Getting kids to eat in Turkish and American households: Your food is crying behind you…and “the starving Armenians”

Lately, I have been writing a set of posts about my early exposure to Islam – or anything remotely related to it (click here for a link to all posts of mine on that topic).

I am trying to get back in touch with how I came to learn about Islam – even if it was biased learning.

This is part of my effort to examine the potentially deep-seated views I may hold about M., his family, or his nation of birth, in my sub-textual reality or as the hard-core Freudian psychoanalysts might perhaps say, my id.

And it was this dredging effort, this effort to remember, that led me to turn to M. one day and ask, “canım, what did your mother say to you to get you to eat all of your food as a child?”

Of course my M., who was apparently the perfect child (which he annoyingly points out when we see screaming children throwing a tantrum in public or being too loud), explains that he never ever had a problem with this other than the times that he had pneumonia (you can read more about his childhood illness and the oxygen cure here).

During those bleak days, he told me, his mother would encourage him by saying in the sweetest of maternal voices, “canım, eat your food please, or it will go crying behind you!”  Hmmm.  I thought, “crying behind you.”

A bit of further explanation left no etymological data for analysis, and neither did a Google search.  Was this rooted in some historic challenge to food availability?  Unclear.  Probably just the non-culture bound efforts of yet another mother attempting to get her kid to eat – one of millions around the world.

As I was engaged in my googling effort, M. turned to me and asked the obvious follow-up question to mine – “what about you, canım sweetheart, what did your mom say to you?”  I sighed, put my laptop aside, and said “she told me to eat my New England boiled dinner without complaint and to remember the starving Armenians.”  M. sat up, eyes wide – “no kidding!”

Nope, no kidding.

M continued, with a look of shock: “And what did  you think about that – I mean – did you understand this was about the Armenian genocide?”

Sighing as I squinched my brain into looking-back mode, I said “honestly, no, I just had the sense that people were hungry, that there was some kind of a tragic emergency – akin to what was happening with the droughts in East Africa at that time, I suppose.  I had no idea about the hotly-contested matter of whether or not there was genocide or not. It wasn’t until I met you and you explained the controversy when we saw that Armenian genocide poster in the Armenian district here that I put it all together.”

I was referring to the massive memorial billboard about the some-say alleged atrocities committed during the Ottoman empire that M. and I had seen in the Armenian neighborhood where we do our weekly shopping for Turkish staples for our home (e.g. white cheese, really good olives, Tamek sour cherry jam, etc.)  M. got out of the car, looked at it, and hoped that he would still be welcome in the neighborhood he has been visiting for years where he delights in shared Turkish language conversation with the Armenian owners of the shop we frequent.

"Buy Liberty Bonds. Give them 2 1-2 milli...

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At the mention of this, the Armenian genocide,  Zenne, the nervous nellie puppet crawls into a teacup and plugs her ears, but not before saying, “I am very nervous, m’lady, about you even mentioning this g-word on a Turkish-American blog.”

So, in order to honor Zenne, and to stem the potential fallout from the Turkish blog censors, I’ll leave it at that, and just ask you – what did your parents say to get you to eat your food as a child? 🙂

This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Early exposure to Islam, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Getting kids to eat in Turkish and American households: Your food is crying behind you…and “the starving Armenians”

  1. Rosamond says:

    Eat your food or you will go to bed hungry. Eat your dinner or you wont get dessert. I was never a really fussy eater and mother was a good cook so no problem there. I do remember once she said, when i was not feeling hungry and she insisted i should eat, just think about the starving children in Africa with nothing at all to eat. I replied ” they can have mine”. When she said that was impossible i wondered what her point was. Would me eating my dinner help them??? I still hear parents saying that same thing today :-/

  2. sarahlizp says:

    Explicit message (carrot) was pretty positive: eat everything and you’ll be a member of the clean plate club!
    Implicit message (stick) (conveyed through body language, ten-yard stare) less comforting. Implied dire consequences.
    I cleaned my plate.

