The Proof is in the Bacon

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My kids are little toothpicks. Skinny, all lean limbed with very little body fat on them. I don’t like it. I wish they were, I don’t know. Meatier? Chubbier? When they get sick, they quickly lose what little weight they already have and fall into the 0-5 percentile on the charts that they show you at the Doctor’s office.

Those charts are a little silly, don’t you think? A child’s height and weight is going to be some indicator of health, but you can’t abide too much by those charts. I mean, they are comparing my little children to the rest of the American population. Since my background is Indian and my husband’s is Italian and Puerto Rican, it would be much more accurate if they compared my kids to other kids who are:

1/2 Indian

1/4 Italian

1/4 Puerto Rican

Right? 

But that’s hard to do. And since America is a melting pot of cultures, we are a melting pot of genetic makeup as well.

A lot of times my kids aren’t even on the chart.

“Zero Percent?” I ask at the Doctor’s office. “What the hell does that even mean?” Can you even exist at 0%? Do they have a negative scale, like -5 – 0%, -10 to -5%? I mean, WTF? How do you categorize all the 0% kids? (These are the questions that keep me up at night, apparently).

We do feed them. I promise. If anything we try to give them fattier foods to put some meat on the bones. The net result of that is that John, me and Heather, our Au Pair, all gain weight while the kids stubbornly hold their positions at their  0 – 10% mark.

I try not to worry about it. I mean, they are healthy kids. Just little.

John gets freaked out about it more than me. I try to remind him of what both of us looked like in our childhood pictures. Not that different from our kids in that way.

Gangly, stick figured like. You could see my ribs till I was about ten. I had teeth that were too big for my face, until I was about 20. Then I remind John about his mullet, which has nothing to do with being skinny, but it’s still important that we humiliate each other about these things.

Seeing how freaked out John gets reminds me of how concerned my own parents used to be about it when I was younger.

Yeh kitni skinny hai?” (She is so skinny!) an auntie would say while literally squeezing what flesh I had off of my cheekbones, shaking my head from side to side. “Khahti he?” (Does this little punk eat?)

Ha, lekin kya karenge? Khaathi hai nahin, na? Oos par bhi, zero percent mai hai!” (Yes, but what are we going to do? Bitch never eats. She’s in the zero percent.)

Arey, zero percent hai bhi? Kaise, kya baat?” (What, they have a zero percent? I always wondered what they did to those little bastards!)

My parents would take me to the doctors. They were sure something was wrong with me. My pediatrician, Doctor Rahill, who oddly reminded me of a mix of Mr. Rogers and Steve Winwood, would tell them again and again that I was fine.

Again.

And again.

Finally, Dr. Rahill just broke down under the weight of my parents’ constant concerns over my weight and their good for nothing visits. I always got the feeling that he wanted to shake them and say, “I mean hello, there are starving children in India!” Instead, he suggested that my mother just give me the most fattening foods we had on hand. And basically to give me what I wanted to eat.

But aahll she vaunts to eat is potahto chip and ice cur-ream. Vhat ca-an I do?” My mom asked.

I like bacon. And pepperoni,” I volunteered, quietly from the examination table.

VHAT?” my mom asked.

Bacon. Pepperoni. I love that,” I said, piping up this time. My mother was giving me “the look.” But I didn’t care.

In unison, both Dr. Rahill and my mother spoke.

That’s great! Bacon and pepperoni will put some meat on her bones,” said Dr. Rahill, happy with the solution. I think he even gave my mom a prescription that said, bacon.

Ay, hey Raam! Hey Raam!” (Oh, my lord Raam. How did you give me this child of the demon, Raavana?) my mother said with her hands on her forehead, shaking her head in disbelief.

My parents do NOT eat beef. They do NOT eat pork. My parents think that eating pigs is like, the grossest idea in the world. Because pigs will eat everything. And so if you eat a pig, you are eating everything. I mean, there is an accepted analogy that is used in popular culture that even talks about pigs in conjunction with shit. Examples are:

Kate was like a pig in shit when she got those tickets to see Neil Diamond!

