by Elizabeth Stephens
Not Fit For Human Consumption
When mealtime arrived it was always a nasty experience. We never ate with the rest of the family, but always by ourselves in our room in front of the T.V where all our meals were delivered by Selma. We ate rotten food not fit for humans, many times it was just fat and oil, and how we would gag. While we were gagging we were told there was something the matter with us. If the meal had any meat in it, it was either a hamburger or baloney. I can’t remember ever having any vegetables.
We were instructed to eat the ice cubes in our drinks. I know some people like doing this, but I took no pleasure in it at all. Even our drinks were mixed with a combination of beer and chocolate, also very nasty. Selma wanted to ruin our teeth. Speaking about our dental hygiene it was non-existent. We did not ever own a tooth brush and never brushed our teeth. Many years later David was sitting at my table and yelling at someone because they did not take care of their teeth. Again, the irony is so close.
Coke was one of our main drinks. Looking back on our diet, we never had anything that was healthy. For breakfast, we would have a burnt toasted cheese on white bread or two to three donuts and we would have to “wash it down” with the chocolate and beer combination. For lunch, Selma would give us a bologna sandwich, cookies, and a coke with ice cubes. We would have to eat the food and the ice cubes as fast as we could. She would say “They’ll cool you off.” I always hated to eat them because I’d get cold and would always be shivering.
When we were in grammar school we had to come home for lunch. We’d be told to run home. This wasn’t because we didn’t have enough time to walk home and to have lunch. This was simply because Selma wanted us to run so we would be uncomfortable. Selma would even make Adrian and I compete against each other by seeing who could run home the fastest.
We’d sit in front of the T.V. and eat as fast as we could, and then about five minutes before the late bell would ring we’d have to run ten blocks back to school. She planned for us to be late and was always putting us in difficult and trying situations, again all for “our benefit.” So getting back to school we were always being marked late.
Selma, Junior’s Deli Pastry Chef Par Excellence
You may think that Selma was a rotten cook but that was not the case, she was a great cook. She would make cookies, pastries, and cakes from scratch, but rarely would we get any. They were amazing. Her family always raved about her cooking. She also did catering for a famous deli called Junior’s on Westwood Blvd.
As I grew older, I found myself getting into trouble more frequently and would get caught in the act doing something or other. I was known as the black sheep and was always one, according to Selma, because I was always ‘pushing the limits’ It wasn’t that I was a bad seed; I was just stifled in my growth and wanted to be challenged or even to have a kind word.
I will not go into much detail as I am not proud of some of what I did.
Because I had to stuff my food down my throat as fast as possible under Selma’s always disapproving eye, sometimes I would regurgitate it and eat it as my leisure. I know that probably sounds so awful and yet it was worth it to me to enjoy my food, especially the donuts.
Other things included, stealing money from Selma’s purse, which was the worst, reading books when she was out, trying to improve my mind and stealing food from the kitchen. When I was 16, I “stole” an orange. Prior to that, I never remember ever tasting one.
Since we were never allowed into the kitchen, I remember several times sneaking into the kitchen and raiding the icebox. I used to steal cans and eat the fruit or vegetables, whatever I could find. Once she discovered me with a can of pumpkin and she made me eat it raw. Most of the time she would just yell at me and I would attempt to block it out by thinking about other things, like playing a movie in my head. Each time she would make me more and more miserable whenever I gave her more ammunition to point out my long list of things wrong in my life.
I had tried to make her love me by saving coupons to buy her things as gifts. I would look at magazines and would envision the gifts I would lavish on my whole family so maybe they would accept me, but that never worked.
Every night before we went to bed, Selma would give us a big handful of candy or a thick slice of chocolate cake and ice cream. Adrian and I had become overweight with bad skin and teeth through her malicious design. Selma wanted us to be fat, ugly and gross for she did not want us to have any friends at all.
On a handful of occasions we were invited over to Selma’s successful, brother’s house. He had a split-level house with a fish pond that flowed through the interior and exterior in a very expensive part of Brentwood, California. Selma dearly loved to rub David’s nose in all her brother’s wealth every chance she had.
Prior to these visits, Adrian and I were fed dinner at home and instructed to eat very little. We were told to leave a lot of food on our plates so we would not embarrass ourselves, according to Selma. Our time there was always stressful as Selma watched us like a hawk. Rarely would I have any fun. Afterwards Selma would tell us all kinds of unkind comments were made about us and how she defended us.
When David and Selma would go away for the weekend Selma would leave us paper bags of food in the closet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course there were others at home that made their own breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but this was our treatment.The food mostly consisted of donuts, Hi-C punch, and; baloney sandwiches, after all this could last without refrigeration. The bags were marked, e.g., “Thurs. Lunch.” Imagine though, when the whole family went on vacation to Europe and left us with two weeks worth of bagged meals. Nasty food it was.