  3. Alan says:

    There was no leaving the table until the plate was clear – come bed time, if there was still food left a saucepan lid was put over it and it was ready for breakfast . . or lunch . . or

  4. Indeed, I hear the same thing as well. I guess it is all about developmental stage re: how much to explain!

  5. Ah – the ten-yard stare! Boy o boy, I can relate to that. I think the gangstas in my old Brooklyn neighborhood were said to refer to that as the “thousand mile” stare….I dare not ask about the consequences of not eating!!!

  6. Oh, yes. The saucepan lid was employed in my childhood home as well. As was the repeat menu treatment. Luckily for me, I loved SPAM (my sister did not) but unluckily for me, I did not love boiled brussel sprouts or my father’s infamous clam casserole. That was often back on the menu for at least 24 hours until I could claim the potential for food poisoning if I touched it….:)

  7. Thinner Addict says:

    That “2,5 Million Starving Armenians” sign is hilarious in a way that it shows how the christian propaganda of Armenian genocide has evolved over the time. Why have the christian propagandists reduced the number to 1,5 million from 2,1 million? Might that be because it`s hard to convince people that 2,1 million Armenians were killed when it`s known
    that there were only 1,3 million Armenians at the time? Moreover, why doesn`t the sign
    mention about the millions of Turks genocided by the christians in the Balkans and Armenia? Is it because Turks are muslims and no one cares if a couple millions of muslims get killed?

  8. Whoa! I am not going to even touch the Turkish-Armenian question. I certainly don’t know enough about it to make an off-the-top of my head comment. I will simply note that as the person in the comment above pointed out, the Balkans are another difficult topic. The horrible violence in that region over the centuries is difficult to fathom.

    Instead I will go with the easier question. What did your parents say to make you eat? Not much in my case. My parents used to joke that I had a tape-worm in my stomach because I ate so much and was always hungry yet tended to stay skinny as a kid. My brother, Stephen, was a picky-eater and we had this endless vegetable struggle every night. He was obliged to eat the number of his age — 8 peas when he was eight, or 8 green beans, or 8 slices of zucchini. It took forever and drove me nuts. I don’t remember my parents mentioning specifically any starving population, but they were always involved with Oxfam projects in Bangladesh and I have stuck in my memory brochures and posters that were around the house with little starving kids in rags sitting in front of wooden rice bowls with just a few grains of rice. So…I suppose the guilt-trip was while Stephen was pickily pushing his 8 peas around his plate, the poor Bangladeshi children were trying to survive on 8 grains of rice.
    Gustavo said in Italy he used to get “think of the starving children in Africa”… what I have observed more is that Italian Mammas make it a personal thing between them and the child as though the child is not appreciating the work of the Mamma if they don’t eat, so you might hear “mangia, mangia, amore…mamma made this just for you…blah blah blah.”

  9. prometheus says:

    I strongly suggest that you have to go and look at the sign one more time before writing any comments!

  10. Thinner Addict says:

    No need to spend more time looking at a piece of christian crusader propaganda.

    Maybe this excerpt would enlighten you;

    “To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and the number of Armenians who are claimed by Armenians and their echo chambers to have died in an alleged World War I genocide. Almost a century later, the number of deaths they assert oscillates between 1.5-2 million. But the best contemporary estimates by Armenians or their sympathizers were 300,000-750,000 (compared with 2.4 million Ottoman Muslim deaths in Anatolia)

    “From 280,000-750,000, Armenians initially raised their death count to 800,000 to test the credibility waters. It passed muster with uninformed politicians easily influenced by campaign contributions and voting clout. Armenians then jumped the number to 1.5 million, and then 1.8 million by Armenian historian Kevork Aslan. For the last decades, an Armenian majority seems to have settled on the 1.5 million death plateau–which still exceeds their contemporary estimates by 200 to 500 percent. They are now testing the waters at 2.5-3 million killed as their chances for a congressional genocide resolution recede.”

    By the way, do you have any answer to what happened to the millions of Turks who lived in the Balkans and Armenia? Here is what happened to them.

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