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(by Heather Leary)

I don't immediately associate my mother with food, although it was a prevalent part of our lives, primarily because we didn't always have it. Often our meals consisted of a two-liter bottle of cola with jelly and butter sandwiches.

My mother was a single mom raising four kids. When my parents divorced, my father moved back to New York where he was from, and we stayed in Illinois. We weren't too far from our grandparents, but my mom didn't want to ask for anyone's help, so it was always just the five of us. She worked two or three jobs at times, and really didn't have time to cook. When she did, it was a treat for us to get fish sticks or meatloaf. We had few vegetables, and drowned them in butter to make them taste better. On the very rare occasions that we ate fast food, the four of us split two hamburgers, one order of fries, and a large Coke. Mom divided the portions to be fair.

At an early age, I was preoccupied with food, devouring a piece of meat or spoonful of peanut butter because I didn’t know when I’d have it again. It was exciting to have the actual name brand of a cereal or snack, instead of the black-and-white packaging of a generic brand that read “Puffed Rice” or “Corn Chips.” One day I came home from school to find nothing to drink, not even water, since my mom hadn't paid t