My mom is a fairly good cook. Her mom was a fairly good cook who grew up on a farm and trained at the University of Wisconsin in Home Economics. Mom's cooking was simple and unadorned. Salt and pepper were basically the only spices she used regularly. She didn't like garlic, onions, tomatoes or mushrooms, so we didn't eat those very often. She had good skills and techniques in the kitchen and had a good repertoire of recipes. Some days we ate simply: a meat, vegetable, bread and salad. But other days the meals were more complex: beef stew or chili or beef and bean pie, shepherd's pie, chicken crepes (a favorite frequently requested on birthdays), roast chicken or turkey or pot roast, tacos or homemade pizza. No matter what, we always ate together at the table.
Mom didn't really make much from scratch, though it wasn't for lack of skill. It was just easier to use the pre-prepared ingredients. It saved time for her to spend with the three of us kids and made it easier for an Air-Force mom to get dinner on the table for a family meal every night. The ingredients were usually from the middle aisles of the grocery store. We used canned vegetables (or sometimes frozen), canned fruit cocktail, canned beans, frozen chicken cordon bleu or chicken kiev, canned sauces, bottled salad dressing, boxed cakes, frozen pie crusts, etc. Mom was a fairly avid couponer, so she would keep coupons in a little file box and save lots of money when we went big-time grocery shopping about once a month. We didn't spend much time in the produce section, since my little brother thought cherry tomatoes were bouncy balls. We did, however, eat a lot of carrot sticks and apple slices.
Of course, what we kids wanted when we went to the grocery store with Mom, were the brightly colored boxes. Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms and Count Chocula and Pop Tarts for breakfast, Lunchables deli meats, Kool-aid squeezits and fruit roll ups and gummy snacks for our lunches, and soda and ice cream desserts. But Mom held her line. We were not allowed sweet cereals, Mom would always check the sugar content, and we usually stuck with the cheerios or corn flakes (but by high school we never had time for breakfast anyway). Mom always made our lunches, I think she saw it as her responsibility and it was cheaper than buying school lunches. We got Lunchables once a year on a very special occasion, the rest of the year it was either Turkey or PB&J, always on wheat bread, carrot sticks, chips (usually tortilla chips, sometimes Doritos or Lays), and some kind of dessert. Mom had a soft spot for Little Debbies, but we often got the fruit roll ups or gummies too, or sometimes a few bite-sized candy bars. Mom had a healthy suspicion of red Kool-Aid, so we usually got Capri Sun juice or water instead. Soda (which we called Coke, no matter what it was, since we grew up in the South) and ice cream were for special occasions.
I don't think anything about this was abnormal for most families. We shopped at the grocery store and ate what was offered there and enjoyed it. It tasted good, it required less time working in the kitchen, and it allowed us more time to sit down together. If anything, we felt that we were on the healthy side of things. We ate regular portions of vegetables, limited our sugars and fats, and always stuck with wheat bread.
But the diet I grew up with is a far cry from the diet that I've transitioned to in the past few years. The main reason: everything on this menu (aside from the carrot sticks) has corn (and yes, I mean everything). I found out last August that I am allergic to corn.