My Portuguese mother (who has been in the U.S. 50 years now) has a love-hate relationship with pre-packaged American ready-made meals. It doesn’t matter if the food is from 7-11 or Whole Foods, she tries but she just can’t feel good about serving it.
Honestly, neither can I. But I’m okay with that.
My mother is not. So periodically while I was growing up, she would buy packaged meals for us but shake her head and complain the entire dinner that people ate this stuff but that it was disgusting and bizarre. The next day everything would go back to normal and we’d have actual food again.
The surprise for me here is she is still doing this.
My mother came home from Trader Joe’s with two – count’em – TWO packets of something called “Polenta Vegetable Medley.”
“Why’d you buy two?” I inquired.
“Oh, A., one is NOTHING! Look at this!” And she pinches the bag in half to show that “Trader Joe” actually is “Trader Screw the Consumer.” “Your father would eat that in no time.”
“You’re not going to just serve that, are you?”
Why not indeed. She puts the two air-heavy bags in the freezer.
About two days later, the bloom was off the rose. “I don’t know what I was thinking. Your father said it looked weird.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll eat whatever you put out.” My dad is known for dumping yogurt on things and mixing up weird things that don’t go together and making a weird goulash. Like yogurt, broccoli, and chunks of steak with potatoes and beets. MMMMM! And he had a beef with polenta medley?
“Don’t talk about your father like that!!”
“Well…. you know he will….” It’s not an insult, exactly, right, if he’s proud of it.
“Oh, I should never have bought it. I’m not sure it’s going to turn out right.”
“I’m sure it’s fine.” Then we had a ten minute discussion about how much sodium was in it. Apparently, it was a freaking salt lick.
“How much sodium are you supposed to have, Mom?” I really should know this.
“I don’t know, they just said your father should have less sodium.” Well, if she doesn’t know, and she’s buying the food, I guess I’m off the hook.
“But how much is a lot?”
“Everything’s a lot, how would I know?”
The entire time my mother was cooking it, one of the packages was sitting on the counter. She kept going back to it, musing “It just doesn’t look like this. What did I buy?” Oh, and “Look at this! It’s still a block of ice! What would happen if I wasn’t here mashing it! Gosh, do people eat this every day?”
I’m having flashbacks.
So we sat down to dinner, as my mother is giggling like a schoolgirl.
“What?” I ask.
“The (HEEEEHHEEEHHEEE) Food! Look at this-” and she pokes the Medley with a fork.
It wasn’t that bad. No worse than anything else at Trader Joe’s. But my mom has paired it- get this- with pulled pork! And she has no idea pulled pork is supposed to be served in a bun.
“Where are the buns?”
“Buns?” She doesn’t just say “Buns.” She says “Buns” as if I asked her to wrap the pork in rotten human flesh. Like “BUUUUUNNNNSSS?!?!?!?!?!”
“For the pork.”
“Why do you want buns?”
“That’s what the picture shows on the box, Mom. It’s served as a sandwich”
“I don’t care. I do whatever I want.” Except on the polenta. That needs to be a Kodak moment.
“It’s both pretty good.”
“I don’t know, A. Do people really eat this every day?”