With food, one person's penance is another's pleasure. Many parents view dinner-time as an opportunity, not just to share food and company with their beloved offspring, but also to exert control. Sometimes kids are picky and sometimes parents are very, very cruel. Especially concerning liver. Read on as Squid Ink contributors shudder down memory lane back to most unappetizing dishes their parents forced them to eat. It goes without saying that some of these dishes no longer evoke the horror they once did. [Editor's note: Sure they do.]
Katie Robbins: "Mrs. T's frozen pierogies every Wednesday night when my mom took her piano lesson and didn't feel like cooking."
Elina Shatkin: "Fried liver. I was always a fairly adventurous eater, even as a kid, so my mom, aside from making me eat vegetables, had a general rule that if I tried a bite of something and didn't like it, I didn't have to finish it. Other parents who sometimes came into this house didn't have that same rule. They had a 'If you put it on your plate, you have to finish it' rule. One day, my mom fried up some liver cubes. I tried a bite and hated it so much, I spit it out. I was told I had to finish all the fried liver on my plate. I refused. I sat there at the dinner table with a cube of liver in my mouth letting it dissolve because the thought of chewing it up disgusted me so much. I am still traumatized by it, all these decades later. And I despise fried liver."
Celia Soudry: "I grew up eating nearly-raw shake and bake chicken about 2-3 times a week. I didn't realize until later in life that it's steak, not chicken, that should be perfectly pink."
Emma Courtland: "Like many mothers, my mom strongly encouraged me to eat broccoli, except that it wasn't called broccoli then, it was 'little trees.' 'Little trees' which, I reasoned, would never grow into big trees because of my family and our dinners. Eating broccoli was tantamount to deforestation, and I would not be party to that."
Samantha Bonar: "Huge boiled clams dug up from the beach in Oxnard, dipped in garlic butter. I'll never forget how red my older brother's face got when forced to eat one. I demurred and ate leftover spaghetti, but I still have a bit of a problem with clams."
Ali Trachta: "I like it now, but as a kid I was revolted when I was told to eat raw kibi. Try telling a little girl to eat uncooked baby lamb meat. Yeah, it's not gonna go well."
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Amy Scattergood: "Corn. In any shape or form. Growing up in the middle of an Iowa prairie, I shucked hundreds, thousands, of ears of the stuff. Go read Stephen King's short story, 'Children of the Corn,' if you have not already. Nebraska, Iowa, whatever."
Jim Thurman: "She was big on chicken livers. I didn't mind those, occasionally, but there are times I wasn't keen on them. Same for 'salmon loaf.'"
Noah Galuten: "A lot of pre-packaged late 80s/early 90s health food, which often tasted terrible. But as a result, I find odd comfort in a tofu dog on a whole wheat bun."
Jonathan Gold: "The mandatory Three Bites policy came to an abrupt end when my brother Mark projectile vomited the cauliflower in cheese sauce."