Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Grunt, Banana Cream Pie and Family Meals

Early, early, early this morning, we dropped JT off at the airport. He is heading off to Basic Training for three weeks to complete the necessary requirements for his entry into the Reserves as a musician, a process that started almost two years ago but was delayed due to Covid. He arrived in April, and eventually after things opened up, was able to arrange to take the first two required modules here in Nova Scotia rather than in Ontario where things were still closed down. He will be back home for a couple of days after the first of September before driving back to Hamilton.

I have to admit that it has been an absolute joy having our son home for almost four months. For the first time in a long time, we had time to be a family. We did a lot of enjoyable things together, some of which may make it into other blog posts; but the thing we did together that I enjoyed the most was family meals.

Family meals have always been top priority in our house. When JT was young, nothing, absolutely nothing, interfered with family meals. No activities were scheduled during meal times, which were allowed to linger for as long as it took. We are not people who liked to rush through our meals. Meal times were, and still are, the time of the day when we come together as a family to enjoy food and communicate. It is the time of day when we learn the most about each other, what we have been doing or what is on each other’s minds. It is where great discussions and sometimes passionate, but not personal, arguments of different views take place (usually between JT and me because The Doc is a quiet man and not one to voice strong opinions and argue views). It is also where tastes and smells are enjoyed and compliments are given.

When JT was younger, I couldn’t imagine giving that time away to some activity that kept a child busy but not necessary connected to family. I couldn’t imagine running to McDonalds or grabbing some prepackaged crackers and meat to substitute as family dinner just to do these activities because parents thought that keeping their children busy would keep them out of trouble. I don’t believe in over scheduled children who don’t know how to think or entertain themselves. These are the same children who can get in trouble because they are bored as teens and make bad decisions. For my family, there were always other times to give away over meal times, because meal times were much too precious. They were our nucleus.

That being said, we made every meal count when JT was here because we knew that this together time would be short lived. We ate most of our breakfasts together, even if it was just a bowl of cereal. Other times it was bagel-egg breakfast sandwiches, poached eggs, omelettes, or pancakes with blueberries or peaches in them.

Dinners were wonderful. We all did some cooking. JT making a few delicious treats for our taste buds to savour, including Carne Asada tacos and stuffed pork tenderloin. The Doc, who has got into the habit of perusing the internet for new and tasty things to try like chicken pad tai and enchiladas. And me making all JT’s favourites such as wings and ribs and roast pork with mashed potatoes and gravy. I even fed him some things I didn’t bother trying to when he was a young and picky eater. Things like seafood tetrazzini and curry shrimp.

Then, of course, there were desserts. Not every day, but often enough to make the meals special. We aren’t big on icing and sweet, sweet desserts. We like strawberry shortcake and blueberry grunt, which is stewed blueberries topped with a dumpling and steamed–something we serve with vanilla frozen yogurt. And of course some pies. JT loves cream pies so we had coconut cream shortly after he arrived and then his favourite, banana cream, a couple of days before he left. Desserts allow our family dinners to linger longer, making them more enjoyable. I will also say that none of us, not one of us, put on any weight. We were all active this summer and although we enjoy our meals, overeating is not our habit. 

When JT returns on September first, we will enjoy a few more meals together before he picks up in his room, packs up his car and heads back to his apartment in Ontario. He will be finally moving forward in his life after such a long and stressful delay; and I, well I will miss him greatly …especially at meal times.

Thank you for reading.

Photos:  Jenn Stone

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20 thoughts on “Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Grunt, Banana Cream Pie and Family Meals

  1. Those desserts look absolutely superb! I have to admit to eating dessert (or pudding as we call it up North in England) every day but I’m not at all imaginative or inventive – I tend to stick to the same stuff if I’m making it. I’d love to know how to make a banana cream pie – I had one in the US and loved it but we don’t have them in England anywhere.

    I totally agree with you on over-scheduled children. Our parents used to shove us outside to play and, if we were indoors because it was too wet, and said we were bored, our parents told us to use our imagination and think of something to do instead of sitting moaning. So we did! Children should definitely be encouraged to think of things to do – makes them more intelligent and more inventive – does them a world of good. And you’re probably right – it probably does keep them out of trouble. We were rarely in any real trouble – nothing serious at all.

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    1. Thanks we do enjoy those desserts. Banana cream pie is pretty easy. It is a baked pie shell lined with 3 bananas sliced covered with vanilla custard (cream filling/like pudding) and topped with whipped cream.
      When it comes to my son, I had a quality vs quantity parenting approach so he would learn to entertain himself. Like you, no one scheduled my time or entertained me. I was never bored.

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      1. Thanks for the info on the banana cream pie – I’d probably buy in the pastry case as my pastry is terrible/inedible!

        We were very inventive as children and made up very many games (most were pretty noisy!). We also spent a huge amount of time away walking in a ‘gang’ – we went right across our moorland to the war memorial 7 miles away and to the hills round about. A favourite pastime was ‘beck jumping’ (becks are streams) – this meant that I was superb at long jump at school! 🙂

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  2. So glad you had this quality time with your son again! It was the same for us and our hostages. We had such amazing meals together each and every day. We are glad that we will all be moving close to each other and vowed to continue the meal traditions at least once a week. I just wish my other daughter was closer…your meals sound and look amazing!

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    1. Thanks. Meal times are going to be a lot quieter again for sure. Nice for you that the hostages are able to move close to your new home. Maybe someday my son will be able to live and make a living closer; but since he is my only child, I have always encouraged him to go live his life so he wouldn’t feel guilty or obligated.

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  3. As a comparison, the family meals of my youth were not exactly joy-fests. If we DID sit down together as a unit around a table, things were short and to the point. At any given time, too many of us were not impressed with too many of the others in the circle to want to remain in said circle for any longer than necessary. And by the time my age was in the double digits, we rarely all ate in the same place at the same time. For me, “family dinners” were not nightly events, but rather those holiday meals when the whole extended tribe would gather at Granny’s. This sounds a bit sad, but it’s just the way that it was.

    On a lighter note, I am also a big fan of cream pies, any kind. Just a bit of trivia to file away, should I ever stop by one afternoon for a bit of nosh and nice conversation on the patio… 😉

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  4. I wish your son well as he moves into the next phase of his life. I did not know that you could enter the reserves as a musician. That’s great that he gets to do what he loves.

    Mealtime used to be a sacred time in our house too. I love the idea of casual dinners filled with lots of time to talk and enjoy dessert.

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    1. I am very glad my son has taken this step forward. It is not full time so he will still be teaching and doing other things, but it will provide additional revenue and some benefits as well as full time summer contracts if he is interested. He is very interested in those. It will provide a bit of stability to a pretty unstable career path.

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    1. Yes I will miss him. It is a good though. The reserves will provide him with a bit of stable income. In the summertime the national reserve band travels and plays all across Canada. He would like to do that. He has friends who have already done it.

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