In Dining

This lunch is completely unacceptable.

Foods that "traumatized" us as kids

It's time for Dining Month, presented by Deer District and its spooky Halloween-themed alter ego, Fear District. Throughout the month of October, we'll be serving up fun and fascinating content about all things food. The signature dish, however, is our 2019 Best of Dining poll, who's winners we will dish out all month long. Get hungry, Milwaukee!

Recently, I asked my son to share with me some of his worst memories from childhood. This is a brave inquiry, and indeed I was a little afraid of his response, but I wanted to know. I expected him to say something about the loss of his grandfather or at the very least the dramatic funerals he insisted on conducting in the back yard after the death of his beloved hamsters: Lavender 1, Lavender 2 and Lavender 3.

Instead he reminded me of the time I packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a hot dog bun in his lunch. "That was so gross, mom," he said. "A hot dog bun? Ew."

Really? A PB&J on unacceptable bread is one of his worst childhood memories? On the one hand, I'm glad he had such a First World Problems-filled childhood, but on the other hand, I wasn't thrilled with going down as the Grossest Lunch Packing Mom Ever. Not after I cut off all those crusts and made sure the stupid applesauce was organic.

So I did what one does in 2019: I posted on Facebook about it. And guess what? People totally agreed with my son and shared their own stories of traumatizing food experiences during childhood. And then I remembered one or two of my own. Does everyone have a scary food story from childhood?

"I don't blame him," Lona Long says. "When I was in seventh grade we went on a field trip to Dandelion Park and my mother packed me a cow tongue sandwich on wonder bread, so I definitely can relate to your son's horror."

Christina Ward remembers a traumatizing food tale that her daughter harbors. When she was a kid, her grandpa made a pot of mac and cheese, but mixed it with chocolate milk.

"He used chocolate milk because they were out of regular milk and his working theory was 'milk is milk,'" says Ward. "It's one of those memories that is burned into their brain for life."

A lot of bad food memories come from embarrassment around other kids. Such was the case for Elysabeth Reichman.

"I was constantly comparing to other kids and what was in their lunch bag," says Reichman. "Even to the point of having an ice pack in my lunch, my mom's idea, and worrying that people would think I was weird for having that in there."

Dave Gless says he was traumatized as a child by his mom's "health food," a term used in the 1970s and '80s to describe tofu, granola and the like.

"Now, shopping at The Outpost is trendy and cool, but when I was a kid I didn't want 'that food" anywhere near me. It was weird, healthy food. My mom also made a lot of homemade soup and sent it with me in a thermos. Now that sounds great, but then it wasn't cool at all," says Gless. "Oh and egg salad. My mom was big on egg salad. That's never good in a school lunch. Especially when you're on a field trip and eating it on the bus."

Megan Mason shudders at the memories of accidentally grabbing her dad's lunch bag instead of her own.

"Some of my worst, darkest lunch memories were when I got my dad's lunch: a bologna sandwich with more mustard than a human should ever have, leaking pickles and an apple covered in pickle juice," says Mason.

Luckily, the bad-news lunch moments morphed into funny memories.

"We have joked about it for years. At the time, my dad had one of those three-piece suit kinds of jobs and he wasn't thrilled about sitting in a board room eating a PB&J and a fruit roll-up," says Mason.


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