Who made your lunch as a kid? (And who makes your kids’ lunches if applicable?)

When I was in second grade, my father made my lunch for me.  Because he was a European immigrant, I generally had a roll (my favorite were onion rolls), a hunk of cheese or sliced carrots and a piece of fruit, often an orange that he would score for me for easy peeling.  All in an old plastic bread-bag.  People made fun of me for not having a peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwich.  They made fun of the scores on the orange.  They especially made fun of the plastic bag.  In third and fourth grade, my father had bouts of employment that took him away from the family for months at a time and I ended up mostly eating hot lunches at school.

In fifth grade, the teasing about every aspect of my life got worse and nobody ate hot lunch (possibly because they were more expensive).  It was time for me to start making my own lunch because my mother simply did not have time on top of everything else.  So each week she’d get me whatever I wanted at the grocery store that I could throw together (within reason– we couldn’t afford lunchables).  A standard lunch for me would be one of those neon orange soft cheese and cracker packets (store-brand handi-snacks), a bag of doritos, a juice box, and maybe a piece of fruit all in a nice brown lunch bag that we’d buy by the pack.

Possibly in seventh grade I started making more wholesome lunches because my father was back and no way were we wasting money on junk food with him around.  I also started making my sister’s lunch at the same time I made mine– sandwiches with two slices of bread and standard things in the middle, a piece of fruit, and maybe a homemade cookie (as I had learned to bake).  When I left for high school, I’m not sure if she started making her own or just got hot lunch.

Today we make our toddler’s lunch (alternating dinner from the night before in a metal thermos with random healthy stuff in a bento-box) and DC1 makes hir own lunch (usually a nut-butter/cookie-butter and jelly sandwich) and a bag of gummies.  We hope that DC2’s wheat allergy is gone before ze starts demanding nut butter and jelly sandwiches like DC2 did in preschool.

#2 says, I remember my mom making lunches for me when I was little, because I remember the little notes she’d write on the napkin.  Stuff like “Have a great day, [my nickname [ed guess: Pookie-pie] [nope] ]! XOXO Mom”.

When it came time for me to make my own lunches, I do remember using stuff like Lunchables (which had just come out and were nowhere near as fancy and varied as they are now).  I also made sandwiches– I have a certain opinion about making PBJ so that the jelly doesn’t soak the bread (put peanut butter on it first [#1 notes:  this is correct]) and the correct peanut butter (crunchy [also correct]).  Also, I ate a lot of cold cuts in sandwiches that I mostly made myself.  Lots of granola bars.  We were not allowed to have doritos or any bagged chips/crisps in our house, and no cookies either.  I remember having an insulated lunch bag.  I have no idea what my sister had for lunch, she’s so much younger than me.

This was all in, say, 4th or 5th grade through 9th grade.  In 4th-6th grade there were also some times where I went home for lunch, mostly with my one friend to her house, and ate whatever stuff they had there.  By 6th grade we were trusted to walk to her house, unlock it, eat, and get back to school on time by ourselves, but we didn’t do it every day, because it was a little bit far to walk in the time we had.  I think the Lunchables in the school lunchroom were 7th and 8th grade.  I never got a hot lunch at school, except for very occasional treats that were pizza days.  [#1 notes:  whoa, I completely forgot that in 4th grade I lived close enough to the school to walk home for lunch, which I would do on a pretty regular basis.  That probably isn’t allowed anymore unless a parent actually shows up at school to do the escorting.]

Tell us about your school lunches, Grumpeteers.  It brings back surprisingly detailed memories, just like Anne Lamott predicted in her book Bird by Bird.

Ask the grumpies: Party food

Debbie M. asks

What’s your favorite food to bring to parties? To see at parties?

 

We’ve already discussed potlucks specifically, so we’ll assume you’re not talking about pot-lucks, but about parties for which you are not expected to bring anything.

Wine is a good choice for these.  I am partial to bringing a bottle of Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, as it is a light tasty wine that is unpretentious but also classy.  It’s not out of place anywhere, at least not anywhere that wine is served.  (I know this because several people whose opinion on wine we value far higher than our own have served this or purchased it at restaurants.)  Sometimes though, we’ll bring a six-pack of whatever DH’s favorite hard cider of the moment is.  #2 agrees and says she likes to bring wine or a beer that she likes so she knows there will be at least one beer she likes.

If we’re not sure that alcohol will be welcome, we usually whip up a dessert because you can never have too many of those.  Sometimes a pie, sometimes cookies, sometimes a quick bread or cupcakes.  Whatever we feel like will fit.

