Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Yesterday I went out in the morning with my mother-in-law to run a couple of errands. In between we stopped at my in-law's apartment for coffee, and my MIL asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I told her no, I just wanted coffee, and she was surprised. Even though I have spent god knows how many mornings in their apartment, not eating breakfast, she still acts surprised when I don't want anything, because she knows how Americans eat big breakfasts. She continued "not even a bowl of Cornflakes?" in that motherly way. I told her no, that I wasn't really hungry.

She went into the kitchen to make our coffee and get her bowl of Cornflakes, and came back out bearing a tray with two coffees, a bowl of Cornflakes and a bowl filled with Digestive cookies, of which she insists I eat two. One wouldn't satisfy her, two was the magic number. Now, I don't dislike these cookies, they are tasty, especially with coffee, but they are highly fibrous, and apparently digestive=homemade enema because my stomach doesn't feel right for days after I eat such cookies.

This is a universal thing, this mothering instinct to provide sustenance to all around you. If you say you don't want anything to eat to this woman, she has a look upon her face of mortal terror, followed quickly by a sly smile that lets you know that you will be eating something whether you want to or not. My mother is exactly the same way.

Now, I appreciate the instinct. It is a cross between mothering and being a good hostess. But when it is family, you should be able to pass up the food without the guilt, the insistence, the shoving of something you really don't feel like eating in your face. And, god love her, my mother will tell you that you look like you've gained weight in one breath then try to force feed you some cake in the next. Mothers are an unstoppable force.

For now, I'll deal with it politely. Someday, though, I'll learn all the tricks. I'll learn how to pick up the check before my MIL does (although she will get up and go to the people at the counter of a restaurant and tell them she will be paying the bill and not to bother anyone else with it). I'll learn how to make people eat when they don't want to. I'll learn how to compliment and berate someone in the same sentence. Someday, I'll be a force to be reckoned. But not yet.


Anonymous said...

This thread made me smile because you know, one day you'll be just the same. It's a Greek thing (although not exclusivly), not accepting food is a big faux pas. It doesn't matter if your not hungry. You eat it anyway.

Everyone I know is the same, I noticed as a kid, my parents and my friends parents and members of my family always used to insist I ate as I was "a growing boy". Now I'm 25 years old, I go to the gym to keep in shape and they still tell me to eat as I'm growing. Now if they carry on, the only way I'll grow is out.

My dad is the worse one for it. If your not hungry, he'll not settle unless you eat. If he gives you one spoonful/serving of whatever he's made and you say that's enough, he insists on giving you two. You then have to snatch the plate away to avoid it becoming three. If you then finish the plate of food, he then takes the plate and brings you more because 'you obviously like it and your obviously still hungry'.

However I do it too and I dont realize it. If I have a guest, I'll offer them food, they'll say no. I'll say "are you sure?". They'll say yes. I'll then say "not even a sandwich?", they say no. Then I'll be like "well what do you want then?" and they'll be nothing. Then I end up making serving them food anyway and when they question it, I'll be like "well I knew you'd change your mind". So I can see it both ways. It actually bothers me if people won't eat? Why wont they eat? Whats wrong with my food? And that's how it gets.

Now take SeaWitch, she used to be like all Canadian with her thinking. Although I remember her telling me that she now force feeds all the kids her son brings home in exactly the same way a Greek would.

So believe me, this mentality will rub off on you.

sappho said...

This post is really funny to me, you see I have a Greek ya-ya who insists on shoving large quantities of food in my mouth regardless of whether or not I'm hungry. According to her I always appear too thin & must eat everything she throws at me. Thanksgiving at my Greek relatives this year will have me bloated once again!

Cynthia Rae said...

I know this may sound like a funny thing say, but....enjoy your mother-in-law. My mother-in-law suffers from Alzheimers and most of the time she doesn't even know who I am. With my own mother thousands of miles away, there is no one here to mother me except myself. Let her take care of you (just a little) because one day you will return the favor by taking care of her.

traveller one said...

I want to ditto the comment above by Cynthia Ray. I'm in the same situation with a MIL with Alzheimer's and my own Mom back in Canada. But still- this post was very charming and made me smile :)

melusina said...

Don't get me wrong, I adore my mother-in-law! I don't think I would have survived if it wasn't for the love and care I've gotten from her and all my in-laws. I couldn't have been luckier in that regard. I just love the irony how mothers all over the world are alike, and wondering when we inherit such skills.

I'm sorry that both of you have MIL's with Alzheimer's, that can't be easy.