A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Two Italian staples - guilt and food

Ed and I were having chicken for dinner last night . I took the smaller piece and he wanted to be sure I had enough because he didn't think he could eat all of the larger piece. I told him, "Eat what you can, no rule that you have to finish the whole thing!" He said, "Just as long as you don't put a clock on the table." Responding to my puzzled look, he informed me that when he was little, his mother would put a clock on the table and he had a certain amount of time to finish everything on his plate. I asked him what happened if he didn't make it. "I'd get my ass beat!" he said.

He seemed surprised that I wasn't raised with a clock on the table. I said, oh, no - my family was Italian and much more into guilt than that. When my cousin and I were quite little, I distinctly remember our grandmother sitting us down to eat. There, in the middle of the kitchen table, resting on the sugar bowl and contrasting nicely with the red and white checked tablecloth, was a picture ripped from a magazine of emaciated, sad little kids in India or China with their hands holding out an empty bowl. Apparently there were a lot of these photos around back in the late 40's and early 50's because there seemed to be a new one at each meal. We were always told we had to eat everything on our plates because there were kids starving in these far off places!

Of course, being the smart-mouthed little brat that I was, I once suggested to my grandmother that perhaps we should just send whatever we didn't eat over "there". Well, my family firmly believed in spankings so you can guess what happened next.

As I got older, my mother used to deny using such guilt-ridden tactics, but my cousin and I remember. Their voices ringing in our ears, "Eat, there are kids starving over there!"

Did your parents use any drastic techniques to get you to eat?


ira said...

ok..My mother used to use the guilt tactic too! Only, she said that all grains were made alike,the ones which were thrown out would cry!! :)

Wastage of food or anything for that matter is tabbooed in our family!

Jenni said...

I used the "there are children starving in Africa" with Vika and Eamon just last week! Vika's response was similar to yours: "Mama! We should send them some of OUR food!"

Wendy said...

I used to get guilt trips at the dinner table too but a clock!?!? I don't think I've ever heard of that. Poor guy. Not good for the digestion.

kathy said...

Nothing drastic. We simply had to take at least one good sized bite of everything on our plate.

To this day, brussle sprouts make me gag and the PTSD kicks in ; )

Halfmexican Mama said...

We had to sit at the table until the food was GONE of course if it got too late we were sent directly to bed, and the same plate would be at our spot for breakfast the next day!

yummm!!! cold cabbage and cold meat and potaotes!!! while other kids ate pancakes and cap'n crunch!

I still suffer from the mental damage.

Sandi said...

Guess all mothers have their little tricks. Even my daughter!

Ira - I like the idea of attributing feelings to the food. Interesting concept.

Jenni - Vika's a girl after my own heart

Wendy - Ed eats just fine these days

Kathy - Sorry about the brussel sprout thing

HMM - Cold dinner for breakfast definitely wins the prize!