Letters to a Lost Soldier: Food for an American ex-prisoner of war and his child

Dear Daddy,
(I originally wrote in June, 1945) While Mommy cooks delicious food to fatten you up, I am on a reducing diet. She bakes cakes and cookies for your dessert and I have unsweetened gelatin with fruit cocktail. You enjoy fluffy mashed potatoes with gravy on top. Not me. She cooks steak, hamburgers, chicken and serves you bread and butter. I'm lucky to eat a piece of meat. Salad is iceberg lettuce with tomato and lemon juice for me.
Yet Mommy let me drink a soft drink when we went to the beach. I'm confused. Sometimes she's strict about my diet and other times she doesn’t care. I have to make up my own mind and keep remembering that my job is to lose weight. I hope you are proud of me for trying. I know you don’t want me to be fat anymore.
When you go to Miami Beach for rehabilitation and reassignment and Mommy joins you there, I’ll have to teach Mimi about my new diet. I can only eat the meatballs and no spaghetti when she makes that dish. I cannot drink a full glass of milk anymore. Creamed soups are forbidden. Only clear broth for me now. The doctor gave me a long list of good and bad foods and I'm trying to memorize it. There are lots of vegetables on the list, but Mommy only buys canned peas.
When the ice cream man comes by, I have to stick my fingers in my ears so I don't hear the tune he plays. If I am outside, I run away from him because I can't eat ice cream anymore.
I feel inside what it was like for you to be a starving Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany, always hungry and thinking about bread and butter. I don't miss that as much as I miss ice cream and cookies. I waited for the day when you would return home and Mommy would bake checkerboard and pinwheel cookies again. How can my life be sweet if I can't eat cookies?
Mommy doesn’t like preparing different foods for you and me. She complains it’s a lot of trouble for her. But we have to follow our doctors’ orders. You must heal your stomach from the terrible food you ate as a Prisoner of War just to stay alive. You also need to gain weight after losing 40 lbs. from starvation and dysentery when only meager amounts of rotten foods were available.
I’m supposed to reduce my size from 116 lbs. at age 8 to a normal weight. I got fat from a low thyroid condition and over eating. Mimi gave me too much food when she was taking care of us. She said I had to eat everything on my plate because children in Europe were starving. I don’t understand how I was helping the starving children by stuffing myself. She said if I didn’t finish all the food, I could not have dessert, which was the best part of the meal.
Mimi baked delicious pies, cakes, cookies and pastries. Every morning she rolled out pastries on the kitchen table and the smell of baking got me quickly out of bed. I ate a pastry and drank a glass of milk before I went to school and she had cookies and milk waiting for me when I returned home. She made gigantic tuna fish sandwiches for lunch and we had bedtime snacks of more cookies and milk.
Now I have corn flakes for breakfast like you, except you also have a banana and the cream from the top of the milk bottle. I can have just enough milk to wet the flakes and half a glass of orange juice to drink. I’m not complaining because I feel better. I can roller skate faster and not get out of breath as fast.
At least my clothes are getting looser and yours are getting tighter! You will need a larger uniform soon.
I hope you’re proud of me for sticking to it. I am proud of you, too.