Journey to the Center of my Daughter’s Pantry


I understand that Jules Verne was forced to contend with the most primitive of equipment and limited knowledge of science and the universe when he began his journey to the center of the earth. This often frightening lack of familiarity with the unknown best describes the way I feel when I open my daughter’s pantry.

I am simply not equipped to deal with the new terrain that awaits me in this jungle of strange and terrifying products.

The sight of bags of food heretofore unheard of create an air of suspicious uncertainty in a place I have come to trust, to believe in and which has provided a comfort zone that has never failed me.

There is something warm and inviting about the sight of a blue bag reading Oreo, or a giant bag of salty chips when a PMSing body is screaming for that hit of salt. Then followed up with a tasty HoHo to counteract the savory with just the perfect amount of sugar.

Although I admit I have moved past the three little men screaming snap, crackle and pop at me when that first hit of milk splashes into the bowl, still the memory of childhood foods fuel the comfort zone inside just enough to keep me regulated and happy in my own little baby-boomer world. Remembering how it felt to open that little metal log cabin and drizzle the gooey, sweet, maple syrup over hot, steamy pancakes on a snowy winter morning, well what can I say?

Every daughter wants to believe she can improve on her Mother’s way of doing things. At home it is child rearing, cooking, decorating, etc. and despite the fact one may admire their mother as a role model it is so important to set oneself apart. To become an individual, be unique and express one’s own style and substance.

Okay, I’m all for the struggle to achieve individuality. My daughter has done countless things to set herself apart, as did I from my mother, and most of these accomplishments I truly admire.

However, I was not quite prepared for the fact she has adopted so many new food groups into her life, many that sound as though they had their beginnings on some planetary solar system far from the galaxy in which we reside. Has the Mars Rover added food delivery to its list of accomplishments? Is it the official Grubhub for the universe?

Perusing her pantry the other day, I was struck by the array of foods with names I not only failed to recognize, but found myself in great doubt about whether they were even edible.

I’m sure these foreign foods are just loaded with nutritional advantages. After all why would anyone buy them if they weren’t? Certainly not for their name appeal, Spelt pretzels? I mean honestly. It sounds like some kind of new fabric that was born when felt and polyester mated.

Everything was whole grain, organic and had the taste appeal of a cardboard box. I will admit that she did make me a believer with the Kale popcorn.

As one raised on the premise one eats with their eyes first, my eyes instantly rolled to the back of my head to avoid even focusing on the scary foods attacking my corneas.

Okay, I applaud her efforts to eat and serve foods that are unrefined and uncorrupted. But what does one do when one’s body sends up a red flag after ingesting a flax seed, kale tortilla chip? Kale? Really, where has this veggie been hiding? I never heard of it until three years ago and now you’re supposed to feel guilty if you’re eating anything else? It’s making spinach look like an underachiever. So now I’m supposed to believe that Popeye should have been eating Kale Chips? Sorry, I can deal with spinach easily now, although for my money Wimpy had the right idea with his cheeseburgers.

Kombu, Dashi and Dulse are all vegetables about which I have recently learned. Apparently they are delicious and have been used in the Far East forever. I imagine I shouldn’t complain when I now ingest seaweed as a snack without any second thoughts.

Quinoa? I just love to say the word because I feel like I’m speaking a foreign language.

Yet, still I battle to retain some standards where foods are concerned.

Chocolate chips should be just that, chocolate. Not some trumped-up version of a healthy chocolate substitute designed to ease my guilt at craving the hard stuff. And dark chocolate may be healthier, but it is sorely lacking that sweet hit my tongue has come to expect when it sees chocolate on the horizon.

And while we’re on the subject; what the heck is Agave and why should I eat that instead of good old-fashioned Maple Syrup on my multigrain pancakes? Oh how I hunger for some good old Log Cabin syrup in its metal log cabin that provided hours of playtime pleasure when empty.

Are the non-organic trees in Vermont on strike now? How do I trust the damn Maple trees aren’t lying about being organic to fit in with the crowd?

Has the world gone entirely mad?

Yes, and the madness is alive and well in my daughter’s pantry? My grandchildren eat some concoction my daughter calls purple ice cream that bears no resemblance to any Ben and Jerry’s I ever saw or tasted. If it did the cows would be hiding their heads in shame.

