Skeletons in the pantry

The lovely Katie over at Thyme for Cooking understands that the holidays can be a stressful time for us all.  In fact, a friend of mine called me one year at about 18h00 on Christmas day after a full day of family, and explained in detail how next Christmas he would like to immolate his entire extended family and maybe toast marshmallows on the resulting blaze as he enjoyed the peace and quiet! (Don’t worry – the entire family is still alive and well…). So Katie has decided that what we all need is some light relief, and she has provided it in the form of Skeletons in the Pantry. All you have to do to play along is provide a true confession about food that you love that no self-respecting foodie would ever admit to – disaster stories also welcome 😉

The first story that springs to mind is actually a confession on behalf of my father, seeing as it was his idea in the first place. To set the scene, bear in mind that my father was born in 1922, a time when men didn’t cook and there were no such things as convenience foods. Obviously he must have learned to cook SOMETHING once he was away from home at university and before he got married. But whatever he learnt was soon lost after he married my mom and she took over all the cooking duties for the rest of their married life. Well, almost the rest.

At some stage in the early 1980s, my mom was really busy lecturing radiography as well as playing an active role in the Society of Radiographers of South Africa, and her time was at a premium. To make her life easier, my father suggested that he cook dinner and wash up one night a week, assisted by me and my brother Anton. So far so good. What we didn’t count on was:

a) my father’s fascination with convenience foods that didn’t exist when he was a child;

b) my father’s love of routine; and

c) my father’s taste for foods without much of a texture.

I can tell you’re scared now. You probably should be.

And so it came to pass that we gathered in the kitchen on the first Wednesday night of this arrangement, ready to chop, prepare or do some other pre-cooking chores. Wrong! The pre-cooking chores started and ended with boiling the kettle and fetching the can opener. Why? Because my dad’s idea of a balanced dinner was tinned ravioli in a spectacularly red tomato sauce, not unlike the matrix in which tinned baked beans are suspended. And because we needed something to mop up the sauce (and just because we didn’t already have enough carbs on the plate), this culinary feast for the tongue and the eyes was served on a bed of Smash instant mashed potatoes (“just add water!!”). Granted, the Smash was dolled up a bit with liberal lashings of margarine (!), salt and pepper. But it still had the consistency of wallpaper glue. Top it all off with a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese and we’re good to go!

The first week it was novel and exciting. By the 4th week it was familiar and comforting. Two months later it was just dire. And yet I do believe that if my father had his way, we would still be having that exact meal every Wednesday night. But at some point my mom stepped in and headed off her children’s incipient attack of scurvy by taking up the cooking reins again on a Wednesday night and the carb-fest came to an end. So now you know my family’s culinary skeleton in the pantry!

As for me, I have only one really disgusting weakness. I haven’t eaten McDonalds in years; I have never eaten a stuffed-crust, deep-dish pizza; and the only thing I really like at Burger King are their fries.

But let me catch one whiff of KFC and I am a drooling madwoman. Yes, folks, those very-un-free-range chickens, those secret spices, that oil-on-oil crispy skin – I’m a sucker for all of it. I eat the pieces with my hands, tearing off the skin in order to save the best for last. I get greasy up to my elbows. Sometimes, I dunk the meat in Hellmann’s mayonnaise too.

Because, of course, their chicken pieces don’t already contain enough fat, and I do love the sound of arteries slamming shut in the morning.


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  1. says

    My mother (who had never worked) decided to get a part time job after my youngest brother was in middle school and my father (about the same age) took over cooking when she was working. He discovered frozen T.V. dinners… and you’re right, the first month was fun…the second, not so much….
    We had a KFC/Pizza hut in Andorra… (I love Pizza hut – but not the stuffed crust). I could get a combi dinner of chicken wings and a slice of pepperoni pizza….Funny, even after 7 years I never got tired of that….
    Thanks for playing!

  2. says

    A hysterical post Jeanne! When my hubby and I were students we used to make this mixture that we called “Hash” it was a combination of tinned veg curry, baked beans and corned beef – euuuuww! No wonder we only lasted a year being students…..

  3. says

    Haha- my dad would get stuck on things, too. He had three (yes- three) different meals he could prepare, though, so at least we were able to change it up. 😉

  4. says

    Have you tried the onion rings at Burger King? Very good. Can also recommend the chicken popcorn at KFC!
    My dad was on a par with yours I think. He only had to cook once for us when my mom was in hospital and I recall it being baked beans heated in the can on the stove (as per what he learned in the army) and that was it.

  5. says

    this is a great post! My dad and yours are clearly of the same ilk, he is now 89 and still turns down the delicious balanced meals i try to make for him in favour of a tin of vienna sausages and spaghetti gloop in revolting aforementioned bright red sauce, shovelled onto toast, eeeuuuw! And we share the KFC gene too, i think our local branch is still wondering why sales have plummetted so drastically in the past few weeks, since we were forced by the arteries having actually slammed shut to amend our lifestyle… I still have to convince myself that a plate of baby spinach and rosa tomatoes is a fair substitute for that decadent oily secret spice crust!