Brad was like a pig in shit when his “Penthouse Magazine” got delivered earlier than expected!

It’s so gross for them, that it’s like how I imagine I would feel if someone told me I had to eat horse meat. Or my neighbors’ little kitty cat down the street. Or watch “Full House” reruns all day.

A little like N to the O.

Hell to the NO.

So here is my mom, with basically a prescription to just let me eat shit, like literally, SHIT, in her mind. She went to Food-Town, dragging me by the arm and muttering under her breath, where she threw a few packs of bacon into the cart. She threw in a stick of pepperoni for good measure. I’m surprised she didn’t throw it at my head, to be honest. When touching these packets, she did it gingerly with her fingers, as if to minimize contamination. She then went to the drugstore and bought those face masks. You know, they kind you might wear in a hospital, while painting, protecting yourself from disease.

OR about to serve shit to your kids.

It was like she was packing to go to war. A soldier. Armed only with some packs of Smithfield brand cured meats.

We got home and the first thing she did was open ALL the windows. She turned on the attic fan. She put on her mask and brand new plastic gloves and was finally prepared.

This was turning out to be quite the operation.

With the exhaust fan running on the stove, my masked mother made me a whole pack of bacon. She never cooked bacon so she didn’t know what it was supposed to look like, but I remember it being really burnt. She also didn’t know what a serving was, so she made me a whole pack in one sitting. The smell was noxious to her. “Oh Gawd” she muttered over and over again, slightly muffled through the mask, as I joyfully inhaled the sweetest scent of burning fat.

And so I sat at that table, in heaven. Eating a plate full of bacon that was burnt beyond recognition. Sitting in the small kitchen of my childhood home in the freezing cold. Like a pig in shit, I couldn’t have been happier.

I will never forget the taste of that bacon.

Joy.

Parents make sacrifices for their kids every day. In that moment, on that day, I never really considered how challenging it might have been for my mother to do those things to make me happy. There are moments when I parent now that a memory will strike me from out of the blue and I will think to myself, “Did I even say ‘thank you?’” As a sometimes overly angst-ridden individual, I seem to remember the times my parents and I have been at odds with each other, and I focus on those.

But in these other things? These memories that go beyond money, ceremonies, celebrations or accomplishments?

There is a richness in them that I sometimes forget.

But one blast of the smell of bacon, even today, 30 years later, and I am right back there. At that table. Goosebumps on my arms.

Saying thank you.

I don’t know what it is about food your mother makes for you, especially when it’s something that anyone can make – pancakes, meat loaf, tuna salad – but it carries a certain taste of memory.  - Mitch Albom

 

Dresses from Shabby Apple

38 Responses to The Proof is in the Bacon

  • Kristen says:

    Ha! I was laughing so hard when you said you liked bacon and pepperoni (they are the only two things that keep weight on my skinny 10 year old). Then when you got to your mom’s thoughts about pigs, I lost it! I so needed to find a smile and some humor. Going down memory lane with people can sometimes just be just what the doctor ordered!
    Kristen recently posted…In Need Of A BreakMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Oh I LOVED back, pepperoni, any kind of meat that could resemble nothing that looked like meat. I was Here’e something else that will make you laugh. Ma hated that I kept eating this in the house, so one day, I am all insecure because my boobs are coming in. And my mom says, you know why you got your period and boobs? Pepperoni! So I stopped eating the. In retrospect I should have eaten more. ughhh.

  • Kiran! Holy so good! I am not big on the pig. Growing up Jewish, I didn’t eat a lot of bacon or pork, but there must be something to it because the whole country seems to be wild about it.

    That said, I love how you have found a way to connect with your mother here. I have been trying so hard to write about my mother. I never have because we are constantly at war. Here is a way that maybe I can do it. Embrace the fact that we have always been at war.

