Saturday, March 29, 2014

Childhood Myths

I cracked open an egg the other day and it reminded me of my mom. That might sound a bit weird, so let me explain. You see, the egg had a tiny bit of red in it. When I was growing up if my mom cracked open an egg and found a bit of red in it she would freak out. The egg would instantly go into the garbage, and if she had been unfortunate enough to have cracked it directly into what she was making, the contents of the bowl went along with it. It wasn't until I was an adult and an owner of laying hens that I discovered that what my mom had taught me to be a truth was, in fact, a myth. Here, in no particular order, are some other myths from my childhood.

Myth #1

Margarine is a healthy choice. Butter is not. I held firmly to this one until about twenty years ago. My kitchen has been a margarine free zone for over two decades, but my mom still believes in the health benefits of margarine. She has made a small concession and buys butter for me before I come down to visit.

Myth #2

Eating a potato sprout is deadly poisonous. My mom was so paranoid about eyes in potatoes that by the time she got done cutting around one there was almost nothing left of the potato. Yes, potato sprouts do contain a toxin, but you would have to eat a lot of them to cause any harm.

Myth #3

If you eat undercooked pork you will get trichinosis. It turns out that trichinosis is actually extremely rare in North America. This is a recent discovery for me, and a welcome one. I no longer feel like I have to BBQ the pork chops until they resemble shoe leather.

Myth #4

Jello is a food. I grew up with Jello being served with great regularity. My Grandma Vera always served a Jello salad at family dinners. It was the kind that had cottage cheese added. I don't know if you are familiar with this culinary travesty. Trust me if you aren't - it's not a pretty sight.

However, not all the myths I was taught as a child revolved around food.

Myth #5

Putting your arm out as you jam on the brakes will prevent the child sitting next to you from being injured. I'm not sure how my mom thought her arm was going to keep me from going through the windshield if we got in an accident, but that didn't stop her from doing it. It became such a reflex action any time she had to brake quickly that she continued to do this long after we were grown up. Of course, this predates child car seats, so it wasn't like there was a better option. Well, except for keeping both hands on the steering wheel. That might have been helpful.

Myth #6

It is okay to dispense drugs without a licence. I grew up watching my mom hand out various prescription drugs to the neighbours. Our farming community was a long way from medical help, but still, my mom studied education at university, not pharmacy. She's lucky she didn't do any permanent damage (the lady she gave the tranquilizers to whose husband couldn't wake her up made a full recovery).

What is shocking is that even though my mom doesn't live on the farm any more people still seek her out for drugs. There has been an outbreak of Norwalk at her senior's apartment complex and she told me at least six different residents have called her asking if she had something she could give them. My mom must exude some kind of "medicine woman" aura.

Myth #7

Crawling under your desk at school will help protect you from a nuclear attack by the Soviets. While never put to a direct test, I think it's safe to say that this has been debunked. All that crawling under your desk is going to do is make you aware of how many previous students chewed gum during class.

There are many more, but I think I better stop there for now. What myths did you grow up believing?

And just so this isn't a pictureless post, here's another "hint of spring" picture, taken about twenty minutes from where we live. Today is a dark and brooding sort of day, but the daffodil field just coming into bloom certainly brightens things up!





58 comments:

  1. I can relate to pretty much all of these things too, Kristie - even the arm going out when my mom jammed on the brakes! I think my mother still eats margarine, too - yuck! Great post!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's funny that your mom did the arm thing too! :-)

      Delete
  2. Oh what a good post! Especially myth no 7 - we were not given any sex education but we were taught how to make a nuclear shelter from doors and tables. I ask you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looking back on it, it just seems crazy doesn't it? All it accomplished was scaring young children. I can remember being terrified of a nuclear attack.

      Delete
  3. I think I grew up with about half of these too, including the arm thing. I remember my mom doing that when I was a teenager, and I asked her what exactly she was hoping to achieve, and she just laughed at me - and herself! 20 years down the road and I'm sure I'll do the same to my kids, once they're allowed in the front seat. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had no idea the arm thing was so common! :-) I doubt you will do it. I think those of us who used car seats for our kids never developed the habit. The funny thing is it was only my mom who did it. My dad, who did the majority of the driving, never once threw his arm out to save us.

