Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stuff*** My Dad Says

My dad is searching through the freezer case at the big HyVee for supper.  He finally settles on some organic, non GMO, nondairy stir fry.  He's eighty years old and not making any kind of statement: he just needs his food to be gluten free and this store has a variety.

Over in the regular freezer case he chooses a Banquet pot pie for my mom; I pick out a frozen pasta meal of tortellini.  It is a Tuesday night, practice night for the Lake orchestra...and I am getting a chance to sit in.

The chicken pot pie makes me smile.  We always had home cooked meals when I was growing up, but every once in a while she would serve up chicken pot pies in the little tin pans.  Despite being a picky vegetable eater as a kid (in preference, not practice: we ate what was good for us with no comment) I liked the pot pies..... unless an errant lima bean leaked out in the gravy like the proverbial fly in the ointment.  I liked the cubed chicken and especially the way the steam escaped when you pierced the crust with your knife. Banquet pot pies are still just a dollar, but back in the sixties you could buy them 5 for a buck.  

We watch the news and weather, waiting to go to band practice, visiting about food.  The Hursts have always been beef people with roasts and hamburger and steaks at the ready in the freezer;  beef is the pinnacle of our food pyramid and our first choice.

My father is the oldest of five kids, born in the '30s.  He leans back to recollect the protein on their table, 'We ate stuff like pigs feet...and was awful.  We kids knew this was terrible stuff.'
'The first time I went to eat at your mother's house, her mom fixed veal birds.' My mom chimes in, 'Remember Schulte's? Well, Mr. Schulte would call your grandma whenever he got a nice piece of veal.' My dad laughs, 'That was the best meat I'd ever eaten..'  
I remember my grandma making veal birds, just like I remember my grandpa eating 'mush' every morning for breakfast.  These were exotic antique foods to me, foods one only ate at one's grandparent's.  I have looked up veal birds but have yet to find pictures or recipes that are exactly as I remember my grandma's.  
Grandma's veal birds were pan fried like her chicken and served with mashed potatoes and gravy. I can believe my tall skinny father thought he'd been offered a feast....

Both sets of grandparents lived on Greenberry Road.  My dad had a paper route and rode a bike; my mother caught the city bus to school.  Her parents had a car but my grandfather also took the bus to work every morning.  I remember the 1964 Dodge they drove when I was young, but when I ask my folks what car preceded that one?  'A 1938 Pontiac', my father offers instantaneously, 'People didn't buy cars during the war.  You were only allowed 2 gallon of gas a week...that wouldn't take you very far.'  
My father says he used to ride with his father in their 1933 Chevrolet  from Jefferson City over to Cole Camp to visit his grandparents  The road was paved the forty miles to Versailles but gravel the remaining 21 miles to Cole Camp.  The Chevy had no heat, so his Grandma Renken would heat a rock in her big black wood stove before they started home, wrap it in a rug, and put it on the floor board to help ease the chill.  My dad said the rock almost stayed warm til they arrived home. 

When I was a kid, my sister and I loved nothing more than to read my mom's yellowed copies of Judy Bolton mysteries and Cherry Ames nursing books.  These books were cheap even when they were materials during a time when anything of value was conserved for the war effort.

  We counted 1943 and 1944 pennies from the piggy bank...gray pennies of steel, not copper.  We played her Monopoly game, Chinese Checkers, and a horse race board game with Man O'War, War Admiral, Whirlaway and Seabiscuit..  Her childhood seemed like a treasure chest...we had no conception what ordinary families sacrificed during those years or what it was like to be children during the 1930s and 1940s.

 From pig feet to organic GF right in your freezer case, five minutes from the microwave to table. From 60 miles without a heater to a weekly visit for orchestra practice and quiet night's sleep in their comfortable condo on the Lake.........this is what my folks have experienced....and I think I've seen change in my time!

   This evening, I am just thankful to have been along for the ride.....

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