After reading all the replies, I feel sort of bad for not mentioning my family so I will tell a little about them. My paternal grandmother was a terrible cook. She had 8 children and made the same 7 things for breakfast, lunch and dinner for over 60 years. Monday was pork, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Tuesday was hot dogs, baked beans, fried potatoes and applesauce, etc. I m talkin every Tuesday for her whole life. She got the same grocery order every week, only changing it to decrease quantities as her kids left the nest. Her spice rack was salt, pepper and onion salt.
My mother and all her relatives were good cooks and I learned to help in the kitchen when I was a young girl. She alternated between homestyle cooking and 50 s jello and DreamWhip creations. My dad was killed when I was 12 and my mother, whose previous life was as a June Cleaver, suddenly had to keep the wolf from the door (besides learning how to write checks, drive a car, etc.). She whipped up some different colored lace and organdy aprons with matching handkerchiefs to peek out of her uniform pocket and off she went to become a waitress at a local diner, which is still in operation today. The owner was so stingy that he wouldn t even give out crackers with soup so my mom bought a box of saltines and stuffed her pockets with them and gave them to her customers who ordered soup. Then everyone wanted to sit in her section and she made the best tips while I used my one-volume-a-week-grocery-store Women s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking to make soups and stews that could be heated up when she came home all tired out from being the perfect wise-cracking but professional diner waitress.
So while my neighborhood influenced my love of roadfood the most, my mom influenced my life in many other ways, all of them positive.