Did you know that you can make a soup out of anything? Ears of corn five for a dollar at the market? Bring 'em on home. Boil the bejeebus out of them, puree, add milk, cilantro and Voila! soup.
Left over potatoes? Boil away on superflame! Then mash them down and drown them in the big four: salt, pepper, garlic, onion. Ring that dinner bell now...
With a family of six children and being new to this country, money was tight for us growing up. My grandmother was adept in the kitchen and truly could whip anything up into a serving-stretching soup. I'm surprised that I, or any of my brothers and sisters, have a tooth left in our mouths today since we never got to use our choppers for much. It was all slurp and swallow.
As much as I loved my grandmother's beef rib SOUP and milk leek SOUP, there were meals I'd fantasize about as a little girl. Oh those covers from Family Circle and Good Housekeeping that would sit up on the display shelves of the grocery check out lane. Pictures of the stoneware of the day shown overflowing with heaping, spilling golden macaroni and cheese, or brown gravy spilling out of a volcano cratered monster scoop of mashed potatoes along side toasty breaded pork chops. Or -- the one thing I'd bargain for in my prayers -- fried chicken! with biscuits!
Sigh. Those meals were never to be for me in my childhood home-on-a-budget, but I became so very skilled at weaseling invites to my American friends' houses, where their American mothers would be servin' up and ladlin' out those fine abundant American meals of fried chicken, smothered potatoes, Parker House rolls with butter dripping off the top. I was an amazing eater on my visits to these homes, and my friends' mothers loved me. Who doesn't love a skinny little grateful kid who gobbles up everything set before them like they're coming off a juice fast, praises galore after each swallow? I mean, I could barely understand how these friends of mine weren't gushing all over their moms' cooking.
None of us ever grow up, really. We take on our adult form, but inside we remain the little child we once were; still wishing for that very same thing we never got enough of. When I do the weekly grocery shopping for my family of five, I can't help it -- I always get myself something from my Food Bucket Wish List, ages six through twelve. The meals I used to daydream about. I pick up something off of my list -- getting it from the deli is the most authentic way to go -- and sit in the car after shopping and eat it. By myself, and satisfyingly alone in my gluttonous joy.
Every Saturday morning I'll leave my family of three boys at home and whiz through PiknSave getting through the family shopping list and then my own: tossing in jello cubes rolled in Cool Whip or BBQ glazed meatloaf with a canned peach on top. I get to the store before noon so that the 100 percent real beef frankfurters wrapped in bacon are still plentifully plumped up and not shriveled from the heat lamp. I'll order 8 ounces of green bean and cream of mushroom bake, I'll go for the double serving of toasted crumb top macaroni and cheese. Getting to the store before 2 p.m. guarantees me a nice standing slab of mozzarella topped lasagna. Window shopping past the deli-of-dreams display case I'll ask for egg rolls, creamy tuna salad, hojo potatoes, beef stroganoff, beef tips in mushroom sauce, stuffed pork chops, deep fried haddock and home-made poor boys on crunchy submarine rolls. All things I'd lay in bed and promise that I'd eat some day when I was in charge of me.
I get these things now because I can. I'm not really hungry as much as I feel it's making up for lost time. Getting those things that I always dreamed of into my mouth.
To me, it's celebrating my fortunate life. For five dollars and two bits, it's like a clink of glasses to myself with how well things turned out to be for me. I mean, lookame, getting the things I used to wish for. Like a boss.
I come back home from errands, stuffed, but still sit down to a meal with three children that I adore and a man who is good to me. My husband thinks I am the daintiest eater he's ever seen; but if you look very closely, you'll see the golden crumbs of item number three from my Food Bucket List, freshly sitting right there on the corners of my mouth, ready to give away my blessed secret life.
**Holy cow! My post is syndicated at BlogHer today! Always a thrill to have a post picked up for the pages there ... validation of the highest order. If you feel like it, please stop by and sparkle/comment/read/tweet/hurray it. Thank you.