High Treason

When I was a kid, we ate the same basic meals all the time. I was a picky eater, but my mom was good in the kitchen and she taught me how to cook at an early age.

I left home when I was 14 (There's a point to all this reminiscing, I'm getting there.) and had to learn to eat slightly different foods, but basically I was the cook so I could keep making the same things as I grew up with.

When I was in my early 20's I was living very close to my mom again, and we started having Sunday dinners together. My mom made a cabbage stew which I had always loved, so I asked her to make it one week.

Imagine my shock and horror when I took a big bite and it tasted drastically different than my memory! It wasn't what I had expected at all. While I wasn't mad, I did find myself upset, and I felt a little betrayed. How could she ruin it like that?

Turns out she had learned from her previous husband to add a can of V-8 juice to the recipe. Well, my tender taste buds thought that was a really bad idea. I don't think I ate any of the offending stew.

Why would I feel betrayed? I've been thinking about it. We form memories and attachments to certain smells and tastes. Taste and smell seem to get locked in.

For example, I went outside yesterday and that distinctive spring rain smell was in the air. You probably know it. It's really clean and fresh. I used to think it was ozone but I heard on The Naked Scientists that it's actually spores released by the rain into the air. That smell makes me feel optimistic and happy, maybe because Spring is my favorite time of year.

It seems that my mood can be changed by what is in the air, especially when it involves food. If it evokes good memories, like pumpkin pie or cookies baking in the oven, it's just the best thing ever. I guess that's what people call Comfort Food -  stuff that evokes good memories.

I thought it was interesting that it seemed like high treason for my mom to just change her age old recipes. We had many discussions after that regarding food. I wanted to make sure she would make her pumpkin pies exactly like she used to, or not put anything funny in the mashed potatoes.

Bless her heart, she never tried to make the cabbage stew with V-8 juice again, when I was there. Now I live far away again, but every holiday season, I make sure to ask her how she is making the sweet potatoes. I don't tolerate insurrection lightly!

Do you have any foods that you need and expect to taste a certain way, especially if made by your mother/father/grandmother/etc? Has a parental figure ever changed the way they made a food suddenly? If so, did you find it discomfiting? Or am I just overly sensitive?


  1. My wife goes so far as not to even let me cook because I "do it wrong" whereas I am much more about whipping something up with whatever's at hand. One of my former roommates actually called me a "perfect student" because I could "make something edible and healthy out of pretty much whatever happens to be around." That particular remark was because he came in carrying a kilo of winter carrots one day just as I was starting on dinner and I still managed to incorporate them in the final result, but he also meant that I could often be lazy on Saturday, not go to the grocery store, and still not have to worry about Sunday when the nearby grocery store was closed. Of course a large part of that is making sure that certain base ingredients like potatoes, pasta, cans of tomato paste, and canned and frozen vegetables (especially green beans in my case) are always around. My wife's not inflexible per se — she's generally fine with adding certain leftover vegetables to some dish — but she's just so much more picky than I am.

    I am picky too, but mostly against things that are said to be unhealthy. I don't like too much cheese, salt, sugar, fat, or lack of vegetables.

    1. Funny, my husband's cooking is fine with me, within the parameters of my pickiness. I think it's because I had no expectations or memories of what things should taste like with his creations.

      Whereas with my mom, I remembered vividly what things should taste like.

  2. Growing up, "cole slaw" was shredded cabbage with a dressing of Miracle Whip, milk and sugar, and that's what I like. Sometime after I was out of the house, my Mom got a recipe for an Oriental salad, which is shredded cabbage with sunflower seeds, almonds, crunched up Ramen noodles, and a dressing of sugar, oil, white vinegar, and the seasoning packets from the Ramen noodles. Not the same thing at all, but it's become her go-to side dish for company meals instead of the cole slaw I grew up with. And she never remembers that I don't like the Oriental salad.

    1. That's interesting, Marcia! That cole slaw recipe sounds so weird to me. So does the oriental salad one. :P

      Funny that she doesn't remember you don't like it. My mom is like that too.

  3. Love the blog and this post really resonated with me. My mom used to be a fabulous cook but seems to have lost the touch and meals at her house are always a disappointment...because I'm yearning for 'the way it used to be'. I do try to be understanding, but yes, it feels a bit like treason!

    On a side note, I noticed you used the phrase 'bless her heart'. As an atheist I have weaned myself off using the word 'bless' and would like to hear your thoughts on using it.

    1. Oh, that does sound disappointing, Andrea. Maybe you can offer to do the cooking when you're over there. :P

      Regarding "bless her heart", yes, I use the expression a lot. Personally I think it's funny. It's just an expression and doesn't mean I believe I'm actually blessing someone. (Of course, I'm twice over a reverend, so I actually Can bless people! Not that it means anything of course. lol)

      I went through a phase and de-christianized my language as much as possible quite a few years ago. I blogged about it and had people remind me that these are just words and expressions, and atheists can say whatever they like. It just doesn't carry any weight. You're just using common parlance.

      I have still kept most of the religious expressions that are pro-god out of my language, so as not to confuse people. But certain expressions are amusing to me as an atheist, because they are considered blasphemous.

      For instance, I "take the lord's name in vain" (whatever the hell that even means) by using Jesus Christ as a mild oath, or saying god damn.

      Specifically, "bless your heart" is a Southern expression which is usually used as a back-handed insult. For example, "bless her heart, she can't help being ugly, but she could have stayed home."

      I'm not from the south, but when a Georgia girl explained it to me, I was highly amused and started saying it when I was teasing someone, etc.

  4. @Andrea: I try not to use "bless you" too. In my small office, whenever someone sneezed, there used to be several choruses of "Bless you" going out, and I didn't like feeling obligated. So I just quit saying it - it was obvious sometimes when I was the only one here and somebody sneezed. I guess I started a trend, because now nobody says anything ;) I listened to the audiobook of Penn Jillette's "God No!" (excellent, I recommend it) and he talked about how he hated the sneezing "bless you" thing, so his family started saying "That's funny!" when someone sneezes.

    1. I don't say bless you anymore either, mainly because I think it gives the wrong message.

      I do say gesunheit though, just as a way to be thoughtful and polite.

      Of course, I know that it's just a sneeze and it's an old superstition to say anything, but now it's just a polite thing to do.

      Personally I think severe coughing should garner a reaction. Usually if someone coughs more than a little bit (like if they inhaled their drink, etc) I ask them if they're OK. I think I am just concerned for the person.

  5. @Andrea, Marcia
    Gesundheit is a normal (American) English word if you feel like saying something. Or you could try gezondheid to give it that touch of Dutch sophistication that German doesn't have. *angelic halo*

    1. lol, I say gesundheit, Frenzie. But I'm sure you'd totally make fun of my American pronunciation. :P