Breast Milk and Burgers

 My first food was breast milk, and I hope yours was, too:  A finer cuisine for an infant just does not exist.  Add to that the fact that it is usually served up by a chef with soft arms, an hypnotic heartbeat, and loving eyes, and I feel quite fortunate to have ever feasted at such a deli.  In fact, the bonding that occurs with nursing is the start of a person’s ability to love someone (‘attach’) later.

But as was typical of the times, I soon moved on…

I don’t recall the baby foods that were being marketed as ‘superior’ for babies and ‘convenient’ for busy moms.  My earliest memories of the development of a more catholic palate began about the same time as the de-pantsing debacle described in my last post, Of Perverts, Prophets and Posts.

I was four-ish, my mom was a young divorcèe, and we lived in Los Angeles.  When I wasn’t in nursery school, and she wasn’t working, as far as I was concerned, we were just two swinging girls out on the town!  She was the blonde, buxom vixen with pouty lips, Marilyn Monroe style, while I, the brunette, was more the Jane Russell type (at least in my mind) – the sassy sidekick but nonetheless quite a looker in her own right.  Put us in some mother/daughter sundresses and matching huaraches, on the leather seats of my uncle’s borrowed white convertible T-bird, and all I can say is – watch out, boys!

It seems I’ve digressed, but let me just say here and now that I think the appropriate fashion adornment can be essential to sense and setting.  In Licking the Spoon, my book about food, sex and relationship, I take the time to paint a verbal picture of the vestments that can help to create a mood.  For example, in Chapter 2, “Latin Lover Pasta (Finding Him),” I describe the tantalizing look and feel of silk caressing a woman’s cleavage, and the masculine appeal of a man in a crisp white shirt.

But the point is, a girl needs to eat.  And so, as my mom and I cruised the not-yet-so-mean streets of the City of Angels, waving to men in uniform and being whistled at by laborers and businessmen alike, we also stopped, as the budget allowed, to sample the culinary offerings of the time.  In colorful Mexican cantinas with tile fountains and mariachi music, we enjoyed steaming platters of cheesy goodness.  Dark Chinese dens, eerie with fish tanks, promised hot crunchy egg rolls along with little parasols in the Shirley Temples.  Juicy farm-raised California beef burgers (not the polluted burgers of today) on toasted Kaiser rolls, with crisp lettuce, mayonnaise and sweet onions, were served up by perky teenagers, not in drive-throughs but at drive-ins where one could see and be seen.

Even the more pedestrian fare we ate at home had a certain panache.  Like when Mom let me cut corn tortillas into cookie shapes before steaming and serving with butter.  And how on Wednesday nights when she had to work, her father gave me a bowl of canned chili and a glass of wine before putting me up on a stepstool to wash our dishes.  (He had that babysitting thing down!)  I don’t approve of giving alcohol to children, but I know that there are cultural pre- and proscriptions about it.  My grandfather’s culture, I suspect, was the one of “make sure that kid gets to sleep!”

Right or wrong, there began my memory of a lifelong romance with the sensual experience of dining.  Does it call up any memories of your own?


33 thoughts on “Breast Milk and Burgers

  1. Actually it does. I’m thinking about the Pennsylvania Dutch goodies my grandma used to make. Especially pork and saurkraut and shoo fly pie!

  2. It left me wishing that my mom was as cool as yours, and made me thankful that my Nana lived with us and did the baking and cooking!

  3. Ai-ai-ai Lynda… if I am going to tell you about my childhood memories related to food and feeling cozy after eating them… Well… it will be a looong paragraph… but you are right!! Cooking together as a family helps us to develop respect and appreciation to our elders and our culture!!!

    • Yes, Naluce, those full, cozy and safe feelings of childhood… Some of my best memories of my mom took place in the kitchen. And I think that’s true for many women – and some lucky men.

  4. This reminds me of the times my mom and I bake our cookies and pumpkin breads during the holidays, it’s not Christmas without her famous pumpkin bread!

  5. Yes, my mom was of your grandfather’s culture that believed “a little alcohol won’t hurt, it is just a bit medicinal,” and it helped the little ones get to sleep on occasion. I too have fond memories of my mom’s cooking and particularly of being her assistant that did all the chopping. As with most of us, my mom was a genius in the kitchen.

  6. Reminds me of me and my mother with matching hairstyles and jeans making chicken tacos in the kitchen back in East Los!

  7. Unfortunately, my mom and I never really had this bonding experience because she always worked when I was younger. However, this reminds me of when my dad and I use to make his chicken noodle soup and late night snacks of Honey Buns. Now that he’s gone, I don’t really know anyone that can replicate the recipe he had for chicken noodle soup, or any one with the same love for Honey Buns like him. This brought up so many good memories (:

  8. This article made me smile cause it reminds of my relationship with my mother also! She is my favorite shopping buddy and restaurant connoisseur!

  9. Breast milk is the best food for a baby! It is also an amazing experience! Such bonding! It seems you and your mom had an amazing relationship! It seems so great and you guys had fun. I wish I had a similar relationship with my mom!

    • It was mixed, Cindy. My mom was very loving when I was a child – but she also beat me. As a teenager she meddled to the point that my friends’ moms didn’t want them to hang around with me. So not until about my 30’s did we really become friends again. Maybe there are things you can do to try to improve relations with your mom.

  10. I think the experiences you shared with your Mom sounds very fun and special. Mom bonding time is always the best!

  11. Thankfully, my mom and I have had nothing but great bonding experiences! Though this reminds me in particular of one Christmas when we made tamales. I had so much fun, and the tamales were delicious.

  12. The title fits perfectly with this article! I sort of wish i spent a bit more time with my mother, maybe we wouldn’t have yelled at each other so much.

  13. Such a fun article to read. I loved how you and your mom cruised in the convertible as the hot stuff everyone wanted to look at for forever. Sounds like fun memories. The only convertible memories I have are when my cousin and I were playing with the power mode switch in her Lexus sc430. Let me tell you, we made it a mission to gun it down empty back streets to feel g-forces. I guess we’re more thrill chasers than cruisers, but fun memories nonetheless. Other than our psychotic driving, we actually cook gourmet Chinese meals that are ironically so simple. I love my bonding time with her.

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