When I was a wee lad, we were PWT. There’s no doubt about it. My dad was a military dad; got a very little paycheck in exchange for serving his country. While it wasn’t enough to cover “rent”, our housing was paid for by Uncle Sam. So the pennies that he received month after month paid for groceries, electricity, car, and little else. I don’t ever recall “suffering” as a child. I distinctly recall vacations. In fact, living in Europe for so long was sort of LIKE a vacation. I distinctly remember getting my G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip and the Steve Austin a/k/a Six Million Dollar Man (with the roll-up sleeve of “skin” on his arm so you could see his bionics) for the holidays or birthdays. I had a bike. None of the three of us (me n’ my sibs) “suffered” without. The one area where we did suffer, however, was eating. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t attain this distinct panda-bear shape by starving my whole life. We ate. But what the hell was that shit?
B.J. (or “Before Jed”) I dated a boy named Kerry. Kerry also grew up PWT on a cotton farm in Lubbock, Texas. To entertain ourselves we decided once a month that one of us would make one of the most awfulest dinners from our childhoods that we could remember and called it “White trash dinner night”. It was fun times. I couldn’t play this same game with Jed, because Jed grew up on Galveston Island, and everyone knows that if it’s an “Island”, it can be trashy. Right? Wrong. In fact, Jed and I do experience some of the more favorite culinary disasters from his childhood too. Yes boo kat. You’re not escaping my blog!
I’ll begin the humiliation with myself. While growing up, my mother could make 3 things, and only 3 things. It’s no secret that the cooking duties were left to my father. Some people just weren’t meant to cook, and Barb was one of those people. One of her specialties was “Spam Salad”. Why they called it a “salad”, I’ll never know. There wasn’t one redeeming healthy quality about this “salad”. It had everyone’s favorite canned meat product; a hefty helping of mayonnaise and egg yolks; noodles, peas, and oh yes, did I mention a full-cup of mayonnaise? Her other dish was “Tuna Salad”. Again with this “salad”. Who did she think she was kidding? THERE WAS NO LETTUCE. Her tuna salad was just like her spam salad. Except whereas the spam salad would be placed back in the refrigerator to chill after it was prepared, the tuna salad would be placed in the oven to heat up before it was served. Now that I think about it, the tuna salad MIGHT have had a can of cream of mushroom soup added to everything else to make it extra special. If Barb was going to be REALLY decadent, she would crumble is couple of fists fulls of Ruffles potato chips on top of the tuna salad before baking it. It was, as I recall, delicious.
Kerry, as I mentioned, grew up on a farm. His first (and last) attempt at recreating meals from his childhood failed miserably. In fact, that son-of-a-bitch is lucky I didn’t call the police for attempted murder after his dinner. His favorite childhood meal was “pan-fried steak”. He prepared this meal with all the giddiness of a school girl receiving her first “pin”. What he sat down in front of me wasn’t fit for a dog. Imagine my shock, pain, and horror as I cut into this meat and it disintegrated into a cloud of dust. “Kerry, sweetie,” I said to him, “WE HAVE REFRIGERATION HERE IN THE CITY. YOU DON’T HAVE TO COOK YOUR MEAT SO IT CAN BE CARBON DATED HERE.” Yes, apparently in the back woods of Lubbock it was customary to hang your meat up on a hook outside the back door and then cut off the pieces you needed to cook. This lack of refrigeration required that you cook the shit (and moisture) out of your food so that you didn’t die from bacterial poisoning.
Jed grew up thinking all food came from a box or a can. When we first started dating, I made him one of his now favorite dishes, “Freddy Surprise”. It’s basically pork chops with a tomato pepper sauce and garlic mashed potatoes. Jed was shock and surprised to learn that mashed potatoes didn’t really come from a box as his mother had led him to believe. You can honestly get mashed potatoes FROM a potato.
One night I had asked Jed what he wanted for dinner. He said, “Macaroni & Cheese”. So I headed down to my local grocery store and purchased some noodles, heavy cream, cheddar cheese, some bread crumbs, and butter and went home to throw together a master piece of fresh, home-made macaroni & cheese. After an hour or so, Jed started getting antsy. Wondering what on earth could possibly be taking so long. Pacing back and forth through the kitchen. I finally called him to the table to eat and he looked at my beautiful creation as if I had just shat on his plate. “What’s this?” he asked. “It’s macaroni and cheese. Isn’t that what you wanted?” “It’s not orange.” Was his reply. Apparently I had no idea that Mac N’ Cheese was only acceptable to Jed if made with “orange powder”. TO THIS DAY, he prefers Orange powdery mac n’ cheese over the real thing. Go figure.
One of my favorite things to make in my house is some good ole Frito Chili Pie. YUMMY. White trash? YOU BETCHA. Delicious? I ain’t gonna lie. It’s the bomb-digity-bomb-bomb. The first time I made it for Jed he asked, “where’ the rice?” WHA? RICE? IN FRITO CHILI PIE? “We always put rice in our Frito Chili Pie when I was growing up,” says Jed. So I don’t want my boo kat to suffer. I say, “HOLD UP, WAIT A MINUTE.” I go in the kitchen to put on a pot of rice. This won’t take any time at all my love. After 5 or so minutes, Jed (again) starts getting antsy with me.
“Where’s my dinner?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you wanted rice?”
“Are you making rice?”
“What’s taking so long?”
“Jed, rice take exactly 25 minutes to make.”
“No it doesn’t, it only takes a minute. It says so on the box.”
OH HELL NO! Minute rice? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? To this day Jed STILL refuses to learn how to make rice properly. I have told him ad nauseam how to properly make rice. I have showed him. I have made him read the directions. He can’t do it. What’s worse, he can’t tell the difference between “real rice” and “re-hydrated rice product”. In fact, he insists on calling Minute Rice “real rice”.
So there you have it folks. Some good eats to think about for this weekend. Do let me know your favorite childhood food traumas and whether or not you’ve tried to replicate them as an adult. And, as always, have a fantastic weekend.