When I was in college, I took a memoir writing class, and one of the in-class writing exercises we were to do was to write about “our mother’s cooking.” Or, if not our mother, who did the substantive cooking (which turned out to be a non-mother for a couple of people in the class).
There was a sameness to the stories: long, white kitchens, large meals of poultry, rather a blandness of cuisine that my family never shared.
Me? I wrote about the trimaran we built when I was a kid and the smell of the butane stove, the fun when people would go diving and bring back abalone. Then I got into an extended description of cutting abalone into pieces and having it still crawl across the cutting board, even while I was whaling on it with a meat tenderizer.
Abalone’s tough, you know. Really have to pound the everloving crap out of it for it to be tender enough.
Oh, and the island we were at (San Clemente) was being shelled by the military in training exercises at the time. From five miles out. Whoosh, boom!
Naturally, we had to read our little pieces aloud. As I read mine, I pounded the conference room table at the appropriate points.
At the end, everyone was a bit stunned, and the teacher said, “Okay then.”
It was not until that moment that I realized there was anything the least bit unusual about my upbringing. Truly.