Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shut Up And Eat Your Bugs

When I was a child my grandmother and grandfather lived on the other side of town.  This was an ideal situation for my parents because it allowed them the opportunity to use my grandmother for babysitting purposes, to watch my older brother and I. Grandma as I recall did an alright job babysitting. Often she had her nose buried in a romance novel or was knitting/ dominating the television most of the time. Every day as I came home from school I remember the familiar closing credits song from the Young and the Restless echoing from the living room.

Although my grandmother had raised two kids herself and had a knack for baking, what she would routinely create and call "food" was highly debatable. My grammy and gramps used to live in a farmhouse on a farm (duh) that my grandfather worked for. My grandparents were frugal (cheap) with their cash. Instead of going to the grocery store like normal people and buying a pound of ground or a roast they would buy an entire years worth of beef and stick it in a giant freezer they kept in the basement. Every weekend almost without fail we would go to their house for Sunday dinner. My grandmother routinely whipped out the same kind of dish. It was always a variation of some weird cut of meat, Yorkshire pudding and a medley of mushy vegetables. The meat  itself was never fresh. It had a shoe leather consistency (of course) but the real charm was that each slice contained 60% fat and 35% gristle. Not to mention that every bite was drier than the Sahara and had a mild freezer burn taste. The only way to combat the repulsive roast was to drown it in about a liter of gravy and try to choke it down.

A second instance of a food war that my brother and I had versus my grandmother was the Perch incident. I apologize if you are reading this and you like Perch. I have not eaten it since I was about 8 years old and here is why.  My grandma was old school when it came to dinner. "You can't have your pudding if you don't eat your meat!" was her motto. In this particular instance my grammy had cooked up a hot pile of ass from Highliner. If you don't know, Perch is a type of fish. As far as fish go I'm not a big fan as it is but, if there is a tasty dessert waiting for me on the other end I can generally swallow a few ounces of fish to get to it. 

On this particular occasion my brother and I had met our match. You know how kids usually cram their vegetables in their mashed potatoes to help get them down? well, we were trying to mix the fish in with our vegetables just to stop our gag reflexes from barfing the fish back onto the plate. My grandmother however was a stern one. No matter how much discomfort and disgust showed on our faces she refused to let us leave the table until we ate all of our fish. 

What felt like hours seemed to pass and the fish got colder and colder. Eventually we opened up the fridge to see if there were any condiments available that could mask the awful fish flavor. Alas, no amount of ketchup, Miracle Whip, relish or Cheese Whiz could take down the offensive flavor of the almighty Perch. To this day I can't even remember if we finished the fish or my parents came home first. Either way when it came to eating every scrap of food on your plate my grandmother meant serious business.

The final instance and the family favorite that I can remember of my grandmother's cooking was the following: Way back in the 80's there was a soup made by Lipton called "Alligator Soup" or some variation of that title. The soup contained no real alligators. Instead, it was instant chicken noodle soup with little alligator cutouts made of noodle. It was a soup designed by the masterminds at Lipton to make eating soup "fun!" for kids. Over time our family had accrued a lot of this soup. We had eaten it several times over the years but for a stretch of at least a few months we stopped eating it. 

One day for lunch my grandma decided to cook us up a healthy bowl of Alligator soup. She plunked two bowls down in front of my brother and I and we began gobbling it up. After a few minutes my brother stopped eating and exclaimed "I think that there are bugs in my soup." My grandmother walked over and sternly replied "Those are not bugs, those are alligators." My brother then said "No, not the alligators, those little black things floating in the soup!" My grandmother examined closer and said "Those are not bugs, they are flecks of pepper and spices." To which my brother said "Well, my spices are moving." and then I piped up and said "And my spices have wings!" It was at this point that my grandmother took a harsh and unexpected line and said "I do not believe you, it's clearly pepper!" My grandmother had decided that my brother and I were lying to her were trying to get out of eating alligator soup.

 For the record alligator soup was fairly delicious when compared to the jam and cheese sandwiches she would try to make us eat. We had no reason not to eat the soup save for the fact that it HAD BUGS IN IT!. And it wasn't just one bug either. The soup was probably comprised of 20% bugs but my grandmother got it stuck in her head not to lose the battle of the bugs and instead tried to force us to eat them. She never said directly "Shut up and eat your bugs." but I'm fairly certain she was thinking it.


  1. Bugs make you grow up big and strong, right?

  2. folks from the 'old days' do a lot of stuff that wouldn't be acceptable now ... jeeeeeezus ... i'm cringing thinking about the things i was forced to eat ... no wonder i have food allergies!

  3. Yeah old people are horrible. That's why I throw stuff at them. bastards.

  4. Pea soup looks like The Exorcist's crew meal.
    I will never forgive them for the trauma and the nightmares.

  5. I love old people. Especially when their voicemail says "if I'm not home, I am at Walmart. Have a blessed day." Wait, do they even have voicemail? Or a cassette tape?

  6. My Grandma was from Norway. We ate lots of "freezer beef" with potatoes and gravy too... But that was always better than the dreaded lutefisk (cod soaked in lye). Uff da!

  7. Where can I purchase this pre-peppered soup you speak of.

  8. "my spices have wings!" haha. My Gran'ma always made stew EVERY time we went there to visit and it was always the same. I hated it. The smell of it cooking filled you up in a bad way, before it was even ready to be served. Thick yucky aroma. I'm just glad there weren't bugs in it. Grandmothers are awful cooks.

  9. "What's this soup doing on my fly?"

    Great post, it reminds me of my grandparents :)

  10. Bug are nutrishous as long as the bug didn't consume something poison then the bug is poisoness.

    Kind reminds me of "truth or dare" as kids.

    Keep Writing great blog!