My favorite foods to see at parties:  little sausages in modified bbq sauce in a warmer (because we would never make these at home and I love them) and cucumber sandwiches (because I love them but never seem to be able to make them right… though I suspect the people who make them right are dying off :( ).  I also like cocktail shrimp.  And sometimes people make really good cake, but it’s hard to tell if cake is going to be good without trying it… I suppose that’s a reason to have children, so you can make them try the cake.

#2 can get behind some tasty dips– she likes things that are salty and flavorful.  Most people’s sweets are too sweet.

#1 kind of likes raw veggie trays with dips.  #2 agrees, citing cucumbers and carrots specifically.

Ask the grumpies: favorite recipes

Debbie M asks

What’s your favorite recipe and why?

 

Oh gee, one doesn’t have a favorite recipe, I don’t think.  And the things I make over and over again I don’t use recipes for.  So me saying spaghetti with meat sauce … well, that doesn’t really come with a recipe.  (Slice an onion, saute it.  Add garlic.  Add ground beef.  Stir.  Throw in a jar of spaghetti sauce if there’s any in the pantry.  If not, throw in whatever canned tomato product you have and some amount of basil/oregano/garlic salt/italian seasoning/etc.  Add tomato paste if it needs thickening.  Cook until the right consistency.  Serve over spaghetti.)  Why spaghetti?  Because it’s delicious and easy to make on a weeknight and has all the necessary food groups– meat, tomato sauce, onions, and pasta.

Now, DH has a favorite recipe– his grandmother’s rolls.  These come with a long history, but basically his grandma made them for every family function and nobody else makes them the same way.  DH’s aunt finally videotaped and measured every step to get a recipe for the family so the rolls would still be around even after DH’s grandma left.  The resulting recipe is close but still not quite the same.  DH made many batches of rolls trying to figure out what small changes needed to be made to get it just right.  And he finally succeeded.

DH’s grandma’s rolls:

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded cooled milk (no longer need to scald)
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 package yeast
5 1/2 cups flour or enough so it won’t be sticky.

Beat yeast in warm water. Add salt, sugar, and oil. Add milk. Stir in flour. Knead. Place in greased container. Let rise 1-2 hours. Knead again. Make into buns. If sticky, roll in flour. Dunk buns individually in oil and place in greased pan. Let rise one hour. Bake 30 min at 350 F. When done, rub with oleo.

DH’s notes: Second knead is light. Skimp on oil for dunking. Makes 12 buns.

Of course, now we make our own hybrid with whole-wheat flour (which doesn’t rise as high if you substitute more than one cup) and butter instead of “oleo”. And he often makes 16 small buns instead of 12 ginormous ones.

Why is this is favorite recipe?  Because it tastes like love, but doesn’t quite have the sugar load of her cinnamon rolls or her strawberry jam (which are also great, but very sweet).  And they’re longer lasting than her noodles which really have to be eaten fresh.

#2 also doesn’t have a favorite recipe, but when pressed admits to anything over pasta.  Why?  Because it is delicious.

Grumpy Nation, share your favorite recipes and reasonings!

Ask the grumpies: Potluck dishes

Debbie M. asks:

What’s good for potlucks?

Spinach balls! Pasta salad.  Casserole?  Cookies.  Cake.  Rolls.

This is a hard one for #2– lately I’ve been bringing things like “soda” and “cups” to pot-lucks.  It’s not that I don’t like to cook, it’s just that I don’t have the time or that’s what I’m assigned.  I think the last pot-luck I was assigned to bring Pocky.

One pot-lock I brought a chicken pate thing that nobody ate at all.  It was delicious later with my RAs, but sad at the time.  (#1 has tried this recipe and ATE IT ALL UP!)

My Swedish rose cookies are always a hit (butter cookies with a thumb-print of raspberry or strawberry jam in the middle).

If asked to bring a salad, I will often make champagne salad , which was my mother’s potluck standard.  It’s kind of like a healthy ice cream, for some definitions of healthy.  I make it with whipped cream instead of cool-whip.

#1 is too tired to cook most of the time, but I generally try to bring something I’d like to eat; something easy; something that’s ok at room temperature; or something I had lying around anyway.  Ain’t nothing wrong with bringing a store platter of hummus, pita, cheese, grapes, etc.  I can barely get up the motivation to cook my OWN food sometimes!

Golly gee wiz, I just don’t know.

Grumpy Nation:  The potluck season is upon us.  What is good for potlucks?

Grocery lists

We have an open source grocery list.

What that means is that rather than one person taking charge of the grocery list, we stick a used envelope up on the refrigerator and people can write things that we’re running out of or have a hankering for on there as we notice or hanker throughout the week.  On Friday evening or Saturday morning, we do menu planning and add other stuff to the list right before grocery shopping.