    And yet.

    I know she loves me.

    In her own brokenness.

    Even when she belittles or criticizes me.

    I know she does.

    Probably.

    Like when your mother served you bacon.

    She wasn’t thrilled to do it, but she did. Out of love. I so admire you for telling these stories and for teaching me how to (maybe) find mine.
    renée a. schuls-jacobson recently posted…Teenage Resistance To The Teachable MomentMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Yeah, I love my mother but we don’t often get to “connect.” I love her food, I love her, she worries about me and my kids. That’s the common foundation but we connect in other ways than maybe what I had hoped. Let’s just say my mom and I are probably not going to start a book club, but we understand each other’s strength and weaknesses and have found a way to still meaningfully bond.

      My parents made a lot of decision a lot of sacrifices for us that are only really clicking together right now. Had I understood, I would have shaken my 6 year old self to say, “one day, you will not have your ma’s chicken curry. One day, it just won’t be.” If I understood now how the taste of my ma’s real cooking leaves me so hungy, I would have happily skipped the bacon.

  • Sabina says:

    HILARIOUS! Especially your loose translation of the Hindi language!! The best!

    • masalachica says:

      Sabina!
      I know its so boring to listen to them go back and forth like you aren’t even there when we tired at parties. I figured even I was allowed a little fun with those parts (the translation) ;-)

  • Rivki Silver
    Twitter:
    says:

    Loved this post so much. SO MUCH. I can just see your mother, and the expressions and all the imagery. I love the idea of the doctor writing a prescription for bacon. Mwahaha! Much thanks to Renee for tweeting about it and bringing me here.

    Also, my first-born is uber-skinny. When I see him without his pants on (he’s 3) I’m reminded of emaciated children from second and third world countries. Oy! It is a source of constant concern for my mother-in-law. We have been known to follow him around with food, cajoling him to eat. Thank G-d, today he ate a slice of pizza. And some Cheerios. But I think that was it. And some water. Good grief, these skinny children!
    Rivki Silver recently posted…We Need To Change Our Conversation: Stop the Violence In Our LanguageMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Oh my, I totally feel for you. One day, John and I were at a party and there was an Indian lady stopping the football game to feed him. He was like 9.

      I told John he is free to divorce me if we are still doing that when he 8. Or sick

  • Robin
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is fantastic! I can just picture your mom cooking it. :)
    Robin recently posted…A Little Bird Told Me to Give You ThisMy Profile

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    “Bitch never eats.” made me laugh so hard.
    My mother cried when our housekeeper left our service – because she couldn’t cook and she had no idea how she was going to feed 4 children and a husband. She took cooking classes.
    We all survived. :)
    Alison recently posted…The Children Who Will Always Be ChildrenMy Profile

  • Alex
    Twitter:
    says:

    that’s just a lovely memory. and a prescription for bacon is FANTASTIC.
    Alex recently posted…My Heart Goes Out To Newtown, But I Hope They Do Not Turn To Social Media For HelpMy Profile

  • tracy says:

    Laughing so hard. And now I’m craving burnt bacon…
    tracy recently posted…A Mammogram Review From The Small Boobs BloggerMy Profile

  • Peg says:

    K-
    I so love love love this post. Hilarious and touching all at once. We are huge bacon fans in our house and I’ll never look at it the same way :)

    Sorry I’ve been light on the comments. I’m reading just haven’t had my normal time to blog and comment.

    Happy holidays to you, Dino and the kids!

    love,
    Peg

    • masalachica says:

      Dear Peg – I hope you had a Merry Christmas! How is K doing? As long as you don’t start cooking bacon with a mask on, we should be good ;-). I haven’t been much of a good blogging buddy recently but hope to get back into it all after the holidays. It’s hard to keep up with just getting dinner – the presents barely just made it under the tree in time this year!

