Food and Class.. what you eat says a lot about you.

This weekend was one of those lazy do nothing sorts of weekends, since with the arrival of the little one three years ago, I rarely make plans for the weekends since kids have a habit of cramping your style. However it turned into a full weekend, which started with the little one and I hitting up a yard sale being put on by one of our neighbors.

I should start off by saying these particular neighbors are one of the two on the block that I don’t speak to other than to wave or just a passing hello if they are walking down the street. Yet they always struck me as solidly working class, I estimate them to be early 50’s maybe late 40’s. I often see the husband coming home from work in the morning with his lunch pail in hand when he gets out the car and walks to get his newspaper from the box. The wife appears to babysit the grand kids since every day I see their daughter dropping her kids off on route to work in a scrub suit, she looks to be early 20’s and the suit reminds me of the medical assisting students I would see at my former place of employment.

For the past month, I have noticed a vehicle with out of state plates and what appears to be another daughter with a couple of preschool aged kids… from my perch on the porch when I am out drinking coffee, the family reminds me of Dan and Roseanne Connor from the old 1990’s tv show, Roseanne. Hardscrable white folks, salt of the earth people.. not pretentious in any way.

So now that I have set the scene, back to the story of the yard sale. Mini-me and I roll up and they have tons of kids stuff they are selling off, which as a bargain hunter, I love that sort of thing so while the wee one and I are sorting through the goodies. The one adult daughter yells out to her kids “Go tell Auntie to make y’all some kool-aid”. I must admit, my jaw did a slight drop, see most of the folks I know these days would never in a million years give their kids, small ones no less kool-aid. In fact I felt bad recently when I told a friend that I bought a box of Lucky Charms for myself and my daughter ended up eating the box.

No, sugar sweetned cereal, kool-aid and other processed delights that I craved as a child are generally forbidden outside of the lower classes. See, food says a lot about where you came from. Fact is for years I used to eat fried bologna sandwiches with Miracle Whip but when I stopped buying white bread and started getting multi-grain bread years ago, the allure of fried bologna sandwiches went out the window. Even the spousal unit who also grew up working class has his own delights from childhood, spam and fried egg sandwiches, apparently when times was tight his Mom made these a lot.

My best friend and I joke about how we may be some of the last college educated Black folks that like swine, admittedly though most meat does not agree with me, but I love a fried pork chop sandwich, best served on white bread with hot sauce. ( I tried to give up the swine earlier this year but it started calling my name) Growing up we ate all manner of pork, though I personally drew the line at pig feet/pig ears/ pig tails and chitlins other than that I ate pork. (though chitlins was a delicacy in our family, my Mom used to cook 30 lbs of those of those wretched smelling things on Christmas and Thanksgiving)

 However as I started moving up the class ladder in the past decade, I have grown to realize that most of the brothas and sistas I meet especially if we are not from the same class, don’t share fond memories of neckbones and pinto beans. Whereas I would give a lot right now to have some fried catfish (they don’t sell this in Maine at least not fresh) and spaghetti right now, most of my sista-friends here in Maine, don’t know nothing about that.

In graduate school several years ago, I went to a Japanese restaurant for the first time with some colleagues from my department, mind you I was the only Black person in my department. Well everyone was getting hot and bothered over sushi, well at that time the kid could not wrap her brain around the idea of sushi (shit, where I come from we fry the shit) so I ordered tempura. How come everyone looked at my Black ass like I was an idiot, well I have since learned to eat sushi since after year one in grad school and learning that my adviser loved sushi, I figured networking might get better if I learned to learn the ways of the natives a bit, so I have made myself like sushi.

Yet truthfully when I hit an emotional low, I crave comfort food, and that’s when the working class side of me comes out, recently that was round steak and rice smothered in gravy with biscuits and fuck the veggies. I admit I have come along way since I would say 95% of the time I strive to eat healthy but all this to say that for most of us class even when we move up the ladder in many cases, what we eat reveals a lot about where we come from.

