Fun food events spice up the common
We paired up and built small fires, carefully placing our cookers over the flames. We buttered the tops and poured on just enough pancake mix to reach the rim and voila - up came the tell-tale little bubbly to signal it was time to turn our treat over.
This maneuver was a bit tricky considering our only tool was a handy little Girl Scout knife. Needless to say, more pancakes hit the ground than the cooker, but shoot, we were rugged outdoorsy types, so what's a little dirt and twigs and leaves mixed in with our breakfast. besides, it was fun, cooking and eating deep in the woods near Roaring Gap.
Some of the most memorable meals in the fun department are the ones away from the ordinary - out of the box, so to say. Remember the weenie roasts of yore? I'm not talking about firing up the gas grill and roasting gourmet hot dogs on fancy state of the art skewers. I mean building an open fire in the yard when each eater goes and finds the perfect stick for a hot dog. of course the end had to be whittled to a fine point, but this was before it was considered child neglect to allow a kid to carry a pocket knife, so no problem.
We impaled our dogs on the sticks and held them over the open flame until they sizzled, often losing the entire meal into the blazes or charring it black through. but never mind, popped into a bun and doused with mustard, it was great food. even better were the marshmallows that followed, many of which were also sacrificed to the flames. The best ones were those that caught on fire and burned to a crisp - ouch, there goes the tongue.
One unforgettable birthday party for my oldest son involved each guest constructing his own ice cream sundae from assorted ingredients: ice cream, chocolate and butterscotch sauce, nuts, pineapple, cherries, whipped cream, sprinkles and the like. a good time was had by all except for the honoree. my normal sweet little 6-year-old boy turned into a monster. He grabbed the gifts without so much as a howdy-do, cried when he couldn't go first in all the games, pouted if he didn't win, wouldn't let anyone touch his toys and refused to fix his own sundae.
When the guests finally departed, he climbed into my lap and said, "Thanks, Mommy. That was a fun party."
The fondue parties of the 1970s were always a hit. No self-respecting kitchen guru worth her avocado refrigerator and rack of shiny bottom Revereware was without two or three fondue pots, complete with little long handled forks for piercing meat bites and bread cubes. We exchanged recipes for Swiss or cheddar cheese dips and marinated steak cooked in oil. some even ventured into the dessert varieties with bubbling pots of chocolate for dipping fruit and cake.
It was great fun and games until the eventful evening when one of our crowd, having dipped a little too often into the punch bowl before he hit fondue pot, managed to turn a whole quart of boiling oil over onto the table. It roiled in his direction; he jumped back just in time to save the front of his trousers and everything underneath from a scalding, which would have put an end to his personal fun and games for a while.
When TV dinners appeared on the market in 1953, they were a treat if you weren't particular about flavor and nutrition. We children loved to sit at those wobbly aluminum tray tables and dine on soggy fried chicken, watery mashed potatoes and globular green peas while we watched "I Love Lucy" or "Make Room for Daddy" or some such.
I always liked the idea of box lunches, recalling a movie scene where a Gordon MacRae cowboy type won the heart of a beauteous maiden by bidding the most for her gaily wrapped box full of ham sandwiches and potato salad. The Japanese have made a new art form with their Bento box lunches, which include rice balls, seaweed, pickled vegetables and the like, often formed to resemble butterflies, flowers or animals.
What fun taco dinners are, where everybody gets to build their own entree to their own liking. Children especially have a ball with tacos - they don't have to eat cooked carrots before they get dessert. ours taco feasts include a side of avocado slices and refried beans, of course, with maybe a Dos Equis or Corona with lime thrown in and a bow to our Hispanic friends.
Remember a few decades back when what they called "movable feasts" were the rage? you had cocktails and appetizers at one house, the entree at another, then back in the car to a third host for coffee and dessert. It was fun, but getting in and out of the car all night was a bummer.
Fun food events include tailgate dinners in the parking lot at Kenan Stadium, clam bakes on the beach in Rhode Island, chicken pie suppers at the Methodist Hut, Chef Boyardee pizza in a box back before there was a pizza joint in every strip mall, trout caught from a mountain stream and fried in a black iron skillet over a campfire, steamed crabs served on a newspaper covered picnic table - even that bowl of milk toast you had in bed as a child, the first meal after a bad tummyache episode.
We all associate good times with fun food; just ask my children. They'll tell you, to a man, that their favorite food event was Sunday night supper - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, popcorn and Kool-Aid served on the floor of the den while they watched "Walt Disney Presents."
Page H. Onorato is a retired teacher.
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