family food stories.

Eric and I started sharing stories the other night
about memories from our childhood
and whether we ate at restaurants often
as kids.
Neither of our families did.
Going out for dinner or lunch
was a special treat.

For Eric,
his family went out
twice a year.
To Burger King.
Yes, Burger King.
The outing was a big deal.
It was the only place
where his brother, Walter
liked to eat.
Walter would order
a double bacon cheeseburger,
so Eric would do the same.
Walter was his big brother.

For me,
to this day,
I love going to a restaurant.
Maybe it’s because
it reminds me of
fun times with my family.

Growing up in a small town
dinner was eaten at home.
There were three restaurants in Emo:
The Circle D restaurant,
the place for all things burgers, fries,
and milkshakes.
There was the Emo Inn,
Meh. A restaurant in a hotel.
It never seemed busy.
And then there was the CanAsian restaurant,
where we would order Chinese food
every once in a while.

So when we went to Winnipeg
or Thunder Bay for a weekend,
it was very exciting.

There was a food court
at the mall.
In Winnipeg…
a Red Lobster,
Olive Garden,
Wendy’s,
Subway…
we could eat anywhere!

Back home,
the selection and excitement
was a little different.
A fun Friday or Saturday night
was having a friend over
while my parents were out
at a dance or social.

They would buy us a frozen pizza,
chips, and pop.
Dinner was complete
with our own version
of Dairy Queen Blizzards.
We would mash up different ingredients
from Mom’s baking cupboard
and stir them into our ice cream.
Chocolate chips,
cut up maraschino cherries,
sprinkles…
a big night.
(It actually didn’t taste that good.)

But for the most part,
Friday nights meant
that the truck was packed up
and we were on our way
to the cabin
for the weekend.

Dad would stop at Norlund’s for gas.
We would wait in the truck
and watch him inside
as he made his way over
to the ice cream freezer.

He often came back to the truck
with Snack and a Half’s –
the best ice cream sandwich
ever.

Thick vanilla ice cream
sandwiched between
two giant oatmeal cookies,
then the entire thing
dipped
into milk chocolate.

So good.
I tried to replicate it once.
It wasn’t the same.

Another special occassion
was to get burgers and fries
from the Circle D restaurant.
Every once in a while
Mom and Dad would call in
and place an order for pick up.
It was a big treat
and only happened a few times
a year.

Usually on those nights,
we would go to Dyson’s
and pick out a few movies
or videos games for the weekend.
It was a movie rental place,
old school VHS.

We would walk the perimeter of the store
looking at new releases
displayed on wall racks.
Once we picked one,
we would bring the empty case
up to the counter.

The original packaging
would be swapped
for a hard plastic case.
It would be snapped open
to confirm
it was the correct tape.
A Be Kind, Rewind sticker
was usually stuck on top.

Being close to the Minnesota border
also meant that we had a few other
restaurants to chose from.

The Spot Supper Club
used to be a really nice place
to go for dinner
in International Falls, MN.

I remember getting dressed up
and going with Uncle Bill and Auntie Carolyn.
It felt like a formal event.
And there was always a rush of excitement
when you were told by the waiter/waitress
that you could go ahead
and help yourself to the salad bar.

It’s funny how cottage cheese,
veggies, and salads
are much more exciting
at a restaurant.
And the dessert bar
with an ice cream machine
was always a highlight.

Barney’s
was another restaurant
in International Falls, MN.
where we had dinner
as a family.
Our parents would take us across
to see a movie
and make a day of it.

First, we would do some shopping
at KMart,
Pamida (back in the day),
and the International Falls mall.

Once we had finished shopping,
we would have dinner
at Barney’s,
a little family restaurant
that sat next to the theatre.

I used to order chicken fingers
and fries.
I also liked to order salads
because the French dressing in the U.S. was different
and they put cheese on their salads.

It may seem weird to write these random memories about food and where we ate as a family.  Maybe someday the kids will find this interesting or maybe not.  But they will most definitely laugh at the idea of VHS tapes and having to wait for a movie until it was returned.  Things have changed a little bit since then.

By writing this, I found it interesting to think about my relationship with food.  So many of the things we did (having ice cream, going out to restaurants, etc.) are things I still enjoy now.  They mark special moments and times to celebrate.

When something great happens in our house, I always want to order in or go out for dinner.  Ice cream is something we have as a special treat rather than just something to eat.  All things for me to think further about and how they link to  my food story.