What passed for caring parenting in the 1950s would likely result in charges of child neglect today.
We had way more freedom of movement than modern kids do. We were always being sent to play outside on our own. And if we were gone for most of the day, no one raised a fuss or mounted a search party. Our moms were just happy for the peace and quiet.
We had a lot of territory to explore, and we covered every inch of it with a total absence of adult supervision. By today’s standards, we were in imminent peril most of the day. But the only time I remember being scared in my wanderings was when I accidentally stepped on a dead raccoon in the nearby woods — and even that was mostly surprise and being grossed-out.
There was one thing that did completely terrify me, however. My folks really should have done a better job protecting me from it. Parents today would never subject their small children to that kind of dreadful experience.
Having to sell Girl Scout cookies door-to-door.
The annual cookie sale was the darkest cloud in my young life.
These days, only older girls participate in the sale, and I mostly see them selling directly from tables in public places, with an adult looking on.
Not so in my day. When I was a kid, they forced even us babies in Brownies to flog the goods house to house.
I imagine the clueless grown-ups who came up with the scheme thought that including 10-year-olds in the sales force was a smart idea. Who could resist a winsome child peddling sugar? (Clearly, this was in the days before sex offender registries.)
Fortunately, I did not encounter any molesters during my unaccompanied sales calls. That wasn’t the reason I hated the annual sale.
It was the rejection.
What the cookie sale designers had failed to take into account was that in the baby boom suburbs, nearly every house had one or more kids in it — at least half of them girls and nearly all of them Brownies or Girl Scouts. My troop alone had about 30 kids my age, most of whom lived within shouting distance.
The competition was fierce, but that did not dampen our troop’s expectations for robust sales. To keep up with the other girls (some of whom had the unfair advantage of a large extended family or a dad willing to take orders at work), I had to range far afield to unfamiliar streets in the neighborhood, looking for an untapped market.
And of course I was on my own doing it. It would never have occurred to my mother to go with me.
I was a shy kid, so going up to strangers’ houses and ringing their bell was sheer agony. Especially when they turned me away (which happened a lot) because a relative or another scout had gotten to them first.
I hated every minute of it. Even today, I shudder when I think about it. I’m sure it’s the reason I have never held a job in sales. I hit my lifetime limit on buyer resistance before I reached my teens.
It’s likely also the reason I am such a sucker when folks ring my doorbell and try to sell me stuff. I can’t bear to add to the crushing weight of rejection I know they face from my neighbors.
This probably explains why my new best friend is Debbie, the Jehovah’s Witness who has made it her personal mission to save me. She pops by often, mistaking my sympathy for interest. I can tell she thinks I am hot prospect.
But don’t worry, Mom. There’s no reason to roll over in your grave. I’m not likely to convert.
Your lackadaisical parenting probably scarred me for life, but even so, I’m in no danger of being swayed by Debbie’s ministry.
I’d never join a group that expects me to go out and ring stranger’s doorbells.
Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Leek and Potato
From “Fast & Fresh Vegetarian” by Marie Simmons
No, I’m not going to tell you how to make your own Thin Mints. Go help out a scout and buy a box like I did. But I’m still pretending to be on a diet, so instead of consuming the entire package for dinner, I hid it away at the back of the cupboard and dutifully made a pot of soup.
It was no hardship, though. There’s nothing punitive about this delicious soup from my friend Marie Simmons’ Fresh & Fast Vegetarian cookbook, even if it does qualify as vegan. Her brilliant additions of curry powder and orange zest take it to the gourmet level.
With potatoes and olive oil in it, it is not calorie or carb free, but even so, it’s healthy enough that you won’t need to feel guilty when you break out the cookies for dessert.
6 cups cauliflower florets (1 large head)
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. Madras curry powder
1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut in ½ inch dice (3 cups)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
Place a heavy baking pan in the oven while it preheats to 450 degrees.
In a bowl, toss the cauliflower florets (bite-size or a little bigger) with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a generous grinding of black pepper.
Once the pan and oven are hot, carefully spread the cauliflower on it. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring and turning with a spatula. Cook until browned and tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the leeks into a large soup pot. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the leeks are soft and wilted (10 minutes). Add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute more, then add 6 cups of water, the potatoes and the tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender (15-20 minutes).
In a small bowl, combine the orange zest, garlic and oregano. (Note: my fresh oregano is on winter hiatus, so I used about 1 teaspoon dried plus a few drops of water.) Add this mixture to the cauliflower.
Once the potatoes are cooked, add half of the seasoned roasted cauliflower to the soup mixture. Puree, either with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls and add some of the remaining cauliflower florets to each bowl.
Betty Teller thinks she is missing the sales gene. Tell her what you’re missing at firstname.lastname@example.org.