I love grapefruit—especially if someone else fixes it for me so I don’t have to spend time dissecting out all the little sections. And especially if it is covered with grenadine and topped with a maraschino cherry. So this morning, in honor of my birthday week, my sweet husband prepared a grapefruit for me, garnished with not one, but five maraschino cherries. I’m not generally one to question if someone else goes to the trouble of fixing something for me, but five cherries seemed a bit much, until I looked at his grapefruit and saw he had six.
“Do you think you have enough cherries?” I asked him.
“I like cherries,” he replied. “And when I was a kid my mother only put one cherry on our grapefruit.”
This got me thinking about all the other ways he was deprived as a child. There were certain rules in his family which sometimes seemed a bit odd to me, but nevertheless were gospel where his family dynamics were concerned.
In his family, they always came home from church and had a big Sunday breakfast with bacon, eggs, grits, and biscuits. But they were only allowed two pieces of bacon apiece. Now to me, this wouldn’t have been a big deal, as I can take or leave bacon. However, this was apparently a major, ingrained condition in his family, to the point that to this day whenever any of his family is present at a breakfast, they inevitably ask, “How many pieces of bacon can we have?” If told they can have all they want, it is like they hit the jackpot.
Not only was the bacon strictly rationed, but it had to be cooked using a particular fork. I once made the mistake at his parents’ house of attempting to turn the bacon using a different fork and was immediately informed of the serious faux pas I had committed as “The Bacon Fork” was thrust into my hand. “The Bacon Fork” was not some specialized kitchen implement out of a Martha Stewart catalog. It was a plain old two pronged fork with a broken wooden handle. Yes, a broken wooden handle. “The Bacon Fork” became quite the coveted Fannon family heirloom when my husband’s parents passed away. I’m not sure which of his siblings absconded with it. I only know it didn’t come to us. Which is probably why we seldom have bacon.
The bacon wasn’t the only food which was rationed. Growing up, my husband was only allotted one bowl of the “good” cereal for breakfast. If he was still hungry he had to eat generic corn flakes. And I’m pretty sure he and his siblings only carried generic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. No extra crunchy Jiff for them.
Now in his parents’ defense, they did have five kids to feed and money was tight. Plus they were products of the Great Depression, which explained why they reused baggies and Styrofoam cups. But I sometimes get tickled when my husband relates some of the food deprivations he suffered as a child.
I guess my observation of the number of cherries my husband had put on his grapefruit must have touched a sore nerve or triggered a painful memory. Immediately after relaying the sad tale of only having one maraschino cherry on his grapefruit as a child, he informed me, “Besides, I’m almost sixty-five years old! I can have as many cherries on my grapefruit as I want!”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that when I was child, I didn’t get any cherries on my grapefruit.