My mother always carefully budgeted our breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and every scrap of food in the fridge was accounted for. If anything went missing, my sister and I knew there would be fearsome consequences!
As a result, I grew up with strict guidelines concerning what I could and could not touch. If I got hungry in-between mealtimes, the policy was to go to my mother and request a snack.
Such a system, however, was unheard of in my husband’s household. I can still remember the shock in the early days of our marriage when those little somethings I had set aside for a week’s worth of meals – even just for a day or two of snacks – vanished overnight.
Yes, vanished! Anything from chocolate bars, crackers and cashews to bread, cake and fruits. Nothing was off limits.
Or sometimes to add insult to injury, a single piece of chocolate or whatever the delicacy was would be left on the countertop, and a beaming husband standing next to it. “I saved the last piece for you!” he’d say with magnanimous pride.
But the clincher came when I visited his family in Africa and realized just how different his childhood and my childhood had been.
Once my husband’s mom went to the market and bought a huge, luscious-looking watermelon. I assumed it was going to be served up at lunchtime or something.
“Oh look, watermelon!” said a nearby aunt after a lengthy discussion in the kitchen. (Another thing I noticed: most of the interesting conversations always took place among the women in the kitchen.) “I’m hungry; let’s have some melon!”
And just like that she and a younger child began hacking away at the watermelon with knives, scooping out the flesh and arranging bite-sized pieces in a tray that got passed around the kitchen.
I watched in horror as the hapless watermelon disappeared by inches. My mind reeled with thoughts about my husband’s mom. Did she know the watermelon would be gone by mid-morning? What if she had kept it for some special occasion? Shouldn’t someone ask her first?
“Would you like a piece?” the aunt said kindly, offering the plate to me.
I hesitated, then decided that if I was in for a penny, it might as well be a pound.
So I guess our household is a middle ground between these two extremes. I’m much more accustomed to having things disappear and can strategize accordingly. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying to my husband, “I’m planning to use this in a meal during the week. Can you not touch it until then?”
At other times it’s just a matter of hiding things in secret stashes, hahaha! <ominous laughter>