When we first got married, I started asking Mr. Handsome why he ate so fast. In the six years since our wedding, he has thankfully kicked this habit, but his reasoning for why it was so deeply ingrained is pretty funny. To bring you your regular dose of Mr. H humor, he wrote a post:
“Babe, why do you eat so fast?”
The question startled me so much that I almost choked on the T-bone I was inhaling. “What are you talking about Ellie?”
“I’m talking about the fact that I’ve hardly sat down to dinner, and you have almost finished 16 ounces of steak.”
That wasn’t the first time that someone commented on the speed at which I used to consume my food. My answer was always the same: “I have six siblings.”
All of you who come from big families know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who don’t, I’ll explain. We had to eat fast in order to survive. It’s called natural selection; only the fast eaters make it. Watching a big family eat dinner (or lunch, since most of us were homeschooled) is like watching a small rabbit being fed to a pack of starving hyenas.
In all fairness, we never went hungry, and there was no real shortage of sustenance. But there was always a shortage of “edible” food. After all, cooking in bulk when you have a bunch of little kids pulling at you is hard.
On a typical morning, Mom was trying to get seven children up and dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, and diapers changed, all while cooking a pound of bacon and a dozen eggs. Inevitably, about a third of the bacon was as soggy as a wet noodle, another third was burnt to a crisp, and the other 33.3333 perfect was just perfect. (Soggy bacon was how I learned to convert fractions to percentages.) Keep in mind that the two best pieces were saved for Dad, so if you didn’t your eggs fast, you got the bacon that was less than desirable.
The situation was the same by the time lunch rolled around. There would only be a small amount of food that you really wanted to eat, maybe three or four hotdogs or a couple of hot ham and cheese sandwiches. And if you didn’t eat quickly, you weren’t getting any of that.
But have no fear, Mom would supplement with something that still sends chills down my spine: leftovers. Big families are the kings of leftovers. Was that green bean casserole so unpalatable that no one even touched it at the church potluck? No problem, feed it to the kids as leftovers. Was that hamburger helper so atrocious that the dog went howling into the backyard after smelling it? Just add a little salt and pepper, and it will taste like a 5-star restaurant. And as much as I loved mac and cheese, leftover mac and cheese is just plain gross. Somehow it succeeds at being both dried out and soggy and the same time. But Mom wasn’t going to waste 99 cents on a new Kraft package.
Of course, Mom was always willing to quickly slather some peanut butter and jelly on two pieces of wheat bread and call it a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but she never got the proportions right. Just last year, I learned about one of her tactics to save money. She would take the end pieces of each loaf of bread and turn them inward so the sandwich looked like it was made with two normal pieces of bread. Peanut butter and jelly still makes me gag to this day. Somehow Ellie and Little Buddy eat it all the time, but I just can’t.
As I got older, I started to figure out the system. I would wake up early and eat the good food before anyone else got up. For a while, no one could figure out what was going on. “I could have sworn that there were three pieces of pizza in the fridge last night, but they’re gone,” my brother would complain. “What happened to the dozen homemade cookies that I made last night?” Mom would ask.
Please don’t tell Ellie, but I have continued some of these food consumption tactics into marriage. I would hate for her to figure out why I always wake up early in the morning when there is only one doughnut left.