To China, With Love

March 29, 2012

Perhaps dinner table conversation amongst families is much different nowadaze; but when I was a child one was supposed to sit quietly at table and listen to Dad Talk About Work. Otherwise, the clink of knives, forks and fingers was ALL that was supposed to be happening at supper.

Inevitably, given my limited food pyramid, Mom began her usual mid-meal lecture: “Clean your plate/there are STARVING CHILDREN in China who would LOVE to eat what you have on your plate.”

(It was always ‘China’ when I was a kid. Africa hadn’t been invented yet. We won’t even GO into Korea or India’s dietary needs…they just weren’t part of the Bigger Picture, yet, either.)

When I got old enough to actually hoist a plate without dropping it, my typical response became: “…those POOR KIDS! Here – airmail my dinner to them – please!”

(That’s where the vocabulary-builder ‘insolent’ came from. Among other descriptive responses.)

And, I can readily recall a Liver-and-Onions with Succotash dinner where all THREE of us – Dad included -  hoisted our plates to aid the starving children of China.

It’s the thought that counts.

You’d think Mom would ‘get’ what foods occupied MY food pyramid, but no. She was ALWAYS serving up the wrong stuff based on the young wives’ tale “it’s GOOD for you” (and, more likely, the availability of dented can bargains at the small dented can grocery store adjacent to Dad’s butcher shop.)

One day I took personal inventory of our kitchen and with dismay noted that the pantry was virtually LOADED with unacceptable foods that the Kids in China would likely deem far more edible than I did. A plot was summarily hatched to handle the obvious inequality between edible and unpalatable foods residing in our pantry, and as with my greatest ideas, the plot was carried out on a Saturday when Teen Babysitter was ensconced in front of the TV, confident that my plan to “clean the kitchen and surprise Mom when she gets home” served as adequate and safe enough distraction to allow an entire delicious afternoon marathon of Twilight Zone, General Hospital, and One Life to Live.

I located the GIANT stove box Dad had squirreled away into a corner (presumably in case someday the stove needed to be returned to its place of origin), set it square in the middle of the garage where Dad usually parked his car, and began my endless trek up and down the back stairs carrying ALL the canned goods and pantry products that could begin their long journey to the Starving Children of China.

OH, I felt altruistic!

ALL the cans of greens – beans, spinach, lima beans – were up for donation. Also part of my generous contribution: Spam, canned sardines, anchovies, artichokes, and pretty well anything that looked mysterious, green, brown or gray. Get ‘er gone!

Dried goods were not to be left out: ALL the beans looked positively unwholesome and went into the donation bin. As did anything NOT chips, a.k.a. Chex mixes, various nuts, nasty-looking packages of dried coconut….why, our pantry was gonna be a virtual lifesaver to the entire COUNTRY of China. I sensed a Nobel Prize on the horizon and was pleased to be involved in a good charitable cause whilst simultaneously ridding my life of the burdens of vegetables, beans, and other (possibly poisonous) food stuffs.

I didn’t quite fill the box, but I sure emptied out the pantry. And, lest there be confusion about the box’s intended purpose, I found a black marker pen and in broken English wrote “4 CHINA” all over it.

Then I went off and played with my sis and stuffed animals, forgetting all about my venture into the world of Good Housekeeping 101.

Dad and Mom drove home together (Mom helped Dad at his shop on Saturdays so quite often they drive home together in our lone family car) and after the automatic garage door rose, Dad found his predictable path stymied by my donation box – placed strategically so (a) he couldn’t park his car and (b) thus couldn’t overlook the opportunity to immediately hit the post office with my offering.

“WTF” hadn’t been invented then, either – but choicer words were used as Mom and Dad got out, inspected the box, and realized there was enough heft to it that it now defied actual moving by anything but the car – which, in conjunction with Mom’s direction, was used to push the box gently forward until there was JUST enough space to park.

Teen Babysitter got in trouble. I gots in trouble. Mom spent the next week selfishly returning ALL the donation items to our pantry despite my best arguments that the Starving Children in China obviously needed them much more than we did.

Ah well. It’s the thought that counts! And – I was ALWAYS THINKING….

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