Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An unsophisticated palate?

Yes, I have an immature palate. I must have been raised by twelve-year-old children, because this is my favorite meal:
1) Pickleloaf sandwich (squishy white bread, one slice processed American cheese, two slices pickleloaf, Miracle Whip spread liberally)*
2) HUGE handful, green onion potato chips accompanied with enormous dollop of green onion dip
3) Package of Little Debbie Swiss cake rolls, frozen, not thawed (this way, the treat resembles ice cream cake)
4) Cherry or grape Kool-Aid, very cold, but no ice

I am not kidding when I say that I could eat this meal every day of my life and never grow weary, never get bored. Actually, I probably should not consider this a meal; it's more like lunch. Lunch for a twelve-year-old raised in the midwest whose parents work blue collar jobs.

(*I also have an unholy attraction to bologna and something called braunschweiger ~)

I am the product of blue collar workers. My dad worked at the General Motors Leeds plant for 25 years. For twenty-three of those years, he put on the left front fender. To mix it up a bit, he finished his career on the assembly line by putting on the right front fender. In his brown paper lunch sack, every day for twenty-five years, Dad ate two peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly/no jam). For a beverage, he had his silo-looking thermos filled with Folgers. If my mom were alive, I would call her right now to ask her what else he had in that sack. Surely a grown man wouldn't get filled up on two PB sandwiches. (Dad died in 2007; Mom just a few months ago. I am sick anew with grief as I write this, because now I won't know what else was in the bag. This will bother me more than it should ... ).

We ate simply. Mom never cooked with capers, scallions, or wine. She never flambed (sp?) anything. Well, anything on purpose. She once had a skillet of frying chicken get out of hand, but a big dosing of flour extinguished the flame. We kids never had top sirloin, or T-bones, no filet mignon. We loved beanie weinies on the stove, a side of oven-baked tator tots to go with. On Sundays, Mom threw out all the stops and made something Big and Delicious, like roast with all the fixins', or a ham with delicious scalloped potatoes, that I try at least once a year to make but always fail in the attempt. Can't get the consistency right: the potatoes are either swimming in buttery milk, or dried up and parched. Sundays were good for meatloaf or stuffed peppers, and a cheesy corn casserole that would make any Southern black woman proud.
About six months ago, my enterprising daughter did some genealogical research and discovered that my mother's maternal grandmother was mulatto (the word used on the census). All was explained for me then. No wonder my lily-white mom with her Lucille Ball hair and freckles galore cooked greens for my dad (he was raised in Brandywine, Maryland, on a tobacco farm), and cornbread, and something called spackle, and grits and hominy. No Muslim could eat at Mom's table: bacon was in everything. That or ham. One good bone-in ham was worth four or five meals. To this day, one of my favorite dinners is beans and ham. We ate that a lot when GM shut down the line back in the 70s. We also ate pancakes for dinner and Cream of Wheat for weekend meals, which is, truth be told, a heavenly treat when given strips of cinnamon toast to dunk into the steaming hot bowl.
No, we were never rich, but we ate like kings. Midwestern kings who thought bowling was high entertainment, boxed macaroni and cheese was nothing to be ashamed of, and green Jell-O was a perfectly acceptable dessert. Also, my parents, and my friends' parents, thought there was nothing unethical about putting their kids in the trunk of their Chevy to sneak them into the drive-in without paying. Thought nothing was unhealthy about chain-smoking in the front seat of the car with all the windows rolled up, the children gagging and red-eyed in the back, begging for fresh air.
It was the 60s. Then the 70s.
And here it is, nearly fifty years later, and if I had some pickleloaf in the fridge right now I'd go make myself a sandwich, only it wouldn't be the same as I remember, because all I buy these days is that high-fiber wheat bread that seems stale the minute you take a slice out of the bag.
Tomorrow I will go fetch a loaf of Wonder bread.

1 comment:

Charity White said...

I ate a lot of that food at my house - and at yours. Nice memories!