Open source is nice because nobody has to have the full mental load of this particular chore and if we want something, we can just put it on there.

Of course, if you’re on a really tight budget, this kind of open sourcing isn’t going to work– or you can only use it to put staples back up on there (rice, beans, canned tomatoes, frozen mixed veggies, etc.) when you’re running out.  When your every penny counts, a top down budgeting planned around your pantry and whatever the week’s sales are makes the most amount of sense.  Not having money can take more mental load.

I’m also waiting for DC1 to discover that ze can add things to the list at times other than menu planning.  If ze sticks to just writing ice cream (because ice cream is AOK in my book), that won’t be a big deal, but if ze starts adding things like cheetos, I may be lost forever, assuming DH buys them just because they’re on the list.  (“Hm, I wonder why DW put cheetos on the list?  I thought she was totally addicted to those and couldn’t have them in the house without getting sick.  Must be for a recipe of some sort…”)  DC2 will probably have even more interesting demands, knowing DC2.  (“How did lobster make it on the list?  DW must have it down for a recipe… I wonder if she knows it’s $30/lb right now.”)  Fortunately the amount of damage that can be done at a grocery store when you make a reasonably good amount of money is limited.  At least compared to say, if we had an open-source Target list.

How do you do your grocery planning?  Is it one person?  Multiple?  Do you bring a list?  How do you decide what to put on it?

Shocking victory of recipe over perceived science

So I tried the one-pot pasta dish and it worked!  Although both I and CPP had our doubts, the pasta turned out al dente and not broken (I used the small penne from Trader Joe’s).  I had to resist (heroically) the urge to throw in more liquid while it was cooking, but to my surprise, it all came out tasty.  I was fairly precise about the amount of pasta I used (weighed out 12 oz with a scale) and that may have helped — as compared to my usual eyeballing everything.  The amount of liquid was exactly right; nothing was burnt nor was anything soggy.

I didn’t take pictures.  Next time I make it I’ll make a few different flavoring choices than the ones I used, but that’s a feature, not a bug.  All the liquid absorbed and made a light sauce that was neither runny nor heavy, and not too much of it, either.  I used chicken stock in place of plain water.  The fresh basil is om nom nom.  I think next time I’ll put in some wodges of fresh mozzarella.  The sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil were just right.

Saving water and still eating pasta == WINNING.

(I’m still surprised, but I also just polished off the leftovers, and there’s no arguing with that!)

 

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I trust my body

The great irony is that I learned to trust my body at the point at which it was most broken.

Let’s step back a bit.

I started getting a little chubby around the time when my period started in middle school.  In high school I lost a lot of weight because my religion forbids me from eating poorly prepared food and our cafeteria food was worse than prison-grade, so I ended up doing this kind of feast and famine thing where I’d starve during the week and fill up on the weekends.  This was especially bad between when they stopped providing Total cereal in the cafeteria during junior year and before I was able to ask my parents if I could have a food allowance senior year (money was always really tight at home and I didn’t want to be a burden, plus the dorms only had microwaves and fridges for food preparation).

When I got to college I grew two inches.  People complained about the college cafeteria, but the lettuce was never brown or even yellow.  There was fish!  Nothing sat in tubs of melted grease.  Cold-cuts!  Cheese!  Whole wheat bread!  The milk was never sour.  They served juice made from actual fruit!  No, not as good as home cooking, but the salad bar alone was like heaven after years of starving.

In college I was surrounded by beautiful skinny women who were always complaining about how fat they were.  Everyone dieted.  I resisted, but somehow they got to me (I didn’t even *notice* they’d gotten to me until my first year of graduate school when someone asked why I talked about my weight so much… oh, man, I’d been indoctrinated).  I counted calories.  I ate a lot of sugary things that had no fat because the no-fat diet was in.  I was always hungry.   I don’t remember ever consciously thinking about doing this– if asked, I would have told you I was against diets and poor body images (and happy with my breast size!), and yet, I was doing what everybody else did.  And I continually gained weight.  I was my heaviest weight ever by the end of college (I can *totally* fit into my college clothing, though I don’t because styles change).

Scratch that, I was actually my heaviest weight my first year of graduate school.  BCP and depression and not having to walk very much caused me to gain all the weight I’d lost the summer between college and grad school and some more.  (I’ve seriously blocked this time from my memory.)  After getting the depression under control and moving where I had to walk more to get to school, I dropped some, but was still was heavier than the healthy weight for my height, and not because I had too much muscle.