      Delete
  4. We had a publicity campaign many years ago that told us hiding in the cupboard under the stairs was a good way to survive a nuclear bomb. I also vividly remember adverts that said cigarettes were good for us, and children could buy sweet cigarettes so they could imitate the adults. Eurgh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if that is where JK Rowling got her idea for Harry Potter's room under the stairs? I can't believe you had adverts saying cigarettes were good for you!

      Delete
  5. Great post, Kristie. I don't remember the arm thing, but lots of the others ring a bell with me. Definitely about the pork and the potatoes, and some funny other ideas about nutrition. My mother seemed a bit obsessed about 'indigestion', and fussed over bananas which had to be very well-chewed! Then there was the 'polio' drain at the end of the street, where we were not allowed to play. Or we would get polio! I wonder what funny things I said are remembered by my children..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many strange things were said to cause the polio outbreaks. I guess fear makes people do and say things that don't make a lot of sense in the light of the day. That would account for the hiding under the desk in case of a nuclear attack as well. And maybe even taking shoes off for security screening before boarding a plane! I've never heard of bananas needing to be well-chewed. Interesting you heard the same thing about pork.

      Delete
  6. Hey Kristie,
    I loved this! Here's one of my family myths - sitting on a cold floor (the pavement, patio etc) will give you 'The Pip.' I've no idea what the pip actually is, and never felt I could ask. But I always sat on my cardi or coat when I playing outside. Nowadays I rejoice if any of my boys are outside playing - even if that means sitting on the floor!

    Leanne xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no idea either Leanne! I'm glad you have ignor that advice and let your boys play and sit outside, even if they are at risk of "the pip." :-)

      Delete
  7. The desk thing was to keep objects from above falling on your head, nothing to do with protection against radiation. My town is close to a nuclear plant, and the school permission forms at the beginning of the year include a clause about taking a pill should there be a nuclear disaster. We're not close enough to warrant the pill ... but it's still no comfort to see it there on the forms :[ My husband recently read that the government has changed the guidelines for cooking pork and that it no longer needs to be cooked till no pink is visible (but having been taught to cook it that way, it makes me a bit leery to eat it pink). Wendy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pill is no doubt iodine. That makes sense in case of a radiation leak. I grew up less than a hundred fifty miles as the crow flies from the Hanford Nuclear Site. A leak was actually a real risk, but nobody did anything as sensible as distributing iodine pills. It must be a little disconcerting to see that on the school forms. It has taken my son a little while to convince me about the pork too, but he is an infectious disease doctor so I decided he was a reliable source. However, don't ever eat undercooked bear meat. It really is likely to have trichinosis.

      Delete
  8. Did your Mother buy the margarine that came wrapped in plastic with a bubble of dye.....you had to pop the bubble and squish it into the margarine. The idea was, I think, that margarine couldn't look like butter....so the dye added made it look like margarine? We were a family unit of 4 adults and two children...my Mom baked a lot...so she went through a load of margarine. Every big grocery shop...the packages of margarine were handed out so you could squish one. Gosh, how weird is this laughing.,,,,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No Anne, I think that was a Canadian thing and I grew up in the US. My husband has told me about the dye thing though and I think that is so strange. Why did people even bother? It must have been very messy getting that dye mixed in with the glob of margarine.

      Delete
    2. It was the law. Margarine wasn't allowed to look like butter (in case anyone got fooled, I guess) so they sold it white. Not messy; rather, it was fun. The red button was contained inside the sealed plastic bag, and that POP when you broke it was kind of like the satisfaction of popping plastic bubble packaging. Then you got to play with the margarine (still sealed in the bag) until it was all mixed.

      If it stayed white, it would look like lard or shortening. Eww.

