Sunday, April 17, 2011

Family Food Friday!

My family and close friends (and a few long-suffering cubicle neighbors) know that I’m a bit of a chatterbox.  I’m kind of bubbly, outgoing, and it usually takes a little longer for me to walk to places at work because I usually run into two or three people whom I just have to stop and chat with.  Clearly, I’m an extrovert, right?  Nope.  I’m an introvert, through and through.  Did you know that intro- and extroversion actually has to do with energy levels?  While extroverts are energized by parties or large meetings, introverts are usually drained and exhausted by them.  Introverts wish they were anywhere but where the action is…and if they have a good book to curl up with, that’s even better. 
When you’re an introvert, your large family can be overwhelming.
When you’re an introvert with an inferiority complex, your large family can be overwhelmingly overwhelming. 
The closest thing that I had to grandparents were my Uncle Bill and Aunt Betty.  Uncle Bill was my mom’s older brother and the patriarch of the family who are the Delaware relatives, 8 kids and their many offspring (which include cousins-once-removed, second cousins, cousins by marriage, step cousins, etc.  I refer to all of them as cousins because it’s just easier.)  Some of my favorite people are among the Delaware relatives - they are an incredibly loving, accepting, loud, large group of people.  A very large group of people.  Not ideal for an introvert like me.    
We visited them a lot when I was a kid.  It was always fun, if a bit overwhelming.  As I got older and my personal insecurities started to massively mount, I didn’t look forward to those trips as much.  I was constantly comparing myself to my cousins’ kids who, in my estimation, were all beautiful, smart, artistic, and athletic.  I spent a lot of time asking why I wasn’t born “normal” like they were.  Or how come I was dealt the sucky hand and ended up with a stupid craniofacial abnormality.  I was so unlucky and it wasn’t fair.  (Does anyone else hear the violins?)  All this baggage combined with my natural introversion made going to family events torture for me.  This continued well into my adulthood…my mom strongly encourages me to go to things, I feel guilty so I go, but I’m miserable.  And I worry that I’m going to become Denise, the spinster cousin, who brings Aunt Margaret to all the family gatherings.  Gradually, my mom’s let me off the hook a little, although I know it annoys her. 
Around Christmas, my cousins, the Delaware Twins, invited me to a Swedish Smorgasbord at the IKEA close to where I live.  I accepted the invite but it was just something that I was doing because I knew it would make my mom happy.  I was relieved when it was sold-out.  Turns out, there’s an Easter Smorgasbord too.  I got another invite.  But, I’ve made a few changes in my life since Christmas.  I accepted their invitation and looked forward to the experience, trying new food and spending time with my family without bringing along all of my personal baggage.  
On Friday night, I joined my aunt, the Delaware Twins, their daughters, and some of my cousins’ friends at IKEA.  The food was definitely more different than anything I’ve ever had before…it blew the ‘roo outta the water.  There was salmon, cooked and not, herring, liverwurst, sausage, beet salad, potato salad, cucumber salad, carrots, scalloped potatoes, ham, and Swedish meatballs.  I piled my plate high and joined my cousins at our table.  I think I did pretty well - I liked the herring and the liverwurst; the beet salad was okay (although I got really grossed out when the redness of the beets dyed my deviled eggs…that was icky);  I’ve had cooked salmon before and it’s not one of my favorites.  I had a hard time getting the raw salmon (lax?) down…that was pretty awful.  I also had lingonberry juice and thought that was delicious.      
When this is the first thing you see,
you know you're in trouble!


When we weren’t eating, there was talking because the Delaware relatives do that really well.  We talked about my grocery shopping habits (there are none!) and the Delaware Twins remembered that I used to eat stranger things than applesauce for breakfast.  Delaware Joan’s older daughter and I talked about the government shut down drama.  And I thought it was hysterical when she and her sister made fun of their mom for the way she pronounced Oregon.  I had just spent a week cringing every time my mom said Oregon!  Delaware Jean’s youngest daughter and I, both Smorgasbord first-timers, snapped pictures of the buffet.  And sure, when Delaware Jean’s middle daughter arrived looking like a million bucks after running, there was a little pang of jealousy, but that’s natural…we’re all human.  But then we talked about running, destination weddings, and Bethenny Frankel.  And I was having a great time. 
When I got home, I was exhausted.  Family (or any kind of large) gatherings are always going to be overwhelming for me but only because I’m an introvert…not because I’m holding onto baggage that only exists because I spent too many years feeling sorry for myself.  My family’s always accepted and loved me for who I am…it’s just taken me a lot longer to catch up to them. 
Food Friday isn’t always about the food.


  1. I laughed out loud several times! Trust me, there have been many of times I have left our family events and had the very same thoughts! Keep up the very entertaining posts!

  2. I am so glad you reconsidered and decided to join us on Friday night. Now that you have finally decided to open up a little we are seeing a whole new side of you. We always tried not to bother you at family functions with all our loud conversations because we thought you just were not interested. From your blog it sounds like part of that is true and part was because you are such an introvert. You know in our family we do not see many of those so we do not know how to act in front of them. It has been wonderful reading your blogs and getting to know the real Denise. Now you have to plan the next Friday Food night for all of us to attend.

  3. @Melissa - Thanks! I thought it was funny at dinner when you called yourself a headcase...I was like, I feel like that every day! Must run in the family.

    @Joan - Ahhh, still waters run deep. I've just been taking everything in over all these years ;) Families...we're made up of so many different types and personalities aren't we?! Thank you for reading my blog and being so supportive. I had a really great time last Friday, thank you for including me! Hmmm, I'll have to think about what the next Food Friday should be!