Dishing on excess after conversation over dinner

August 10, 2012|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

So when did we become so spoiled?

I wonder this sometimes. It kicked up again recently when my son told me about a conversation he heard while having dinner at a friend’s house.

His friend’s sister had been complaining about the leftover homemade ham and bean soup their mom had served for dinner. Following the sister’s grumbling, his friend’s father chimed in.

“When I was a kid, we were happy to have leftovers. Every week on payday, we’d go buy rice and some kind of meat. We ate it every night for supper and we were thankful that we had it.”

He didn’t stop there.

“When I was a kid and we woke up in the middle to the night and had to go to the bathroom, we couldn’t walk down the hall to a toilet in a warm, cozy bathroom. We got up, we went outside to the small house and we peed in a hole.”

My son’s friends were unimpressed. They’d heard it all before. My son, on the other hand, took notice.

This dad is of the generation before mine. He is an older parent, as he and his wife bore four children and adopted seven more. While he is not the prototypical teen’s parent, he is not all that far off.

My own mom could remember when she was very young and her family did not have hot water. They would heat water and pour it in a galvanized tub for baths once or twice a week.

I know how foreign this sounds when I share it with my children. I imagine them, especially the younger ones, wondering if I rolled off the covered wagon with Laura Ingalls and family.

But it’s amazing to me how drastically things changed in a short time, just a few decades before I was born.

Plumbing and Mechanical magazine reports that in one 25-year period, from 1929 to 1954, sales by distributors of plumbing products and heating equipment increased 367 percent. Before that time, indoor plumbing was a luxury. By the ’70s, many people had begun building homes with a bathroom to go with each bedroom.

These days when plumbing goes south and we are without a running shower or toilet for a couple of days, you’d think we’d been dealt an atrocity. We struggle to face the day.

We are not happy to have nourishing food. We want novel meals dished up with TV shows and magazines and trendy food that we happen to be “hungry for.”

Between 1950 and 2004, says the average American home saw a 140-percent increase in size, from 983 square feet to 2,349 square feet. This happened as the size of the average household shrunk by 18 percent.

Norms of everyday life have been turned upside down in just a couple of generations, leaving most of us rather presumptuous and not very grateful.

I’m all for good meals and comfy homes, but excess unsettles me when I let it.

If I’m going to be pampered, the least I can do is be appreciative.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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