My parents did a helluva job…

Did any of you eat dinner with (or instead of) the children in China?  Or the orphans in Korea?  If you’re younger, your plate probably had to be cleaned because of starving people everywhere.  (World news gave us much more insight into the ills of the world.)  Maybe all over the world, right this minute, children are being encouraged to clean their plates in order to help the homeless.  Remember, Waste not, Want not!

Now, please.  I’m not making light. In fact, I would be much healthier and my clothes would fit better if I set aside more of my groceries for the food bank and less for my own plate.  And if I ruled the world, access to food (and health care) would be a right, not a privilege.

Just now, though, I don’t rule the world. And in the meantime I am still trying work my way from under the load of guilt that was dumped on me as a child. “Starving children would love to have those cooked turnips!”

Where do I send them?

My first morning back home after having been gone for a month, I was scrabbling for something to eat.  “When she got there, the cupboard was bare”…kind of thing.  The refrigerator held one Pyrex dish of moldy glop later identified as uneaten coleslaw and one carton of sour soy milk.  Well, that isn’t entirely true.  There were condiments, tamarind sauce, fish sauce and a jar of crushed garlic.

I opened a new box of milk and poured a bowl of cereal.  Aargh!  The cereal was stale.  Not just stale…it had that rancid, past-the-pull -date flavor.  I actually made myself eat half the bowl before I thought of a way out: it couldn’t be healthy if it was rancid.

On the counter were two opportunities for coffee.  1.  A small amount left in the grinder.  2.  Another smaller Pyrex container that must have been the dregs of decaf coffee that I had taken with me for Thanksgiving dinner.  Really?

Here’s the problem.

Throwing the moldy salad into the compost was a smelly job, but easily accomplished.  Dumping the cereal?  A struggle, but do-able.

The coffee?  That was a different story.

Of course, I beat feet to the store and got my wonderful coarse-ground French Roast decaf and waited impatiently for bedtime so that I could wake up and have a REAL  cup of GOOD coffee.

There’s just a bit of a snag.

How can I throw away the rest of the old coffee?  After all, it’s still coffee.  Some people would be happy to just HAVE coffee…not complain if it were a bit old.  Hmm…

So this morning, once again, I measured in 4 parts of fresh coffee grounds and finished off with 2 parts of the old stuff.  After all, it is no more lifeless than 2-week-old Folgers.  And it’s disguised by the wonderful aroma of freshly-ground French Roast.

One more day to go.  And I’m sure the homeless people everywhere appreciate my sacrifice.


P. S.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!






  1. Good for you for recycling the old coffee! It could be that the “want not” is still of the past, but the “waste not” is here to stay, I think, now that we all know the earth’s resources are not limitless.


  2. Oh wow … I can relate to this so much. My dad would always remind me when I was a child.

    “The children in Africa would be so happy to have a meal like this.” – “Don’t forget how lucky you are.” – “You’re so selfish. You always want the best things for yourself, and only share the things you don’t really want anyway. Others would be happy to have anything at all.”

    I hated it. And it made me hate myself. It also made me hate my dad. And then, he’d accuse me I didn’t love him and therefore was a bad and ungrateful child. That made me hate myself even more.

    You see, my dad perceives the world through its imperections. He was so severe with me and criticized me so much because he loves me so much. He didn’t want me to become a thoughtless and heartless person, like so many others. But I couldn’t understand that for many years. The only thing I saw was that I couldn’t win against the children in Africa. So I became like them. I starved myself until I became a shadow and almost died. This was when I saw my dad cry for the first and only time. I remember we went to the city to shop some things, and had coffee at a café some time in between. I was sitting there with my sugar-free black coffee, refusing to order a piece o cake. And my dad suddenly started to cry. I then realized all of a sudden how much I love my dad. I realized I never really saw him. And I only have him.

    Now I understand. And I see that my dad can’t naturally express affection in a way I’d naturally comprehend. Like, with words. Instead, he shows it with deeds. When I visit my parents, a piece of dad-caught cod fillet is readily prepared and waiting for me in the fridge to be cooked after an 8 hour journey. He changed all the broken lamps in my appartment when my parents visited me the last time. And he’s now strictly following a gluten-free diet on my suggestion (he got major intestinal troubles that finally reached a life-threatening state after having his appendix removed a few years ago, although he used to love his müsli and sweet buns from the bakery, and has been symptom-free since then). I’m so proud of him, and I love him so much!

    Okay, I better submit this now, since I’m already crying as I’m typing this.


      • Oh, Kath…I am so sorry that you have lived through such misery. This is not humorous to you at all, is it?

        I resented the badgering when I was a kid, and I still struggle with trying to be perfect about it, but I don’t believe that I was truly damaged by it.

        I do understand, tho, how as parents we can hurt our children when we truly only intended for them to feel loved and valued. I know that my children could tell you stories. I often think that as parents we get too late smart. I do a much better job of pure, unconditional love with my grandchildren.

        I am so happy that you have made peace with you father and that you are also in the process (which for me is lifelong) of making peach with the demands of your body. I rejoice each time I hear that you have made strides toward good health; physically, emotionally and mentally. It is a huge deal for all of us to do this.

        I so much appreciate your comments and your heartfelt response to the things I write. It means a lot to me.


      • Thank you so much! My idea of fun is definitely something else. 😉 I think some parents think it wouldn’t be good to show their children unconditional love (or just can’t) not to spoil them, but I don’t believe that. Unconditional love doesn’t mean the children can have everything (that’s spoiling), but letting them know they’re okay and meaningful. Also, I know I’m extremely sensitive and vulnerable, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken damage so much. So it was an interactional thing and not just my dad’s fault.

        Parents often mean so well, but well meant isn’t always good. We’re all human and make mistakes. So, being able to forgive is probably the most important thing, because the’ll always be hurt somewhere along the way.


  3. We share a similar upbringing. I still cannot leave uneaten food in my plate. My late wife was like that too. We grew up in an India that was very different from what it is today. We brought up our only child, a son to be like that too. We just take on our plates what we can consume and it is alright to go for second helpings.


  4. At dinner when I was growing up, we had to take into account the starving children in China. I’ve learned healthier eating habits as an adult. If food is bad and/or unhealthy, I don’t feel bad throwing it out. If it’s merely unappealing, I will eat it, only because I don’t think I should waste it.


    • That’s discernment. (And the rational answer to my throwing out the rancid cereal and using the stale coffee.)

      My parents were pretty much health “nuts” so I could never complain about the health aspect of my childhood diet. I (arrogantly) think my healthy cooking is an improvement over some the the things I was served as a child. But then, in fairness, look at all of the things we have available to us now. I’m pretty blessed!

      I don’t need to re-write my post, but it DOES occur to me that, once more, this is a discussion among privileged people, isn’t it?


  5. made me laugh here. I remember sitting at the dinner table for hours and hours refusing to eat my peas…and being told that same story. There are starving children everywhere who would be grateful for those peas. As I got older and smarter..I answered back: ‘Name one!’. 🙂


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