Then we decided we were ready to have children.  I went off BCP.  I cycled once.  Then twice.  Then not again.  So I went to the doctor who sent me to another doctor.  And then another doctor because my insurance changed, and then another.  The second doctor suggested PCOS (and POF and thyroid).  The third doctor confirmed PCOS.

For a year and a half my body was broken.  Every three months I’d take a provera challenge to get my cycle started again.  I was poked and prodded and found out I had a blocked tube on top of not cycling.

During this time I found out a lot about PCOS.  I found out I’d been doing the diet thing all wrong for me.  No fat was ridiculous for my body and was the reason I kept gaining weight while always being hungry.  I cut out HFCS.  Then sugar.  Then refined carbs.  I upped my fruit, nuts, and full-fat ice cream intake.  I began snacking.  I stopped being hungry all the time.  Sweet things began to taste more sweet and I started being able to appreciate dark chocolate for the first time.  Weight started falling off effortlessly at a pound or two a week.  I stopped having mood swings.  My acanthosis nigricans went away.  I stopped being sad for no reason (other than the infertility-related reasons).  My rational mind had much better control.  Eventually I added Metformin to get the insulin under control and weight slipped off even faster.

The major thing that happened (before the Metformin) was I started listening to my body.  I started listening to my hunger.  I started noticing what foods made me feel crappy later, and what foods filled me up.  I ignored calorie counts (mostly– it’s still kind of ingrained, but now it’s more, is this an 80 calorie hunger=apple or a full 200 calorie=small meal/larabar hunger?), instead listening to my stomach and to my moods.  I learned to recognize when my  blood sugar was dipping and always had something on hand before it could get out of hand.

And listening to my body is so much easier and less stressful than adding up points or calories or trying to be the mental command-economy for my body’s caloric intake and outtake.  I don’t need a calculator, just some mindfulness.

Now, that’s not quite everything.  I still have a very addictive personality and very little willpower.  But I’m also very good at putting in commitment devices in pretty much all areas of my life.  If I’m aware of my triggers, I can keep out of their way.  For example, if there are chips in the house, I will eat them, even though I know I’ll feel cruddy later.  Same with chocolate frosted donuts.  So I don’t keep these things in the house.  I don’t buy them.  DH isn’t allowed to buy them, and if DC1 buys them they belong to hir and I can’t have any.

That’s not to say I never eat junk… but when I get a boxed lunch at work, I give back the chips right away, unless they’re cheetos (I allow myself cheetos of opportunity).  I have rules.  I only eat sweets if they pass a certain quality threshhold (chocolate chip cookies from the good bakery, yes!  from the grocery store, no!), same with pizza (local place, yes!  Domino’s, no!), and with donuts, if there’s a chocolate frosted, I’ll take it, but no other kind.  (When I was pregnant I avoided even the above because of borderline GD with the first and that nasty wheat allergy with the second– I have a lot of willpower when it’s someone else’s life on the line).  When DH bakes something, I’ll usually eat some (and he often cuts the sugar and substitutes wheat flour if applicable).  I keep a bar of Green and Black 70-85% dark in my desk drawer at all times and take a square whenever I have a craving.  I don’t deprive myself, but the junk food has to be really good for it to be worth it, and if it is good enough, then I generally don’t need that much to be satisfied.

We also do psychological things like use salad plates for meals instead of the big plates.  We take multiple little servings so we can better judge when we’re no longer hungry.  Sometimes we freeze a batch of cookies to dole them out in smaller amounts later.  Back before DC1 was so big, we’d take half of a cake we’d just made to daycare so we wouldn’t eat it ourselves.  These things help us to pause so we can listen to hunger and desire.

And no, doing these kinds of things alone probably won’t put most people at the bottom of their healthy range.  (And some of my eating needs are specific to PCOS and my body. YMMV, which is why it’s important for you to listen to you.)  Depending on how much junk I’ve been adding (because with nobody’s life at stake, and DC2 not eating whole wheat, refined carbs have snuck in), how much exercise I’ve been getting, and whether or not I’m hard-core nursing, I can be anywhere within that range, usually between the middle and the top unless I’m on metformin or the baby is getting most of hir calories from me.

But I don’t need to be super thin.

I just need to listen to my body and take care of it so that it will take care of me.

And that fits in with the greater grumpy rumblings philosophy… mindful laziness with a side order of commitment device can do great things, with health, child-rearing, even career concerns.  Figure out what works for your specific situation, set up an environment where it’s easier to achieve those goals, and change things when they’re not working.  Complete flexibility within a rigid setting.  Mindfulness creating a low mental load.  Grumpy rumblings is vast: contains multitudes.

#2 would like to remind everyone that, whether or not you would like to make food and exercise changes, a great thing to have is radical self-love.

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