      Delete
  9. We must be close in age because I grew up with all these myths (except #6) as well. An additional one was I was led to believe that I came down with pneumonia when I was 8 because I'd gone outside in February (in Mississippi) without a coat after my Dad had told me to wear one. Now I know it's because I'd come down with the measles first. I almost died in fact. I think I felt I deserved to since it was MY fault after all! As for the arm thing....I seem to recall thrusting my own arm out a few times and that's with always having seat belts and car seats since my children were born. They weren't even allowed into the front seat until they were big enough, so the arm thing must have been instinctive--or a hangover from my mother doing it all the time when I was a child. My husband's father drove a milk truck so he was raised on butter and that's all we've eaten since we married. I only had real butter at my grandmother's as a child because she had cows and made it herself. So, when did they stop having kids get under their desks? I remember the drills in the 1950's in elementary school, but I don't remember having them once I got into middle school. We were probably too big to get under our desks by then! And besides teenagers are so cute and cuddly are they, so who cares if we make it through a nuclear disaster! It's good to know about the potato eyes--but I think I will still stay away from them. At least I won't stress out about it now if I accidentally eat one. :-) I quit eating jello in 2004 when I started eating organic--never could find pre-flavored organic gelatin, so too much trouble. And I've only just recently relaxed about the pork. It sure does taste so much better--juicy and tender--when you don't have to cook it so long. Thanks for the reminiscences, Kristie. I'm wondering if there are any other myths we should debunk? Are those bubble gum cigars still around? I remember the candy cigarettes. Boy, our parents' generation were still in the dark ages. I wonder if a future generation will look back on us and say the same thing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S. Oops. Just reread my comment and left "not" out of the sentence that should have read: And besides teenagers are NOT so cute and cuddly are they... Also, when I read my sentence: so the arm thing must have been instinctive--or a hangover...NO NO NO...I did NOT have a hangover! My arm thing was the hangover!

      Delete
    2. We were also told we could catch pneumonia if we got chilled! I'm sorry you ended up thinking you were at fault for your illness. That's the problem with these myths. Some are just funny, but others had the ability to do harm. You're right - I think the desk drill was just for elementary kids. I went into a candy shop in Vegas last month and saw some of those candy cigarettes for sale. I couldn't believe it!

      Delete
  10. My mother told us the red spots were the beginnings of a chicken and wouldn't hurt us. No idea if that is true. The arm thing, for sure. I was taller and heavier than my mother by the time I was 12, but the arm went out anyway. I used to tease her about it. What about not taking a bath during a thunderstorm? Lighting might come down the pipes and electrocute you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your mom sounds more sensible than mine, at least when it came to consuming eggs. We could have a bath during an electric storm, but my grandma was insistent we not talk on the telephone. I'm not sure about that one - fact or myth?

      Delete
    2. Kristie, lightening should be taken very seriously. I did a post about it last summer: http://cathy-morningmusings.blogspot.com/search/label/Lightning You SHOULD stay off of corded phones, anything plugged into the wall, plumbing, windows, porches, concrete floors. I posted a longer list of Do's and Don'ts and a link to the NOAA site.

      Delete
    3. Interesting. Thanks for this Cathy - maybe there is something to the advice not to have a bath during a thunderstorm!

      Delete
  11. Oh, so many. I think I believed all of these. I remember believing that you would get cancer if you sat in front of the microwave. I agree with the lightning one, it can actually be dangerous. My kids love it when a summer storm kicks up right after dinner because it means no baths that night. :) I remember the arm-across-the-front-seat when I was growing up but that one doesn't even matter anymore because today kids can't ride in the front seat until they're 16 or something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops! My reply to you is below this comment!

