The Anti-Clean Plate Club

This morning the world is white and grey, snow falling and the colour of the sky perfectly matching that of the ground.  Jake has the sniffles, my husband had a cortisone shot in his shoulder on Friday and hence has been rendered the one-armed man (wasn’t there a show about that?), I am running the book fair this upcoming week, and, with all this cheerfulness surrounding me, I woke up with a decided sense of fatigue and ennui.  I decided to skip yoga this morning and cheered myself up by drinking coffee and eating granola on the couch, while watching the new Looney Tunes show with the boys.  Have you seen the new Looney Tunes?  It is VERY funny.  Today’s episode dealt with Bugs Bunny and his – apparent – caffeine addiction, which led to him becoming addicted to a Red Bull-type energy beverage and consuming a month’s worth in one day.  Hilarity then ensues with Bugs redecorating the house and cooking all the food and spending hours on the elliptical machine.  “He likes coffee just like you do, Mom!” Jake said happily, while I wrapped my hands around my mug.

Maybe it was the coffee, or maybe it was the energy from my new green smoothie loving, but I rallied to putter around the kitchen and bake a loaf of cinnamon bread, which somehow led to cleaning all surfaces in the house like a maniac.  I’m not sure how that happened, but at least the house looks good. 

My neighbour told me that she had found in her home a bunch of her grandma’s old recipes, including one for pineapple ham, which reminded me of a cookbook that is in my possession.  It is the Canadian Lutheran Ladies’ Family Favourites, which my mother gave me when I moved out.  I will preface this by saying that the Lutheran Ladies really know their way around muffin baking, and there are a number of tasty cookie, quick bread, and square recipes that I use frequently.  However.  There is also an entire section entitled “Meat and Macaroni Salads” which includes such dishes as Jellied Egg Salad (utilizing hard-boiled eggs, lemon jello, mayonnaise and cottage cheese), Jellied Chicken Salad (utilizing diced chicken, lemon jello, onion, and Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup mix), and a dish made entirely of cold Kraft dinner with celery and Catalina dressing.  Predictably, there are any number of jellied fruit salad recipes, including one that involves orange pop, orange jello, and canned pineapple.  It really reminds me of the church potlucks of my childhood.  

Fortunately for those of us who like to watch our girlish figures, there is a Low Calorie section, which contains no calorie counts but does contain a recipe entitled “Low Calorie Hot Dish” which is made with a head of cabbage, a pound of hamburger, onion, rice, and canned tomato soup.  There is also an “Ethnic” section, which is largely comprised of German, Norwegian, and Swedish dishes, with very sad recipes for tandoori chicken and empanadas rounding out the global feel.  The strangest recipe of all in the “Ethnic” section is one for PEI Clam Chowder.  Apparently living in an Atlantic province is exotic enough to be considered ethnic. 

It’s strange to consider how food trends have changed over the years.  When I was a child meals were of the meat-and-potatoes variety, tomatoes were canned, and I had never eaten a pepper, ever.  There was also a clean plate rule, which has given me memories of sitting at the table long after everyone else had left it, crying, a piece of fried liver, growing cold, on my plate.  That right there is the reason I give my children a bit of rhythm, as they say on NYPD Blue, about finishing their meals.  I don’t encourage waste, of course, but I feel it’s mean to force a child to eat everything on their plate.  I grew up to be a vegetarian; for all I know my kids are going to grow up to never want to see another quesadilla or a bowl of pasta ever again.


  1. Now I’m going to have nightmares about jellied chicken salad chasing me down the street – THANKS NICOLE! I’m battling the fatigue/ennui one-two punch also, but I didn’t bake anything or clean anything. I did run through Eve’s tree legend presentation with her and read and endured and impromptu recorder recital. Perhaps I will make some vegetable stock while deciding if I’m going to watch the Oscars.

  2. Love it! and hear, hear. Kids should never be forced to eat. It is just sad how many adults I know that remember those long waits in front of a plate of peas or liver. I do always try to provide one element of the meal that will be acceptable so I’m not ‘custom cooking’…if mashed potatoes is all they are going to eat instead of my pork hocks and kraut – so be it!

  3. I have the “you must taste” rule – my kids have to try everything on their plate at least once. But I don’t pull the clean-plate thing, either. I distinctly remember certain meals I would rather have starved to death than eat.

    Also – jellied salads are from the devil. Also x 2 – Lutherans Ladies can’t cook. Well-known fact.

  4. My mom never had a “clean your plate” rule, mainly (I think) because her mother did and it resulted in endless argumentative dinner times. I do, however, remember many a jellied fruit salad, and even have somewhat fond memories of some of them. My grandma used to make one with strawberry jello, fruit cocktail and cream cheese that I LOVED as a kid. Haven’t had it in years, but the memory of it makes me happy. I have slightly less fond memories of any jellied fruit salad that had grated carrots in it. Ewwww.

  5. I have a dear friend/almost relative of mine that loves the Jello/cool whip “salads” of the 50s-70s. I love to talk about them. He loves to eat them! I didn’t believe him at first but then he started making them and bringing them over at Christmas etc. I bet he’d go nuts for that cookbook.

  6. I will be having nightmares about the “jellied egg salad” Ewwwwww! (although I’m kinda curious what one looks like)

  7. Jellied egg?
    The hell?
    I thought it was odd when I went shopping in America (land of cheap milk and eggs ironically) and saw a can of ham. Can. Of. Ham.
    It’s true how cooking has changed. It went from homemade elbow grease in the kitchen to pulling out a ham in the can.
    It’s all about convenience.
    Ps. We are going through a hunger strike in the house of chunky. He spends more time at the table than Shawn spends at work 😉

  8. Oh gosh, my kids are going to be so sick of pasta by the time they move out…we have it a lot..

  9. Canned beans with cut up hot dogs (weiners and beans!), meatloaf covered in tomato sauce, iceberg lettuce salad. And yes, we had the same liver experience.

  10. I’m old school: my kids can choose to clean their plates or they can choose to go to bed hungry. It’s been at least four years since anyone chose to go to bed instead of eat their broccoli or cauliflower.

    Does anyone even eat liver anymore? Blergh.

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