When I was growing up, my family “work duty” at home before dinner was to pick vegetables from the garden, rinse, and then chop them for inclusion in the evening meal. My mother’s idea of “fast food” was using canned tomatoes to make pasta sauce rather than fresh tomatoes. Her definition of dessert was fresh fruit and cheese. Breakfast was always oatmeal, which she made for us before she went off to work in the clothing mills in Lawrence. Dinners were typically beans mixed with fresh pasta (my grandmother made it almost daily), olives, freshly-grated cheese, an enormous salad and a small piece of meat, fish or chicken a few times a week. In other words, a deliciously-prepared fresh meal Mediterranean style. And, of course, I liked none of it.
As a typical adolescent, I wanted to find my own way in the world. I hated all “their” food. I thought the pasta was “gross” — I preferred the kind that came from a box. I thought the peaches that grew on our backyard tree were “boring” — I wanted those shiny, sicky-sweet canned peaches. And the oatmeal — how I complained about that oatmeal! I wanted and consumed as frequently as possible (brace yourself) sugary, artificially-colored, marshmallow-laden varieties in a box, the kind that made the milk turn pink or blue or green. And when I complained about doing my Latin homework, she would say “I don’t want you to MARRY your Latin teacher, I simply want you to do your homework — now!”
As I progressed through the curricula for my degrees in nutrition, it became apparent that I had been profoundly foolish. One day in a graduate school research class, we discussed the “selective cholesterol-lowering effect of oat bran.” I was routinely eating oatmeal by then, as well as ALL the foods I had shunned back in my misspent youth, but I still felt that inevitable pang of guilt. My forward-thinking mother had passed away years before I “saw the light”, so she never had the chance to say “I told you so.”
But she DID tell me. And all these years and so many lessons later, I fully confess that I wish I’d listened to her. And when I married a (P.A.) Latin teacher, I could hear her laughing from somewhere in the great beyond. So as you begin a new school year, don’t be surprised if one day you ask yourself if you should have listened to your mother.
Happy new school year!