Where I come from, food is a big deal. To my siblings and I, food and the regular partaking of it is very important. We’re more concerned with the volume of our food and how hard it is to make than we are with how it looks. We’ll eat pretty much anything around here, regardless of how attractive it looks close up.

Take, for example, wild rice hotdish. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this particular dish, but it’s not very colorful, at least the way my Mom cooks it. In fact, it’s mostly a uniform gray-brown color. It also happens to be one of my favorite foods, but there’s no denying that it will never win any prizes for its appearance.

Neither would our taco salad. This is a dish I’m sure nearly everyone makes differently, but our method is to stir all the ingredients up in a big bowl. That means the seasoned meat, lettuce, black beans, corn, cheese, salsa and chips are all hanging out together with no sense of order, layering, or careful preparation. It’s an easy prep meal and another of our favorite foods, but in terms of visible appeal it doesn’t have much going for it.

The same goes for a dish we call “camping beans.” A close cousin to calico beans or a soupy version of baked beans, our camping beans consist of a dozen or more cans of all kinds of beans stirred together. Black beans, pinto beans, Bushes baked beans, garbonzo beans, lima beans — even green beans! Together with a little ground meat, this is one of our regular evening meals for camping trips due to its simplicity. Once again, however, it’s not the prettiest food one could ever wish for.

Squirrel is another less-then-gorgeous food we’ve had. I don’t know how the squirrel you’ve eaten was prepared, but Mom makes something similar to barbecued pulled-pork from ours. And in theory, you’d never know it was squirrel and not actually pork, especially not after it’s been doused in barbecue sauce. In actual practice, it looks more like really stringy chicken doused in barbecue. Still tasty, but not particularly pretty.

Another major unattractive food we eat around here is smoothies, and I know, I know, if you do it right, there’s no reason a smoothie shouldn’t look delicious. But we tend to make our smoothies out of leftover canned fruit, old bananas, a healthy dose of ice cubes, home-made yogurt, and other mystery ingredients like wheat grass powder that’s been sitting in the cupboard for ages. Put all this together and you don’t get pretty smoothies. You do get edible smoothies, though, and that’s what really counts.

I say all this, not to bash my Mom’s cooking (which, by the way, is awesome), but to point out that although food is a big part of our existence, we’re not too picky about it at my house. 

Cake made without baking soda? Been there, eaten that.