I‘m guessing I was not all that different from most kids in this regard, but the first words from my mouth when I bounded into the house after school was, “What’s for dinner?”
On the very odd occasion, my heart was filled with dread because my mom’s quiet answer to my question was simply, “Meat.” See, I knew that if we were having chicken, she’d say chicken. If she’d made a roast, she’d tell me we were having roast beef. But if she said “meat” – oh, the horror! – I knew the feature at dinner that night would be my worst nightmare: liver.
I don’t believe she served liver all that often (though in my mind, even once is far too much), but when she did my sister and I were obligated to eat just one tiny square of it, no exceptions and no excuses. My mom is an amazing and talented cook, but no one – not even Mom – could make anything appealing about that horrible piece of vile-tasting “meat” sitting on my plate waiting to be choked down. During those meals the faces of my family around the table blurred through my angry, frustrated tears as I held my nose and forced down that nasty morsel (doused in ketchup to hide a taste that simply couldn’t be hidden) with as little chewing as possible.
To this day, even ketchup on a hamburger has the potential to trigger an involuntary gag reflex.
But sometimes… sometimes I’d come home to the most intoxicating smell of all – bacon frying! – and realize with a thrill that one of my most favourite and beloved meals was in the process of being prepared for our consumption:
Breakfast for dinner!
I think in part I loved breakfast for dinner so much because it broke all the rules. There was something so delightfully naughty, somehow, about sitting down to a sanctioned plateful of “morning food” in the evening. Eating breakfast for dinner brought us together as co-conspirators, thumbing our noses at convention and propriety.
And it was good! Bacon and eggs, sometimes sausages, fried tomatoes, occasionally blueberry pancakes or homemade biscuits. And the biscuits! Back in the 1970s I don’t remember anyone knowing much or caring about heart disease, so Mom’s biscuits were rich and often delightfully flavoured with bacon grease and served hot, dripping with butter and melting in our mouths. Those biscuits tasted like small pieces of heaven… delicious, delicious heaven.
Mom was a full-time homemaker who often stayed up through the night in the summer, when it finally cooled down, to preserve bottle after bottle of fresh fruit brought back from the Okanagan to feed us throughout the winter months. It’s no surprise – and in fact was tradition – that “dessert” after breakfast for dinner was always a big bowl of fruit salad, the perfect ending to the perfect meal.
The memories of the hated “meat” are strong, but my memories of breakfast for dinner are stronger and sweeter.