Tuesday, January 2, 2024

making dinner

Sometimes my plans change. My original thought for dinner tonight was ravioli with sauteed spinach on the side. But I spent most of the day having my car serviced (it's an annual job, so why not January 2?), and that's near the grocers' with the excellent fresh crab cakes. So on my way home, as I often do, I stopped and got four of those and pan-fried them for our dinner, with the spinach on the side.

For Christmas eve this year I made fried rice, one of my regular dishes, because I had the leftover rice. B. wondered if that had something to do with the tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas Day. Nothing of the sort. I never even heard of any such tradition until I was an adult. Investigating this mystery later - why was I totally unfamiliar with something supposedly so universal among my people? - I discovered that it was originally a New York City thing, and spread among families that moved out from there. Ah, that explains it. My family never lived in New York. We were midwesterners: Kansas and Texas to Missouri on one side, Wisconsin on the other.

I'm not sure, but I think the only time I had Chinese food prior to college was when my class when I was 9 took a field trip to a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, and we had lunch at a restaurant with a big lazy susan on the table. I suspect there'd have been a lot of grumbles if we'd had it at home. Finding dinner for four kids who were all picky eaters was a challenge. And we didn't often eat out - too expensive for a large family. When we went out, it was usually to Denny's, and once a week we'd meet my grandparents, who lived nearby, at a large cafeteria restaurant called The Menu Tree. It had a dozen different stations, so everyone could get what they wanted. I usually went to the bbq counter and got a half chicken. Chicken was safe, as long as it wasn't gussied up: when we had takeout at home, it was usually KFC. No Chinese. I do recall eating at Mexican restaurants - usually an anglofied chain called Tia Maria, though it did have homemade tortillas, and the woman making them was doing so at a station in the back of the dining room - though I think I was mostly there with my parents but without my little brothers. Probably for the best.

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