I talked last time about how my parents handled us finishing our meals. Perhaps we were never told about starving children in Africa because of this often retold story from my dad’s childhood.
Grandma said she would scold him about starving children in Africa anytime he didn’t want to finish his food. Once he started looking around and, after several minutes, asked for a box.
“Don’t be silly, Murray. What do you need a box for?” “So I can send this food to those starving children in Africa!”
My parents were O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D, obsessed with musicals. While that’s a whole host of memories in itself, I wanted to finish talking about mealtime.
When it was time to eat, Dad would bust out singing “Food, Glorious Food” from Oliver Twist. It wasn’t every meal but it was often enough for me to buy him a wall hanging with the words and chords.
But that wasn’t his favorite mealtime song. Asking for seconds, if you said “may I have some more” then he’d act indignant, say “MORE?” all dramatically, and start singing “Oliver!”
Never before has a boy wanted more
Won’t ask for more when he knows what’s in store
There’s a dark, thin winding stairway without any banister
Which we’ll throw him down
And feed him the cockroaches served in a canister…
Dad also had some favorite phrases when it came to mealtime. If you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he’ll ask if you want enough peanut butter to “gag a maggot.”
The phrase wasn’t really funny except it drove Mom crazy so we all used it as often as we could. Eventually it was used for a whole host of meanings and to the point of absurdity.
It got so frustrating to mom that she said anyone caught saying “gag a maggot” would forfeit desert. Since dad was the only one unaffected by the decree, we’d just egg him on to opportunities to use the phrase.
(I’ll admit, I still use the phrase today to explain the absurd amount of peanut butter I like on my sandwiches.)