Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dinner At A Friend's House And Very Belated Awards

When I was in the third grade, my friend Lisa invited me to come over after school to play and stay for dinner. We went to the same school and were in the same class, but she lived in a different neighborhood than I did and I had never been to her house before. I was pretty excited.

After school, we walked over to the first grade classrooms to pick up her younger brother and the three of us walked home together. When we got there, I was surprised to find that no one was home. She used her key to let us in. We were only 8 or 9 years old and her brother was 6 or 7. This was new, and a little scary to me. My parents would never have let me stay home without an adult at that age.

Once we were inside, Lisa said we had to get dinner started. She opened a little box that was filled with recipe cards and sorted through them. She set one aside and put the rest back in the box. After consulting the recipe, she turned on the oven and we gathered the necessary ingredients. Even at that age, I liked to cook and had even prepared a few meals myself, but my mom always supervised, especially when it came to using the oven.

The recipe we were making was Shepherd's Pie. I had never had it before, but pie for dinner sounded good to me. That is, until we started making it. I'm not a big fan of mixing my food together. There are exceptions of course; omelets, stew, soup, chili, a few casseroles. But you'll never see me mixing my meat with my mashed potatoes. When I was that age, I didn't even like different foods touching each other on my plate. By the time we had smeared cold, premade mashed potatoes over the meat mixture and placed thick slices of cheese on top, I was trying to think of excuses to go home.

Soon after we had put dinner in the oven, her dad came home. He asked about our school day and then went about his business. We headed for Lisa's room to play Barbies. Her little brother followed along and wouldn't leave us alone. He pulled the heads off the dolls and threw them around the room. We ignored him for a while, but finally we could take it no longer. Lisa hollered for her father to come and remove the boy.

I couldn't believe my eyes when he walked into her bedroom. He was dressed in an undershirt and boxer shorts. My dad would often change out of the clothes he wore to work when he got home, too, but he always put clothes back on. I was growing more uncomfortable with Lisa's house by the second.

Eventually her little brother was removed, her dad went back to reading the newspaper in his underwear and we resumed playing Barbies in peace. We had fun. So much fun, in fact, that I forgot all about the scary dinner (made by third graders, no less) awaiting us.

When her mom got home, dinner was served. I was plenty nervous about how I was going to choke it down. At my house, no one was ever forced to eat food they didn't like. We were required only to try a bite or two. But this wasn't my house and I had been taught to be polite. My only hope was to wash it down with lots of juice or water. Great idea, but no dice. At Lisa's house, the only beverage served with dinner was milk. I don't really care for milk unless it's in cereal, but it sounded more appealing than the Shepherd's Pie so I poured myself a big glass when it was passed to me.

Her dad (still in his undies) cut and served the pie. I was thankful that he had given me a small slice. I was confident that I could eat it if I did it fast enough, so I ate quickly. It was as bad, if not worse, than I had imagined so I swallowed without chewing and took large gulps of milk. You would think Lisa's parents would have found my table manners atrocious, but they didn't. Instead, they thought I was enthusiastically enjoying my food. To my horror, I was served another slice. I choked down a few more bites and pretended to be full. I thanked my hosts for a nice dinner and then called my mom to come and pick me up.

Then, a few years ago, I was chatting on IM with a friend of mine. We were making plans to get together that night. When I asked her what she had been doing all day she said she had been making Shepherd's Pie. I hesitantly asked if we were having it for dinner that night. She said no, she was making it to freeze. I was so relieved.

I know that Shepherd's Pie is a favorite comfort food for a lot of people. It's even possible that I would like it if it were made by someone over the age of nine. I know there are dozens of different recipes, but the idea of it brings back memories of that horrible dinner I had more than 30 years ago.

I've been a little busy lately, and I've haven't had a chance to post the awards that I've been given. I apologize to those of you who have given them to me. I am certainly honored that you enjoy my blog enough to give me an award. I'm also a little behind in commenting and returning emails (I had a small problem with my Yahoo email. Don't worry if you've sent me a cocktail party submission, I have it).

Thank you 5th Sister , Tattoos and Teething Rings and Who Has The Thyme for the Dragon's Loyalty Award.

From 504 Main and Stir Fry Awesomeness I received the One Lovely Blog Award. Thank you very much.

I know I'm supposed to pass these awards on to other bloggers, but is there anyone left that hasn't received these? I'm so behind in posting them that I really don't think so!

Please visit the wonderful blogs that awarded me if you haven't already. You're sure to make some new friends!


5thsister said...

That was a scary story, Su! But I liked the happy ending...awards! And well deserved, too!

Chicago Mom said...

