I read a touching tribute the other day that mentioned as part of sweet memories the long-forgotten ritual of masticating spruce sap into gum. That, of course, swung me into big nostalgia about some of the things I ate as a child.
Things that I cupped in both hands and hid behind the teeter-totter at school to eat, because in my mind, it was shameful fare. And so then and there I solemnly promised myself, that I would never eat those shameful things when I grew up. But, now I find, in so many of them, unexpected delight.
Those things we ate in hard times, I still hesitate to tell you. Something in our society makes shame of the fact that although we live in modern comfort at the moment, that the ‘tar-paper shack’ we originally lived in…well, you know…better not to reveal that.
And likewise, equally shameful to reveal that I still indulge in those countrified foodstuffs I ate as a kid. After all, “normal” people (sophisticated, learned, successful, and cultured people) eat pepper steak, Parmesan pork, and honey-garlic chicken. Polished and successful people eat lobster and shrimp with exotic condiments made from pricey spices, cheeses, and herbs blended in one small container from the far reaches of the globe.
It is quite amazing to me. This perception we have that diet is directly linked to levels of social stratification (i.e. upper class, lower class, etc.) And so, because of that perception, successful and sophisticated individuals recognize how quickly they could topple from their peak if they were to reveal that they eat soda crackers dipped in molasses or potato chips dipped in ice cream. So to preserve social status, they become ‘closet-consumers’ with that part of their lives kept close to their breast.
But I intend to ignore all that in this wee Meme-Trivia combo. I am going to briefly list ignoble and uncultured repasts of my youth. Scored to these standards:
(Yuk) for dreadful, (Mmm) for undecided, and (Yum) for delightful. And if you want to play the game, or give feedback, there are two more categories for you: (???) which means ‘I’ve never eaten it!’ and (XXX) ‘I never intend to!’
So your feedback is invited. Have you eaten any of this stuff? How do you rate it? Or do you have confessions of your own about undignified things you ate as a child?
NOTE: Wax crayons or plant-dirt don’t count.
So now here’s my list:
1. bread and milk – broken-up bits of bread, dressed with brown sugar, and splashed with cream or rich milk. YUM (important – the bread must be homemade)
2. wheat gum - like spruce sap gum, this is wheat kernels picked in late fall from the fields and masticated into a smooth gum (YUM) (smooth and pleasantly mild)
3. Cornmeal porridge – cornmeal cooked as a thick mush, dredged with brown sugar and rich milk. Do not stir. (YUM) (In my books this beats by a mile the more popular savory cornmeal dish, that I think is of Polish, or Ukrainian descent, although I eat that too).
4. Buttermilk and Potatoes – This was my father’s favorite undignified treat. Young and hot boiled potatoes, slightly mashed. Pour on cold buttermilk, and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. (YUM, YUM) (This may sound disgusting to some but if you are okay with buttermilk or Ranch dressing, you might be pleasantly surprised.)
5. Rhubarb Biscuits – Regular biscuits with a bit of extra sugar and a cup or two of sliced rhubarb mixed in. (YUM) (Served hot, with butter, these capture an exotic balance of sweetness and tartness that is delightful).
6. Friday Hash – Every thing diced – leftover boiled potatoes, a bit of bologna or wieners, onions and celery. Mix together and season with salt, pepper, garlic, and a liberal amount of sage or poultry seasoning, and scramble-fry in butter and oil until golden and crispy. (YUM) (similar to Stuffing).
7. Instant Cinnamon Buns – a slice of homemade (again important) bread, well-buttered. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, then into a hot oven or under the broiler. When bubbly and slightly browned, ready to eat. (YUM, YUM) (Do I need to say more?)
And here are a few undignified treats suggested by others, that I have tried:
1. Wheat porridge – Wheat kernels straight from the granary, salt, and boiling water left to cook and soften in a thermos overnight. Then dressed with sugar and milk in the morning. (YUK) (gawd-awful)
2. Cow Mushrooms (thus labeled because cows, not people, eat them). I always gritted my teeth with distaste when I spied these in the woods. Orange tops, speckled stems, usually so wormy and distasteful-looking. But when a neighbor showed me how to skillfully peal the mushrooms and in that way expose those which were corrupt and those which were pristine, and then cooked them up in fresh cream, onions, and dill. (YUM) (They were excellent).
So now, let’s have fun with this. Don’t be shy. Your social status is not at risk if you let me know what countrified things you eat. You are pretty much anonymous and so am I.
I hope so anyway, or tomorrow I’ll be toppled from middle-upper crust to bottom-of-the-barrel society.
Oh Dear, Oh Dear!