Friday, January 27, 2023

Dinner With the Family

Image by wixin lubhon from Pixabay 

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device

"Tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time." -Gerald R. Ford

Dear Stickies and Gentlereaders,

I'm so old that when I was a kid eating dinner supper with the whole fan damily was literally a rule, and I don't recall being aware of any family that didn't follow the rule. 

{Fan damily?} 

A lame old joke that still pleases me, Dana. I enjoy spoonerisms as much as I do bad puns and alliteration.

{Lame and old would seem to...}  

This rule was not the result of the fact that, as Stanford University now informs us, "Numerous studies show that eating together not only is an important aspect of family life..." that "when a family sits down together, it helps them handle the stresses of daily life and the hassles of day-to-day existence."

Paging Norman Rockwell. 


The reason my family ate together every day — which we called supper because "Democrats eat supper at 5:00, Republicans eat dinner at 9:00" according to my parents — was for both traditional and practical reasons and just the way things were. 

{Wait-wait-wait. Dinner vs. supper? I don't get it.}

You're overthinking it, it was just one of the ways Ed and Reda Mehlmauer expressed their firm belief that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the working man gets it in the neck. 

{Don't you mean working person?} 

Nope. They were both too busy trying to keep their seven kids fed, clothed, and sheltered to worry about sexism, and not even aware of their white privilege. Alas, both died relatively young. He was 56, she was 64, and they both died prior to the Great Awokening.

It was traditional, I can remember hanging out in front of a local corner store, the proprietors of which lived upstairs, waiting for their family to finish supper and reopen the store. 

By the way, like most stores at the time, it wasn't open all night and was closed on Sundays. I'm not personally aware of anyone starving to death because of these primitive customs but I am aware of individuals who were the victims of intense nicotine fits. 

It was practical, for multiple reasons. Most mums were stay-at-home mums and making supper was part of the job description. Larger families and less prosperity on average made eating out relatively rare in working-class circles. "Fast food" was around but not ubiquitous like it is today. 

Obviously, pizza and Chinese food were two all-American exceptions. You may have visited Colonial Williamsburg, eaten pizza made in brick ovens, and taken a ride in an authentic, horse-drawn pizza delivery wagon.

Unfortunately, being a working-class family of nine, real pizza was rare. But Chef Boyardee's pizza in a box came along in 1955. Some maintained it tasted more like the box than it did actual pizza but the price was right.  

Chinese food dates to when the California Gold Rush got cooking. A beautifully restored Chinese laundry and a Chinese restaurant next door that were in continuous operation since 1848 — that are now owned by the San Francisco Historical Society — are currently closed due to pending multi-party litigation. 

But I drift. 

Thinking back, I seem to remember that my sibs and I stayed fairly busy pursuing a wide variety of interests and activities in spite of the fact that supper was at five — be there or go hungry.

Free-range child rearing was also a tradition, but any adult-organized/supervised after-school stuff was run by people who also had to get home for supper. Evening activities — street fairs, dances, boy or girl scout meetings, loafing on a comfortable stoop, etc. — had to wait till supper was over.

{What the hell is a stoop?}

But that was then. We stayed busy but the pace of life was slower and we didn't have nearly as many options and choices. Nowadays, mum's stuck at work, and who wants to hang out and gossip and flirt on the stoop on warm summer evenings now that air conditioners aren't only for rich people and we have social media?

{What the hell is a stoop?}

I'll bet that after I'm deleted the Stickies will reminisce about how Poppa liked to eat his dinner in his man cave while streaming a carefully chosen movie or TV show on his large computer monitor because he used his phone (which was often turned off) primarily for phone calls and that he regarded the concept of a smart TV as a contradiction in terms.  

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Scroll down to share this column or access my golden(?) oldies. You too can be a patron of the arts! Click here.    

Feel free to love, hate, or troll me on my Facebook page. I post my latest columns on Saturdays, other things other days. Cranky don't tweet, but in light of recent events, I'm considering it... Go Elon, go!