June 28, 2010
Food is an important center of our lives, and it’s kind of amusing to see what appeals to different people. In my own life, I used to come up with some pretty weird things when I was a kid hunting around for a snack. My favorite was a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich, and I still eat one of those occasionally. I don’t care for the peanut butter-jelly combination so many prefer. The year I taught country school I still lived at home, and when I packed my lunch I used anything available for sandwich fillings. It might be a leftover piece of steak, baked beans, or even potato salad stuffed between two slices of bread.
But back to when we were kids, there was nothing more delicious to us when we came home from school in the afternoon than a slab of just-baked bread slathered with butter. And if it wasn’t baking day and the bread was older, we used thick sour cream sprinkled generously with sugar. Some of our older relatives told of eating bacon grease or plain lard on bread, which sounded totally unappetizing to me.
Besides peanut butter, the only traditional sandwich makings in our family were Velveeta cheese, minced ham or, infrequently, pickle-pimiento lunch meat. I looked forward to the neighborhood card parties where other people brought more exotic offerings such as dried beef, salami, braunschweiger, or summer sausage, none of which we had at home. Many of these card party sandwiches were also made with “boughten” bread which, believe it or not, was a treat for us who always had homemade.
Town cookies were something special too, as a change from our home-baked ones. My favorites were those wafers made of the same substance as ice-cream cones, and the puffy ones with white or pink marshmallow tops. My mother loved to tell about the time when I was a small child and we were watching fireworks at the county fair. Grandma Jacobsen was with us and mentioned she had some fancy (boughten) cookies in her purse for later. I couldn’t get my mind off those, and during one of the most spectacular bursts, I tugged on Grandma’s arm and asked if I could have a fancy cookie.
Once when we were chatting after a 4-H meeting, we discussed some of the odd food habits people had. Our leader, Eleanor Svoboda, admitted she would never eat radishes without butter. I wonder how she ever got started spreading butter on radishes.
My dad always put butter on soft-boiled eggs, so of course all his kids did too. He also sprinkled salt, pepper, and sugar on fresh garden tomatoes. I could never manage the sugar mixed with the other seasonings.
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We didn’t buy a lot of groceries besides staples for our household, certainly not any prepared foods we could have made ourselves. I can’t believe they now sell even Kool-Aid and tea in bottles all ready to chill and drink. How hard can it be to brew your own tea or make fruit-flavored drinks from a powder? Which reminds me – once when we were entertaining 4-H at our house, my mother didn’t have any Kool-Aid packets on hand, so she substituted Jello, mixing it with warm water and then adding ice to cool it. I’ll never forget how everyone, upon taking the first sip, got a funny look on their faces. The gelatin started to coagulate when it was chilled and there were little bits of it throughout the drink.
Some people have other uses for foods besides eating them. There are all the jokes about fruitcakes being used for doorstops, and I know tomato juice is one of the remedies used if your dog has run into a skunk, but the one I’ve found to have the most ingenuity is my brother Tom taking a banana with a little stem on it to use as a back scratcher.
When it comes to food, each to his own taste as they say.