What a terrific story! I'm shocked at some of it, especially cooking alone at age 9, but you had me laughing about being served a second piece because you ate the first one so fast. haha! My mom never made Shepherd's Pie, but it sounded good to me, so I made it for the first time last winter and I loved it. There are tons of different ways to make it.

Purple Flowers said...

You always tell a good story. I can't believe the Father stayed in his underwear. That's bad.

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

That's so funny! I love Shepherd's Pie, but I had an Irish grandmother who made it with Guinness gravy- yummy. As for being alone at a young age, I was 9 when my mom was taking night classes and had no choice but to leave me in charge of my brothers, who were 6 and 3 at the time. It was scary for me, and for her, I'm sure, but we survived.

Heidi said...

Wow!! I'll bet you thought twice before going over to a friends house for the first time! I cannot imagine what you must have felt like. My daughter is 8 and I would never trust her to cook a meal by herself. How sad for your friend.

I have several awards I haven't gotten to posting yet either. I feel bad!

Lissaloo said...

Isn't it interesting how the first time we have something it can color our memory of that food forever? It's great that it can work both ways though and give us some great memories too.

The girl with the flour in her hair said...

What a great story...maybe not at the time, but it makes for good blog material!

I don't think I was left home alone until I was at least 12 or 13 years old. Wow. I remember when I was about 8 or 9, I had a friend who was responsible for getting her mom and brother up every morning and making breakfast. I recall the huge burn she had from making bacon one morning. Crazy.

Congrats on the awards!

Kathy said...

I LOL at that story! Shepard's Pie is one of my favorites, but Seashell views it about the same way you do!

BashfulToast said...

Loved the story.=]
I haven't gotten the awards!! How dare you! Just kidding.

ChristineM said...

I think I would have issues with Shepherd's Pie if I had had that experience! Although, if you're ever feeling daring, I do have a published Sweet Potato and Turkey Shepherd's Pie recipe over on Allrecipes ;) (I've never had the beef or I suppose, lamb, versions of shepherd's pie...)

I have a "dad-in-his-underwear" story too! I was on a 2nd date with a guy and we stopped by his house to pick up his brother & date...Hid good ol' Dad was in his roos too, and just a little too friendly with us ladies...really creepy!

Charisse and Holly said...

Ok...fabulous story! Those moments really stick with you...don't they. I went home in 6th grade with a friend that lived in a trailor park in a small town in Minnesota. I had never even been in one. I didn't feel sorry for her, I thought it was cool. Then she remembered she had to help a neighbor watch her two very small children. I went with her to help. That trailor was like the disgusting ones you'd see on some mental health show on Oprah. Dirty diapers on the floor along with very dirty clothes 2-3 feet deep everywhere. The smell I can remember to this day. We were just supposed to play with the kids, but I told Steph to watch them, and I cleaned and cleaned as much as I could. I felt like crying thinking of the neglect I was witnessing. The kids, babies really, were filthy. But it made me thankful...and gave me compassion for what other kids see and experience every day. Thanks for your post. Holly at

kys said...

Man I would have died if my dad walked around in his undies in front of me. And with a friend there, too! Poor kid.

I felt the same way when I handed out those awards. Trust me, I waited a lot longer than you did!

Rook No. 17 said...

Congrats on your awards! Well deserved! I always enjoy your posts, and you're wonderful about leaving comments for others too. Don't be so hard on yourself for the delay with awards and emails. We're all doing the best we can, and you do a lot better than most :) I enjoyed this story from your childhood. My daughter is in 3rd and I can't imagine her walking home from school or even turning on the oven by herself. It's such a different world we live in now!

Jenn @

Kimberly said...

Loved the story.

Congrats on the awards!

Fun blog!

L.B. said...

Good story. I try not to walk around in my boxers but sometimes it's inevitable. However, if the girls had friends coming over, the last thing I'd do is walk around in my boxers.

I've never had Shepherd's Pie. I've only been aware of its existence in the last year or two as I saw it once in a cooking show and wondered what the heck that was. I'd be willing to try it though.

Amy said...

Congratulations on your awards!

I love this memory of yours but I wanted to reach out and hug 8-year old you. How sweet you were. I cannot believe Lisa's father didn't have the decency to put clothes on when his daughter had a friend over or when it was time for dinner. I'm not impressed by that at all. I'm also surprised Lisa was allowed to have you come home after school when there were no adults home and then to start making and cooking dinner. I think the right thing would have been for Lisa's mom r dad to call your parents and tell them the situation. But that's just me.

Isn't it wierd how issues we had with food when we were young sometimes remain with us today? I had a bad experience with a couple of dinners I had in the hospital for the first time when I was a little older than you. They were AWFUL. I still can't eat those dinner!

Great post!