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Silver Napkin Rings and Spam

(by Ivy Montgomery)

I grew up in a very WASPy household in the suburbs of Washington, DC. We were the non-drinking, religiously adherent WASPs, and it was the 1970s. My mother Daphne, or as she prefers to be called to this day, Mrs. Montgomery, was impossibly thin, but not because she dieted or smoked or took pills. Quite the contrary: She lived on her nerves. My father had had two tours in Vietnam and, after that, did international aid work with the military in some horrific places.

The only cookbooks I remember my mother having were Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Book and Better Home's New Cook Book. My mother didn't like to cook, and since my father traveled so much and dinner was usually just the two of us, she would rather tick the dinner box at any one of the old-school cafeterias in our city. Those cafeterias specialized in meat loaf, salmon loaf, roast beef, tuna noodle casserole, and turkey tetrazzini—nothing that one couldn't find in the kitchen of the local hospital.