Is this a plot to destroy the joy Americans receive from their food, leading to a lowering of our standard of living by those who insist we are too fat, too unhealthy and too indulgent? Where are those people that claim we only go around once, and life is unpredictable, eat dessert first?

Have all the Keebler elves retired to their tree trunk condos in Florida?

Of all those missing in action it was Sara Lee that delivered the greatest blow.

It wasn’t bad enough when Sara Lee herself decided to remove her delicious frozen brownies from our lives, leaving us with a hole in our hearts heretofore unfulfilled, but the fact she has somehow become persona non grata in the chicest of health conscious homes has cut me to the quick. Cause as we all know, “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee!”

My grandsons have never seen a pantry containing Hostess, Sara, Keebler, Nabisco or a Tasty Cake. How can they ever understand who I am or what I am about?

Are we destined to be strangers on the food ship of life? Passing in the night as they eat Kale and drink green juice, while I ingest my Twix Bar and Apple pie with caramel drizzle.

Despite my ability to understand and even embrace the benefits of healthy dietary choices, there remains sadness for the familiar foods I left behind in my youth; a nostalgic yearning for Milky Ways, licorice pipes, Good and Plenty and Whoppers. Can one truly enjoy a movie sans a Junior Mint?

These are now just words on my list of childhood’s bad choices I must abide. And dental implants aside, the memories of those times remain fresh as I reach into my daughter’s pantry and grab the bag of organic popcorn then settle down to watch Paw Patrol with my grandsons.

Yes, times have changed, and now it is health not taste that dictates our diet, for us all I’m afraid.

Yet, shall we not rail against the light cream, light cheese and foods with weird-sounding names? What would Julia do if faced with children demanding gluten free, creamless, butterless, French cuisine?

One grocery chain touts “A diet of whole pure prepared foods based on Taoist principles of the balance of yin and yang.” Whatever happened to a balance of flavor?

Am I to devour a list of healthy reasons for eating every food to win an argument with my taste buds? They weren’t conditioned to accept yin and yang they were raised on pizza sauce and egg foo yong.

Seeds, lentils, strange looking beans. Must I now do battle with the squirrels over the bird seed? Should I have filled the birdfeeders with Ding Dongs and eaten the seeds myself? My brain can’t seem to wrap itself around this whole healthy thing.

Especially because growing up my father, the President of Food Pushers Anonymous insisted that two helpings of fried chicken would keep me healthy and missing a meal was a heinous crime.

Sure, I get the whole instilling our children with healthy eating habits is a far far better thing we do than filling them with bowls of Tony the Tiger, but is there a compromise? When I bake cookies with my grandson should I only add half the chocolate chips?

Okay, so I bought into the whole healthy thing and I do periodically sell my car to go shopping at the high-priced healthy markets. And by the way what is healthy about going into debt to buy organic kelp?

But I digress.

Organic pizza tastes the same, wholegrain pancakes with a few chocolate chips still satisfy and spelt pretzels well, okay they’ll do in a pinch. I’m learning.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and I must admit kale isn’t exactly the treat to entice, but I try.

Learning a new language is good for the brain so every time I look in my daughter’s pantry I am fighting off the ravages of old age, so maybe it is a good thing after all.

I may have to go gently into that good night of healthy foods, but I still have my Hershey Kisses to remind me that once life was far tastier and a little sweeter in pantries across planet earth.



                             Veggie Cheese Casserole


1 cup of peas

1 cup of French Cut String Beans (fresh or frozen)

1 cup of mushrooms

1 cup of slivered almond

1 can cream of mushroom soup

½ cup of cheese whiz

1 loaf of uncut challah or Italian Bread

1 stick of butter

Salt and pepper


Mix together mushroom soup and cheese whiz

Add all veggies to buttered casserole pan and sprinkle in half the almonds

Pour soup mixture over

Toss through vegetables and season with salt and pepper

Pull out chunks of bread and dip them in melted brown butter and place buttered side up on top of casserole leaving an opening on top for almonds.

Place a layer of almonds on top in opening.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes in 325 oven or until veggies are softened.

Brown butter until it is the color of caramel and remove from heat do not let it go further or it will burn.

You can use any combo of vegetables even green beans alone.





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