Foodwise, my mother was ahead of her time.  She wasn’t the only one of course: the 70s were filled with people discovering wheat germ and carob and sprouts and homemade yogurt.  And simultaneously diving into the world of cassoulets and paellas and other day-long food projects inspired by far-away lands.  But boy, she really embraced the healthy food thing for a long stretch, and with gold hoop earrings and funky vests she would make multi-grain silver dollar pancakes for breakfast on Saturdays, each of which weighed much more than an actual silver dollar, and we would hope that there was Canadian bacon to go with (while also thinking that the Canadians have much to learn about bacon from their neighbors down South).

And then there was lunch.  At school, I would open up that wrinkled brown bag, the weight of it an unpromising harbinger.  Group trading would ensue, or in my case, not.  This is a typical lunch I might unpack, vs. the typical lunch that lucky girl Dara Lieberman might unpack:

Me: 1-pound peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with rough whole grain bread; peanut butter from the health food store which came with 1/2 inch of natural oil on the top of the jar which had to be vigorously stirred to reincorporate into the peanut butter, and never really did, only to rise back up to the top of the jar hours later; and jam that was nothing more than fruit that has been crushed, with whatever seeds were involved and was very chunky, as in you could bit into half of an actual apricot.

Dara: Wonder Bread, Skippy’s Creamy Peanut Butter, Welsh’s Grape Jelly

Me: Dried banana chips

Dara: Fritos

Me: Apple

Dara: Doritos

Me: Brick-like “candy” made from sesame seeds and honey, wrapped in a cellophane wrapper that would never quite completely come off so that when you were sucking on this candy with its pointy sesame seeds sticking into the roof of your mouth, sometimes a tiny piece of plastic would cause your gag reflex to activate.

Dara: A couple of Fun-Sized Milky Ways.

Is my memory entirely accurate?  I think so.  But the pendulum has been swinging since those mid-70s days, and while I am trying to keep centered, or a bit left of center as they say in other discussions, I do appreciate what my mom was trying to do.  And today, I like those sesame candies, and I also like Fun Sized Milky Ways, because really, who doesn’t?  And now I have natural fruit jelly in my kitchens, along with tortilla chips, organic milk, jarred pasta sauce, homemade barbecue sauce, Diet Pepsi, whole grain bread, and dozens of other contradictory items that speak to the fact that it’s not all or nothing most of the time, it’s just real life.  And actually, I could go for one of those sesame candies just about now.


  1. I remember her bringing pb&j on Ritz crackers- I’d ask my mom to make that too, either that or peanut butter and fluff on Wonder. And go figure now my kid is the one with the oily peanut butter (well, almond butter) and whole grain in his lunch box.

    Oh, and the last time I was at Dara’s house her daughter was out with dad picking up ingredients to make Butterbeer. The tradition of yummy fun continues on to the next generation.

  2. Hysterical!! My exact PB&J experience right down to my mom ‘s gold hoop earrings and vests (and long flowery skirts). The peanut butter we had was called “Deaf Smith” Brand, I don’t think it’s made anymore. I envied my friend who always had sitting on the counter at her house, a GIANT jar of Skippy or Jif smooth peanut butter and a GIANT jar of grape jelly. And very soft bread.

  3. Too funny and I can relate. My folks owned a bakery so often I would get a bakery treat in my lunchbox along with a homemade sandwich my Mom would get up early to make. Not overly healthy just a regular sandwich as I remember – often the same – but I longed for the surprise that lay wrapped in the plastic bagged lunches I could purchase or to stand in the lunch line with the other kids for a hot meal – to chat awhile, complain, make fun of the “lunch ladies” you know, schmooz (sp?) a little.
    I would often trade that piece of bakery cake for a Tasty cake – peanut butter preferred – the kind that almost chokes you getting it down.Thanks God for milk.
    Just wanting to fit in and have a little variety – not unreasonable – – still lingers on the sides of my life today…

  4. Hilarious! My mom was never trying to be a health foodie, but I still ended up being the odd one out. We were vegetarians, and my mom had only moved to the country just before we were born. So Goldfish crackers were out for years until we showed her the ingredients to prove they weren’t made out of real fish. And I only got ice cream or chips out of hamburger/hot dog days at school. Not to mention that I had a bagged lunch through my SENIOR YEAR of high school! And PB&J every. single. day. for 12 years. Yeesh. Granted, it was on Wonder Bread with Skippy’s and Welch’s. But, yeah, I feel your pain–as well as your appreciation. Because of my mom, I have come to appreciate all the work she put in, as well as the healthy, non-fast food she made for us over the years!

  5. Hi, Pamela,

    Sounds like our families have the same culinary playbook. Would not mind a bite of one of those raisin molasses bars, for sure….

  6. I so love the competing descriptions (esp including jarred pasta sauce and the tiny Milky Ways). My mom discovered carob in the mid-70s but I think most people have never heard of it today. And my Grandpa introduced us to whole-wheat bread – but he also bought us the best raisin-molasses bars (from a small French bakery – go figure); my mom experimented until she could make them herself, and they are still a family favorite. Variety is the best. P.S. So is your Mom 100 pizza dough.

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