First in an occasional series on Famous Family Sayings
I’ve noticed lately that I don’t each as much as I used to. Maybe it’s because I subconsciously hear some of the words from the Pink Floyd song “Dogs”: And it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around. Or maybe it’s because things just don’t taste the same to me anymore. A lot of food just tastes bland to me. Can you lose taste buds as you get older? I don’t know, but it seems like I am. The other night we had something with dinner and my wife and son both said it tasted very salty. However, to me it didn’t taste salty at all. Not a bit, which is kind of scary.
Or maybe it’s because as a kid I had it drilled into my head to “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” That was a phrase we heard a lot at my house growing up. My parents hated to waste food. Heck, when you’re paying as much as they did for food every week for nine kids, you don’t want to be throwing it away. So they had a rule: you can take as much food as you wanted, but you had to eat it all. If you asked how much spaghetti you could take, the answer was “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” If you asked if you could have two burgers, the answer was “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” If you asked how many cookies you could have, the answer was “Three.” As much as we tried, the cookie answer was never “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” Nor was it for M&M’s, brownies or ice cream. It was for liver and onions, but we never took Mom and Dad up on that one.
Seems pretty simple, but in the competitive world of dinner time in a large family it wasn’t as cut and dry as you’d think. If you took only a small amount of food to make sure you could eat it all, when you went back for more there might not be any left. Mom usually made enough for everyone plus a little more, but there were times there was just enough for everybody. If you went conservative, someone else could take the rest of what you should have taken the first time. If you took a large portion to make sure you got your share and couldn’t finish it, somehow Dad always knew. Even if you tried to cover it up or rush past him to get the dishes to the sink, he knew. On those occasions you’d get the corollary to “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” That is, “Your eyes were bigger than your stomach.”
When one of my parents said it, I would always picture my face with these huge eyes that took up my whole face, alien like. Knowing my younger self, I probably went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, just to make sure I didn’t have crazy eyes. We didn’t get punished for taking too much; Dad just let us know that it was not alright. There was something about disappointing him that made me not take too much. Which is why if “Your eyes were bigger than your stomach.” was a sarcastic comment from one of my siblings, it was like rubbing salt in the wound. I not only felt like I disappointed my parents, I had to take a ribbing on top of it.
As for eating today I take all I want, but I do eat all I take. Like my parents, I don’t like to waste food either. Food costs way too much today to throw it away. Besides, every time I look in the mirror these days, I can see that there’s absolutely no possible way that my eyes could be bigger than my stomach.