      Oh and you will be getting our Christmas cards sometime around MLK day. I hope.
      Love,
      Kiran

  • MomWithaDot says:

    Bacon Shaycon to pata nahin…..but your girls look absolutely Gorgeous! 1/4 Italian, 1/4 Puerto Rican and 1/2 Indian seems like a Killer Combo! I’m guessing their language skills are fab too. And Auntyji is the epitome of a Loving Desi Mom – Just by this pic, one can tell she loves to feed :) !
    MomWithaDot recently posted…Domestic DivaMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      I am so sorry that I am as late as I am with this comment, Madhavi! Thanks for commenting and your compliments on the kids. Nico, the youngest is a boy – but he is very pretty and so I can see why you might think he was a girl :-) The language skills are coming along, mostly some Spanish, Hindi and our Au Pair is from Wales so some Welsh too. I love that they will hopefully be multi-lingual one day.

      That picture is a shutterstock image, but your right, Ma is the epitome of the Desi mom.
      xo
      Kiran

  • Galit Breen
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh how I love this. LOVE.

    {Sacrifice is one of the first -and biggest- lessons of motherhood, isn’t it?}
    Galit Breen recently posted…By MoonlightMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      I never knew what sacrifice would mean. I knew my social life would suffer but was completely naive on what parenting strong individuals would mean – it’s all worth it though. And one day, they will get it, similar to how I FINALLY, FINALLY “get” it.
      Lots of love, Galit!
      Kiran

  • Dixya
    Twitter:
    says:

    i can so relate to this post. I remember being force fed by my mom (dal, rice with plenty of ghee) with her hand because it apparently helped me gain weight. I feel bad sometimes thinking about so much sacrifices and time they devoted to make sure I was eating right and such- i dont think i appreciated that at all..

    you are absolutely correct about kids sometimes being off the chart- i mean our genetic makeup is very different and as long as kids are not losing/gaining weight excessively or showing abnormal labs, unusual health signs for the most part they are fine i think. Also, kids go through bouts of weight changes.
    Dixya recently posted…As simple as… Roasted Brussels SproutsMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Dixya – hope you had a wonderful holiday! My mouth is watering thinking about your mom’s daal with ghee right now. yummy. Did you ever add pickle on the side? So the best thing. Bhaat, daal, dahi and pickle.
      xoxo
      Kiran

  • 1stpeaksteve says:

    Funny story!

    It is amazing how quickly we change once the kiddo comes onto the scene. Before baby, one was secure about our views and would laugh at the other parents as they did strange and odd things. Then say hello to the new baby and good bye to your security!

    Any rustle of the baby monitor was the sure sign of some emergency! Why isn’t he running yet? The food must be cut into insect-sized pieces for them to be able to survive. Shouldn’t he be wearing a helmet in the bath tub?

    Then comes the day you see the commercial to adopt a child from a swamp in New Guinea…how did that child survive to be on the commercial!

    One last thing to end my long and rambling post…Your children will do fine. I too was diagnosed as having “Hobbitism” as a child and some how by the age of 15, I transformed into the specimen I am today (not on display in a carnival sideshow).

    • masalachica says:

      Hi Steve,

      I know – I agree they will be fine. Having been to India many times and seeing the conditions which children can live in – I know that my kids have everything they need to thrive. Oh the things I did out of fear of putting any blemish on my first child. And how quickly I got over it with baby number 2. I think most of us can afford to loosen up on many of the things that make us anxious – well at least the things that are within our control, anyway.

      Happy Holidays!
      Kiran

  • yeah, for Indian aunties the younger girls will ALWAYS be skinny. I’m in my 30s and I still get that… just don’t get how much weight is enough. Your daughters are gorgeous.
    honeywhatscooking recently posted…Gift Guide – My Kitchen FavoritesMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Indian Aunties will never be happy. Whether I am skinny or fat, I never have enough meat on my “haadis” (bones). That’s either 10 lbs lighter than I am now, or 20 lbs heavier. So, my solution is to just take everything Indian Aunties say with a grain of salt. Or a plate of chaat. Just depends ;-)
      xo,
      Kiran

  • steph says:

    Oh, Kiran. First, I promise I am not a stalker. I am just so happy to find a blog where I scream “that’s me!” so often. And I love your writing style. And I have the flu and have spent WAY too much time on the smartphone recently!

