In a New York Times Magazine article, food writer Mark Bittman claimed he never let his daughters eat in front of the TV.
Really? Never?? I agree that television is much more intrusive now than it was in 1955, but I can’t see that it’s so very bad to eat an occasional meal while being entertained by cowboys, or doctors, or little puppets.
One of my favorite childhood meals was our family’s weekly Sunday night supper. We ate grilled-cheese sandwiches and potato chips as we sat around a card table watching “Roy Rogers” or “Hop-Along Cassidy.” My parents were relaxed, the meal was easy for my mom to cook, and we got to have potato chips for dinner. How great was that! After a week of regimented and “good-for-us” meals like chipped beef on toast, liver and onions, dry meatloaf and canned peas, or Friday night fish sticks, this Sunday supper eaten in front of our tiny television set was a cheerful and welcome change.
On the farm the main meal was served at noon. Supper was casual. By 6:00 in the evening my grandmother must have been beat. She was up before 5:00 a.m. to put on the coffee and start breakfast for my grandfather and the hired men. In addition to her regular housework she helped with the cows, worked in the garden, drove the car to do errands, made coffee and pastry for mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks for the farmers, and cooked a large meal in the middle of the day for whoever was there. And on top of this she was often the babysitter for her seven grandchildren. It’s no wonder she didn’t fix my brother and me gourmet dinners when our parents dropped us off at the farm for occasional weekend stays.
As far as I remember, Grandma Hall always made us the same dinner on those weekend nights. My brother and I ate it as we sat in the two big armchairs in front of the living room television set. I can’t remember what we watched. It didn’t matter. We had the room to ourselves while our grandparents ate their own meal in the kitchen. No one told us how to eat our food or made us finish what was on our plate before we could have dessert.
This is what Grandma Hall set in front of us on the metal TV trays – a bowl of iceberg lettuce and a bottle of Kraft French dressing to pour over it and a green Melmac plate holding a pile of Franco-American spaghetti and a fried hamburger patty with ketchup.
For dessert we had strawberry ripple ice cream that our grandmother bought by the commercial-sized tub-full at a local dairy and kept in the back pantry’s horizontal freezer. So frozen was this confection, that my grandmother had to use her sharpest kitchen knife to cut pyramid-shaped pieces from the icy depths. I loved that ice cream. For a slow eater like me, those hard, triangular wedges kept their cold creaminess until the last bite.
When we were finished eating, we cleared our dishes, folded the TV trays, and vacated the big chairs so our grandparents could fall asleep and snore while watching their favorite shows – “Professional Wrestling,” (my grandfather’s first choice), “Lawrence Welk,” “What’s My Line?” or “Beat the Clock.”
On Friday: November Window