My dad was the first of 12 children, my grandparents were uneducated and poor and I'm quite sure they did not have easy childhoods. I have also seen that children consider their own life as normal, at least until they see more of the world. If a child grows up taking a cold water bath once a week, they assume that's how every child on earth bathes. If they grow up having a doughnut for breakfast every day, they are shocked to the core when they sleep over at their cousins and get an egg but no doughnut.
My dad grew up in poverty at a time when poverty was normal--towards the end of the great depression. They could afford bread but toppings were a bit of a luxury. He grew up with ketchup sandwiches. Yes, two slices of bread with a generous dollop of ketchup was a taste of home and family for him that he would still visit as an adult. He never encouraged us to like it but every once in a while he would sit down and put some ketchup on bread and remember the carefree days of his childhood. And we would tease him terribly and pull faces of disgust and he would laugh and we would all laugh together. He did introduce us to 'sand sandwiches', which is bread with butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar 'sand'. I made these for my kids, too, as a texture treat.
My sister tells the story of her days as a busy business woman. She had been travelling with two colleagues, wining and dining with current and potential clients. They had been on the road for nearly two weeks, finally heading for home. They went with a group of 4 clients to one of the nicer restaurants in town, with a comprehensive menu. My sister says she looked through this menu, with it's delicate and delicious offerings, on full company expense, and decided that she was tired and didn't need to make an impression with her food choice. She decided to order a grilled cheese sandwich, which came with tomato soup.She gave her order and saw all of her companions open their eyes a little wider. She braced herself for the teasing. And each and every one of her companions smiled and ordered grilled cheese. They were ALL tired of the travelling and the luxury but no one had been willing to admit it. They ended up having a very relaxed and friendly evening that washed away a great burden of the two weeks of travelling.
So today I had chicken soup. And remembered all the (cans of) chicken soup we had growing up. And remembered that we could NOT eat it without at least crackers to crumble in the soup. And remembered the BEST thing for chicken noodle soup was peanut butter sandwiches. I don't know if this is still a thing, but even at school lunch, peanut butter sandwiches went with chicken noodle soup.
So today I had a peanut butter sandwich that I dipped in my chicken soup and I tasted sitting at the kitchen table with my brothers and sisters while my mom corrected papers and my dad washed dishes. I tasted the long tables in the school cafeteria, happy and laughing because the principle was on the far end of the table, reprimanding kids that weren't us. I tasted late night studying at the dorm with my little hotpot. Somewhere along my way, I stopped dipping peanut butter sandwiches and then stopped dipping sandwiches altogether, but today I visited my childhood normal and I feel warmed and love as a result.