Monday, September 23, 2013

Other peoples normals

I was 11 years old and in sixth grade and was sitting bleary eyed at a friends kitchen table waiting for breakfast. It was her 12th birthday and she had a sleepover to celebrate. I am sure that we stayed up giggling and talking until the wee hours of the morning. It had been an absolutely brilliant time.

When we finally dragged ourselves to the kitchen her mother was already cooking us french toast. She asked if any of us would like bacon and we all managed to say we would like bacon, I mean who wouldn't? I watched as she pulled out the package of bacon from the fridge, but I couldn't understand what it was she was doing.

I knew I was sleep deprived, but her every bacon cooking movement was bizarre and unnatural to me. She hadn't pulled out a frying pan and turned the stove on. Instead she had gotten out a plate and laid the bacon, wrapped in paper towel, onto a plate. Then she did something that made me want to actually ask her if she had lost her mind; she put it in the microwave.

Microwaves were for melting butter for popcorn and reheating pizza. Microwaves were not meant for cooking bacon. My little 11 year old brain was so incredibly confused. I couldn't grasp what she was doing. I just stared in quite shocked horror.

Five minutes later a plate of limp pale strips of bacon was set on the table in front of all of us. I tentatively picked up a single piece and placed it on my plate. I knew right away I would never be able to eat this. It smelled vaguely bacon like but it was not the bacon I knew. It was not the crisp enticing treat I so loved. This was limp and pale and disgusting.

I looked around the table expecting that the other girls would be as confused and disgusted as I was. Only they weren't. They were all chatting and eating their bacon like there was nothing out of the ordinary. They acted like that was what bacon was supposed to be like.

I was still busy being horrified about what had been done to my beautiful bacon that I almost didn't notice that she had set a plate of french toast in front of me. Perhaps it was because I was already so shaken up by the bacon travesty that I was unable to contain my shock when I looked at my French toast.

"What is that?!"

I know I sounded rude when I said it, but I am not sure my friends mother caught it. She probably dismissed it as me still being half asleep or possibly that I had never had French toast before. As it was she just answered that it was French toast and went back to making breakfast.

Now I had eaten French toast on plenty of occasions. My grandmother and mother used to make it for us for breakfast on a fairly regular basis. It was actually one of my favorite breakfast foods. This was  not something that was foreign to me, or at least it shouldn't have been foreign to me.

The thing was I was staring at a plate of bread slices floating in a pool of syrup. I had never in my life seen anyone put syrup on french toast. I didn't even like syrup, but in my world it was a substance that you used on pancakes and waffles, not French toast.

French toast was meant to be heavily buttered and then dusted over with powdered sugar. We even had one of those powder sugar dispensers where you squeezed a handle on the side of the canister and it sifted out the powdered sugar like a light snow fall. It was the only way I had ever eaten it.

The thought of putting syrup all over the French toast was as bizarre and wrong to me as cooking bacon in the microwave. I sat staring at my breakfast as though I had woken up in some episode of the Twilight Zone where all food was completely wrong and I am the only one who realizes it.

The thing was it wasn't the Twilight Zone but I really was the only one who noticed it. My normal was actually not the normal for most people. I was truly shocked to learn that most people eat syrup on their french toast. I was shocked to find out that people actually cooked all sorts of things in a microwave, bacon included.

It is hard when you are young to come to the realization that things as you know it are not necessarily the same as the rest of the world. Your truths are someone elses lie. If I had had my girlfriends over for a sleepover and my mother had served us French toast dusted with powdered sugar they would have stared at it and asked where the syrup was.

We are all raised with different 'normals'. Every household does things differently, and sometimes it is hard to remember that your way is not the only way. It was actually that strange breakfast that taught me that the world was a place full of very different 'normals' than what I was used to.

It is not that my way was wrong, or that there way was wrong, they are just different ways. Diversity is a good thing. Having different ways to enjoy a dish is a good thing. As long as you are enjoying what you have then who cares. I may look at you a little strange when you grab for the syrup at the breakfast table, but I am not going to actually judge someone for eating syrup on their French toast as long as it makes them happy.

Still, I think cooking bacon in the microwave is disgusting.


  1. There's always that moment when you realize the true meaning of home cooking!

  2. I don't think I truly understood the meaning of home cooking until I was at a friends house and their mom served us box macaroni and cheese. I was in 8th or 9th grade and I had never actually seen anyone eat that before. I didn't even know what it was at first. We always made mac and cheese from scratch.
    I was very grateful my mother taught me how to be polite.