    I have mentioned to you about being a mutt, my son even more so, but I can’t quite explain his love for meat. I quit eating meat YEARS ago, save for a brief time when I was pregnant/nursing, and have NEVER liked pork. My kid…LOVES BBQ, sausage, hot dogs, etc. He also loves rice, so he is the most Filipino blue-eyed child of the family. Go figure.

    As for your latest guest post, I am a recovering anorexic. I have been “healthy” for years, but it never goes away. Mine also started at 15, then came back again in college. I was/am a perfectionist (i almost got ulcers my senior year, even with a 3.9 GPA and grad school acceptance) and don’t handle change well. It manifested in my need to control everything I ate and how much I exercised away. My parents (typical Asian ideas) also didn’t help me to find therapy until I had a physical problem to match my emotions.

    I was lucky to find a great therapist and support group (at my awesome college) and also worked with a nutritionist to sort out my disorder from my true food preferences. It was so great to see her with my ginormous child (born at 37 weeks weighing 8.5 lbs) and tell her that I gained a healthy 30 lbs while pregnant.

    Thank you for sharing your story and bringing attention to this common problem that is often overlooked as a passing fad of adolescence. Also thanks for helping remove the stigma of mental health issues.

  • Ameena says:

    This just cracked me up…being Indian (half at least) I totally get the whole bacon issue. My dad would freak out about fake-bacon, never mind the real thing.

    I was always a skinny kid. Super skinny! I think things just change as you get older. No worried. The kids will be totally fine!
    Ameena recently posted…the christmas progressionMy Profile

  • LadyInRead says:

    Kiran, we do not eat bacon (like my parents) but I do get what you are saying. My mom does not like eggs/garlic but she made eggs for us (used eggs in omelets, cakes and more) and garlic where needed though she never ate it..
    and love Mitch Albom’s quote at the end – in fact – am going to use it on my blog sometime soon:)
    as far as weights and percentages – i have a couple of friends who were told that their kids are in the -5%ile:) and like you say, how can we exist if we are 0 or negative %…
    and all of you are gorgeous. :)

  • Marie says:

    Perfect piece to read at Christmastime! Personally, I don’t worry about what or how much my kids eat (unless they really are actually eating nothing for days). But I am also from a culture that prizes meat on the bones (of our family members) until you are too fat and then they comment on that (in a loving and good-natured way, of course). Anyway, what fun!
    Marie recently posted…Faith lived through family and communityMy Profile

  • Tim Keen says:

    I still remember the smell of shit…I mean bacon filling my nostrils while I lay in my early morning bread. Bacon may be the greatest tasting food ever.

    Great post.

    Tim
    Tim Keen recently posted…Things I Won’t Miss Now That Christmas is GoneMy Profile

  • I think this might be my favorite post of yours so far :)
    So honest, so funny, so full of gratitude, so intuitive to the nuances in significance of your experiences…love it. LOVE it.

  • LisaAR
    Twitter:
    says:

    And the moral of the story? Sometimes you need to feed your kids shit in order to do the right thing! ;) Love it. And I just gotta say…through your writing, I could just visualize your shit-eating grin in that moment! :D
    LisaAR recently posted…Fra GEE layMy Profile

  • Garrick says:

    (New reader, via The Bloggess) I’ve been apologizing to and thanking my parents for the last decade, for the horrible things I did as a child, and the wonderful things they did for me despite myself. I’m lucky that I still have them with me to thank and apologize to. ;)

  • Adam S says:

    I need to eat more bacon, myself. I still can’t gain weight…
    Adam S recently posted…Still Speaking Hypothetically…My Profile

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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