for food, and it’s a relief when he tries something good—such as the sesame sticks, or the Lebanese food at the restaurant today, or pomegranate acai juice—and truly likes it. Unlike my mother, he’s…sometimes…willing to try new things.

Though it is my intention to consume everything I sent in the care package, it has proved challenging, because my dad enjoys frequently eating out for lunch or breakfast, and he also is a food hoarder who likes bringing home groceries even though the fridge and even the gigantic garage freezer are packed. I feel a lot of pressure to pig out. This is one of the reasons I intend to fast after I return to Portland; I’ll be meditating and fasting, getting rid of toxins.

The combination of fasting and meditating will do it. I did Pilates first thing this morning, for the first time in about three weeks. I was sweaty, but I’m calm after all that exercise, even though the malignant narcissist is sitting a few feet away from me.

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