      Delete
  12. Yes, I've heard the cancer/microwave one too. Why is it that kids love not having to take a bath? Ha! And you're right about the front seat. I had forgotten that. Nowadays with airbags kids aren't supposed to be in the front. Of course, if you go by the height requirements for being in the front seat I'm not sure my mom qualifies either. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  13. My kids, who are now 18 and 20 think it's hilarious that if I have to brake suddenly due to complete idiots on the road that I still do the arm thing, I just can't help it it's ingrained!!! Despite the fact that I'm not likely to stop my 6ft 4in son flying through the windscreen anyway :) (they do and always have worn seatbelts, so why my mother brain ever thought it was necessary is bewildering).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's funny Tracy! I can just see your 6'4" son laughing at you! I never picked up this habit, probably because my kids were always in the back seat. Their car seats didn't work well in the front of our vehicles.

      Delete
  14. So funny Kristie! I am so with you on the butter - no margarine in our house! My Mum did the sticking the arm out in the car thing - she probably would still do it to me now!!! I do it to my handbag on the passenger seat - even though it wears a seatbelt!!!! I also do it to my husband sometimes!! Crazy huh!! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Well, I'm sure you have a better chance of saving a handbag than your husband in there's an accident. :-)

      Delete
  15. Sitting on a cold floor would give you haemorrhoids, or maybe make them worse?

    Sitting too close to an open fire would melt the fat around your kidneys, maybe that was just so everyone could enjoy the fire equally if one person wasn't hogging it?

    Swallowing your gum would tie your insides together.

    Swallowing watermelon seeds would make a watermelon grow out of your ear (plainly silly, I know).

    I do the arm thing, and my kids (12 and 14) have been safely restrained forever. It must be a Mum thing, as my DH never does it.

    Loving this thread, btw.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never heard the fire one, but yes, I was told something similar about gum. I am surprised that there are so many moms who still do the arm thing. I'm feeling like a bad mom since I have never had that instinct! :-)

      Delete
  16. My Mum did the arm thing too. A couple of things she used to say that I'm pretty sure are only Myths - "put some socks on or you'll catch Pneumonia" and my favourite, "Calm down or you'll give yourself a Hernia!". No idea where she got that from :-) Great Post! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Calm down or you'll give yourself a hernia? That's hilarious!

      Delete
    2. My grandmother used to say the self same thing!

      Delete
  17. My mother used to tell me that if I ate a raw potato, I'd get worms. It wasn't until years later that she admitted that she simply repeated what her mother had told her as a child as a way of keeping her from snitching the potatoes she was preparing for dinner

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems our moms both had potato issues. :-)

      Delete
  18. Thats so funny mum still puts her are out if we stop suddenly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This seems to be a universal "mom" thing!

      Delete
  19. Sorry to say I also instinctively put my arm out when braking suddenly - it started years ago when I had a dog who'd sit on the front seat by me, but very embarrassingly, I once did it to my boss when we were going to a meeting - he thought it was funny, which was lucky really.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's pretty funny that you put your arm out to stop your boss! I can't believe how many of you have said you put your arm out when you stop suddenly.

      Delete
  20. This has made me smile. The other day I was planting some plants in a planter on my mum's patio. As I leant down I felt something tugging at the back of my tee shirt. It was my mother, she was holding on to me just incase I toppled over.
    Even now, she will always hold me back with her arm when crossing the road, when really if it has to be done, I should be doing it to her. She is 90!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so sweet! I guess the protective mothering instinct never really fades, does it?

      Delete
  21. My mother used to say that if you swallowed chewing gum it wrapped itself round your heart. She also said that eating orange peel gave you worms. It was generally accepted that sitting on a radiator gave you piles. Cigarettes were promoted after the first world war as giving protection in the flu epidemic that killed so many. I remember those sweet cigarettes! White sugar sticks with a red tip.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gum wrapping itself around your heart? That must have been a scary vision to have placed in your head! I bet you didn't swallow any gum!

      Delete
  22. Oh, the pork! I grew up on the nastiest pork chops imaginable and thought I hated pork until I was in my late 20's and cooked a chop for myself. Even so, it was when I started culinary school last year that I learned it can still be a little pink. Come to think of it, there were a lot of food safety myths in my house, and taking my sanitation class for school really helped me relax about a lot of that stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pork myths seem to be common. :-)

      Have you ever tried pork that is raised on a small farm rather than factory farmed? It is like a different meat entirely. I never liked pork until I started buying it at the Farmer's Market a few years ago. Even overcooked it still has some flavour.