Now let me go get my pitcher ready for my once a year grape kool-aid and Little Debbie’s swiss rolls.

9 thoughts on “Food and Class.. what you eat says a lot about you.

  1. Get out of my head!! I am quickly approaching six months from home and over two months from the last time I visited home and over a month since home was here with me (my mom) so I totally feel you on the comfort food. This past two weeks I have been making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, mostly because it’s the easy and quickest comfort food I can make fro one person.

    I think I may have fell into the real homesick doldrums if I hadn’t decide to buy a loaf fo white bread (a big deal for me these days as well). I must admit my grilled cheese was still a bit uppity I used Bummel and Brown yogurt spread instead of real butter and I used deli sharp cheddar, provolone, and swiss cheese instead of government block cheese.

    Yep I still have a little swine when I dine too!! And nothing hits the spot like a bbq pork chop sandwich YUMMY!

    -OG

  2. I put my comment for this post on another blog, but then I realized I had more to say. My mom always made us eat fairly healthy because she was a dietician, but we still ate “down home” food. And the swine was a regular visitor to our plates. We didn’t have pigs feet and whatnot, but my mom cooks up a mean pan-fried pork chop for breakfast. With homemade biscuits from scratch. That’s good eating right there.

    Also, I think sushi is overrated. I eat it and I like it. But, I decided the other day that it was overrated. Most of what you taste, at least what I taste, is soy sauce and ginger.

  3. Big Man, I agree with you about sushi. I only eat California Rolls but I swear all I am tasting is the wasabi and soy sauce.

    OG, I thought there was a jazz/soul food style place in your city. I found it online and was thinking of tracking it down when I come to town. BBQ Pork Chop, that does sound good. Ain’t nothing wrong with using good cheese, I must admit at the moment I get local bread that is organic, white bread that is $5 a loaf but I get the cheapo American cheese from the deli but with handmade butter.

  4. What an interesting post!

    You know, I eat drastically different from how I ate growing up. My parents are immigrants to this country and for the most part, we ate traditional foods. That includes things like pounded yam (fu-fu) and various soups to go with that, jollof rice or rice and red stew (always white rice) and moi-moi (steamed black eyed pea pudding). Food, for us, is part of our identity, who we are and so when I decided to go vegetarian a few years ago, my family was insulted and really thought I was saying that I felt I was better than them. But really, I was reading, learning and become more educated and I didn’t believe (ethically) in eating animals nor did I feel that the way animals were raised (growth hormones and antibiotics and factory farming) was healthy. It wasn’t that I felt I was better than them. It was that I felt I knew more, read more and just generally put more thought and was more conscious about my eating choices. Nowadays, I’m not vocal at all about my reasons for choosing not to eat certain things. I just do my thing. Carry my own food to family functions. And get comfortable being called the family weirdo and/or the family snob.

  5. Hmmm… I can’t recall one, there use to be Copeland’s which really is a NOLA thing. The owner owns Popeye’s then there is Papadeaux’s but those are both seafood. If you find out the name let me know, I probably heard of it if not eaten there.

    -OG

  6. Yes, I have seen those 2 clips before, they are hilarious. Guily as charged, I must confess I love fried chicken and do feel a yad self-concious eating it in front of white folks. Grape drink…LOL. Growing up, grape drink was indeed a staple and grape juice was a special treat. Of course these days, only Mama gets the grape drink and it really is a once a year special thing with me. Otherwise its crystal light.

  7. Little Debbies…oh, lord! They’re sold in our bread aisle (the aisle all the trendy woman read labels in and take forever to decide with Brumel and Brown $5.00 per loaf specialty bread is “best). When I was pregnant, I saw the Debbie Cakes and suddenly had to have them–and couldn’t decide–so I got 6 different boxes while telling my 4 year old how awesome Debbie Cakes are.

    The look on the faces around me was priceless.

    Don’t even get me started on the uppity shoppers in the Organic section.

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