Don’t Play With Your Food

Big goings on happening this weekend.  A family hootenanny.  Great fun.

And so, in preparation for the gathering, I’m making Granny’s coconut cake.

And potato salad.

As I pulled out the potatoes to peel and put in the pot, a memory came to mind from when I was in fourth grade.  About potatoes.

Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.
Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.

Each Monday I spent all day in a classroom with a group of students from fourth and fifth grades, different from my classes Tuesday through Friday.  That was the classroom I first heard about the concept of nuclear war, learned the word “nefarious,” and worked with manipulatives meant to foster creativity.   In the middle of the school year, sometime after Christmas, my teacher requested that we all bring in a bag of potatoes.  She wanted us to learn to make potato prints from them.

So yeah.  Art.  With food.


My Daddy was not impressed.  He not only did not send a bag of potatoes but he took time to write a rather lengthy letter about the cost of potatoes, the potato famine, and spoke out against “playing with our food.”

Naturally, at the time, I was mortified.

But today?

I get it.

I didn’t grow up knowing or even thinking about whether we were poor or not.  We had food on the table three times a day, a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. Our clothes more than likely were not name brand, and Mama shopped the clearance racks at Sears and waited for items to be put on the 75% off rack many times before she’d even think about buying a shirt or pair of pants.  My shoes never had a swoosh on the side until I was grown, had a job, and was buying my own shoes.  And they were on sale.  We didn’t hurt for anything, not that my parents ever let on anyway. It was because Mama and Daddy were frugal people with simple, reasonable tastes, and they didn’t waste things.  Still, I’m thinking that a bag of potatoes was not an expense they could have easily afforded at the time for something that seemed as frivolous as print making.

Daddy used to tell me that every generation wants the one after it to do a little better, to have a little better life than they did.  And I really believe he wanted that for each one of his four children.

Just as I think his parents wanted that for him and his siblings.

But there’s a fine line between “better life” and excessive lifestyle.

For Daddy that line was crossed with potato art–playing with one’s food.  Using a bag of potatoes to be cut up, painted, and then thrown out–when that bag could have fed his family for at least two meals?  No.  It was beyond what he would call better–it was wasteful.

I think about that sometimes, about how my Daddy went against the grain and stood up for what he believed in.  No matter how embarrassed I was at the time, it made an impression on me, and I try to be as strong in my own convictions and as willing to say what I think when I perceive a line being crossed.

I want a better life for my three children.  I want them to succeed and reach their goals and not have to struggle for everything.

But, forgive me, I do want them to have to struggle for something.  I want them to have to make an effort and to work hard.  And to learn what I learned from my Daddy and Mama–figure out what you believe in and stand strong upon it.

Things that come too easily are not as easily appreciated as those things we work hard for.  And wanting for something rarely if ever really hurt someone.

They’ll survive.  Just as I did.  It didn’t hurt me that I was 16 when we got our first color TV and 17 when we got our VCR.  I grew up sharing a room and so much more with Sister, and things were never just handed to me.

Today I’m thankful for all of those things.  I’m thankful for parents who tried to teach me to be a good steward of what I have and don’t have.  I give thanks for a Daddy who wasn’t too embarrassed to say what he thought.  (And a Mama who was even more so that way.)  Most of all, I appreciate being told all those years, “You’re under (12, 18, 25, 42…..) and your wants won’t hurt ya.”

Yeah.  That.

And you know what?

They were right.

Love to all.  Hope your weekend is full of fun and maybe even a hootenanny or two.  😉



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