      Delete
    2. Yes! The first pork chop I ever loved (which would be the worst romance novel title ever) came from a local grocery store that sells ethically raised/organic meats, and it was amazing. For the last few years we've gotten most of our meat directly from a local farm and the taste difference is astonishing!

      Delete
  23. The egg thing, my mum. And the arm thing, me, despite never having had an unrestrained kid in the car. Like Amy I do it even when only my handbag is on the other seat.

    A favourite in our house growing up was 'if you press your nose against the window like that you'll grow a wart on the end of it'! And my grandmother reckoned you should never pick your nose because if you did your eyes would fall out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the nose against the window one. Had I known it when my kids were younger I might have used it. I would have had much cleaner windows, which I'm sure is exactly why that myth got started in the first place! :-)

      Delete
  24. I was just talking to my mom last night and she told me that her mother believed it was health-promoting to take a laxative every week. So for FIVE years (in the 1950s), every Friday night, she gave all of her kids a Feen-a-Mint chewable laxative. It was only later discovered that use of laxatives like that can cause weakening of your bowel walls and a lifetime of bathroom problems (which my poor mom endures to this day). ~Kim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my. This gets the award for the worst childhood myth in this comment thread. Your poor mom!

      Delete
  25. I always believed you would catch a chill if I went out with wet hair. As it has been a long day I can't bring others to mind but I know some of them I have carried on repeating to the children! I hadn't heard of Jello and had to google it! Do you still have it occasionally? Sarah x

    ReplyDelete
  26. Except for #4, these are all familiar. But at some point we stopped going under the desks and started sitting under the windows, so the glass (and radiation) could go harmlessly over our heads. Well, at least the part about the glass made sense. About potato sprouts, my SIL once made mashed potatoes with so many eyes in them that I think they might have actually poisoned us. We were all amazed she was able to accomplish that. I shouldn't admit this, but I used to do the arm thing...just with my wife. It was never in a serious situation (there wouldn't be time), just when I had to brake harder than normal.

    During summer thunderstorms, my mom would make us turn off everything in the house--including the lights. I'm not sure why, so really no myth involved, just fear. But there where a few myths. Gum wouldn't digest; seeds would grow in your stomach; no socks = pneummonia (I laughed until I went sockless and got pneumonia :); a "working man" needs to eat meat every day (even on Friday); parts of a blue crab are poison; mercury is dangerous--just kidding on this one. We weren't allowed to eat the heel on a loaf of bread until those were the only two pieces left. My parents said the bread stayed fresh longer with the heels in place. Hmmm, THAT sounds true. :)

    With the exception of the refrigerator and their alarm clock, my parents never left anything plugged in. TV? Unplugged it every night. Radio? Had to plug it in every time I wanted to listen to a baseball game.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There goes my theory that putting out an arm is just a mom thing. :-)

      Yes, I've heard the "seeds will grow in your stomach" one, and that gum won't digest. We weren't told mercury was dangerous, and as a result I can remember sitting at our kitchen table as a kid playing with the little balls of it that had come out of a broken thermometer. Yikes. Fewer myths and more facts might have been a good idea!

      That's interesting about the fuses in your childhood home. You're right - not something one would encounter today, at least not in the Western world.

      Delete
  27. I hit publish too soon! About leaving things unplugged, when I was really little, my parents had fuses, not circuit breakers. So a surge would have wiped out anything that was plugged in. So, not a myth...just something unheard of today.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I have only just read this post, and it made me laugh out loud. I can remember several of these myself. I can remember not being allowed to wash my hair the night before a school photograph because I had a cold and most certainly would develop pneumonia. Also not wearing a hat until June every year resulted in ear infections. Also whenever we didn't sit still on our chairs during dinner we were apparently in danger of developing St Vitus Dance.

    ReplyDelete