I’m Not Finished: Canned Mandarin Oranges, Greece, NY; Wednesday Morning, 1969

Photo of 2 blue and white dinner plates. Text: I'M NOT FINISHED, a personal encyclopedia gluttonica by Ingrid Tischer talesfromthecrip.org

Image courtesy eBay

Of course I had a deprived childhood. Childhood is, by definition, a time when you are deprived of what you most want and, to add insult to injury, the deprivation is presented as being for your own good. This all takes place at exactly the same time when your desires aren’t even desires, as adults know them, but are felt as pure, uncut needs.

A bright yellow can with red and green that reads "Del Monte Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup."

The can may or may not have appeared otherwise in 1969 but one truth endures: My mother would only have bought a name brand like this if she had a coupon for it.

Or so those darling cans of mandarin orange segments seemed to me, age four,  one grocery-shopping Wednesday morning after some sad holiday fruit salad had tipped me to their crisp succulence. I imagined, I yearned for, I needed a bowl of fruit salad composed of nothing but mandarin oranges. My mother, rather crisp herself and distracted by her shopping list, said it wasn’t possible.

All I wanted her to do was hold the fruit cocktail, canned fruit cocktail being the pallid concoction that she tarted up with chunked green apple, sliced banana, and (sigh) canned mandarin oranges. And then hold the apple and banana. That’s all I was asking her to do. Bring me a fruit salad, hold the fruit cocktail, hold the apple, hold the banana.

Screen shot from the film "Five Easy Pieces" in which Jack Nicholson's character tries in vain to order a breakfast combo but with wheat toast in place of the potatoes. The middle-aged waitress is pursing her lips as she is writing on her order pad. Jack is sitting in a booth next to Karen Black, who plays his girlfriend.

Five Easy Pieces, BBS Productions, 1970

Had it not been 1969, had it not been a Wednesday morning in the canned goods aisle of the Wegman’s closest to our house in Greece, New York — indeed, had I not been marooned in the seat of a shopping cart, her mini-me in our respective polyester stretch pants — this exchange with my mother could have exploded into a Five Easy Pieces type of situation. Instead, all that happened was I eyed the stacked cans of tantalizing citrus receding in the distance as my mother pushed us on toward condiments and instant soups while I pouted that my mother could have entire cans of mandarin oranges whenever she wanted and was choosing not to.

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I’m Not Finished: Clam Roast, Victor, NY; Summer 1968

Photo of 2 blue and white dinner plates. Text: I'M NOT FINISHED, a personal encyclopedia gluttonica by Ingrid Tischer talesfromthecrip.org

Image courtesy eBay

The first in a series called I’m Not Finished: A Personal Encyclopedia Gluttonica.

In the realm of emotional bookkeeping, there is literally no number of doughnuts that equals the cost of picking up the check at a waterfront restaurant.

My maternal grandfather, Carl Pilbeam, remarried when I was almost three years old. I have but one fleeting memory of that afternoon: a group of us under a huge shade tree in front of Grandpa’s farmhouse, outside Victor, in upstate New York. What I do remember, in much more vivid scraps, is a summer night outdoors at the same farm right around that time, a few glaring spotlights, clanging, laughing, and the smell of smoke. I remember it was a clam roast because it was the only clam roast my family has ever had. And because clams at a clam roast are incredibly delicious.

I knew my grandfather as a man of constants until he died at the age of 97. The only incident I ever saw him lose his temper over had to do with a game of gin rummy. He was incurably sociable, a Rotarian and Friday Fish-Fry guy, and incapable of traveling anywhere without running into someone who recognized his heavy-set frame topped with a Napa cap on his bald head. He was an eater, big hungry country boy division, who specialized in ice cream, fruit pies, and the type of doughnut called a fried cake. When Grandpa went to buy doughnuts in the morning, so the family catechism went, one dozen were for the family and one dozen were for Grandpa’s drive home in the truck.

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