Food that reminds me of home and The Gadsden Weekend Recap
I just finished off a pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for breakfast. Dark, if that changes your opinion on the validity of the idea. There is a precedent for this, why I did it. When I was young, Kindegarten or such, my mom gave them to me for breakfast. The single packs. That and a glass of whole milk. I got one (1) Cup and one (1) glass. Why this came about, I have no idea. When did she sit down and go "I will give my son a half serving of chocolate and call it breakfast!"? She started, though, and I stuck with it for a couple of years. It came out during some time in class that I was not eating lots of eggs and toast for breakfast, and every one thought it was horrible and abusive that I was not getting those things, so I began to eat breakfast more normally, an egg or two and toast and such. When in season, meaning when we grew them, we also had tomatoes. Never really any side meat. Mostly just eggs and toast and jelly. Always scrambled. I did not like fried—over-hard was the only way my mom cooked such—eggs at the time. Some reason, all that came back to me, today, and I figured "Why not?"
I don't think it was that good of a breakfast. I feel kind of sick to my stomach, now.
Reese's Cups, then, don't seem to have that good of an association, but they did make me think of foods that I do associate with home. Potted Meat. The only reason I eat potted meat is because I ate it at home. After the last couple of cans, practically screaming pig snouts and botulism, I have pretty much given it up. Speaking of botulism, I used to eat scrapings from the inside of the freezer (the ice-scrapings, not just random meat drippings or such), but my mom made me stop because she said they could contain botulism. Never thought, at the time, to point out that we eat ice cubes from the same freezer and if she really thought they gave us botulism then she wouldn't do that. I guess she just didn't want us scraping the sides of the freezer for home-made sno-cones.
One of the ones I no longer can get is my mom's fried chicken. She had a gift, maybe she still does though it has been years since I have had it. Hers was made in a way that I have not seen repeated. It is hard to explain, but I guess she pealed off some of the skin and then fried it until it was dark on the outer edges with only a light breading. It was all crisp meat and full of flavors. The stuff you get in stores is nothing like what my mom made. The closest thing I can think of is tandoori chicken with more of a Southern-style seasoning (pepper and salt and cornmeal). What's weird is, she fried the whole chicken with something like a whole stick of butter, but it had about a third of the grease as store-bought. Kind of scary how bad non-homemade fried chicken has to be for you.
Perhaps the most consistent "memories of home" food for me has been Lipton's Chicken Noodle Soup. The kind that comes in the red box with two packets that make four cups each. Skip the double-noodle variety and the "with meat" variety. Just get the defacto Lipton's. There are something like 320 calories to the pack, with about twice your daily sodium in-take. A pack of that, made to about three cups so it is a little stronger, with a handful of saltines. To this day, if I am sick or depressed, that will make me feel better. It is kind of the opposite of food, being all MSGs and nothing like vitamins, but it brings back memories of sitting at the kitchen table and watching people drive down the dirt road in front of my house. It is good for me.
Enough with the necrolatry (for what are trips down memory lane but psalms on the moribundity of our childhood innocence? to the ossuary with them, for now, I can dig those bones later), I wanted to take a moment to talk about the trip down to Gadsden. This semester, I have a class on Young Adult materials. It is something of a contentious term, because there used to be few guidelines for when a book was youth appropriate. You had Freddy the Pig and then you had Crime and Punishment. There was no clear middle. Books like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables (notice the sex of the primary characters, though some books like Tom Sawyer did the same for the boys in the room, and there is a big question on books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and similar adventure writers) kind of paved the way for YA materials, and later books like The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye asked further questions about YA lit might mean (the former written by a teen, both are about the dark side of the teen years). We sort of retroactively assign the term "Young Adult" to literature we consider minor or about minors—say The Scarlet Letter and Lord of the Flies—but this can be kind of dangerous. What teenager will get the "a man fighting with his own mind" uberstory of LotF? Sure, some will, just like some will get that Scarlet is really about the unfair limitations put on women in modern society, as seen by an extreme historical example, but mostly we gloss over these things. I'm digressing, but just wanted to point out that it's not necessarily an easy term to define, though our current generation are getting far more books written for them than ever before.
Anyhow, while in Gadsden this time, I wanted to explore a little bit more, so on Saturday Sarah and I drove around. We went to Mater's to eat. I recommend it. We had their beef-steak and their roma pizzas (got smalls of both). They use fresh made crust and have some inventive combinations of ingredients that are better than your average pizzary. They also have a wide selection of other things to try. Their prices are not too unreasonable, a 16" large is around $22, but the smaller pizzas are, as expected, porportionately higher. I plan on trying the beef steak sandwich next time. If you are ever in Gadsden, I recommend trying it out, it's a couple-three blocks down Locust Street from UA's Gadsden Extension. For those that don't know those landmarks, go south down Meighan Boulevard until right before you pass Gadsden Inn & Suites (right before the gas station and car wash, too, I think that is 2nd street? 3rd?) and then turn right and then turn right again into Locust. If you are coming North, then turn left where the Rainbow Carwash is and then make a right. etc.
Outside of that, we mostly found not that much. We did stumble into the hobby shop in the historic downtown area. They had some neat old comics and lots of collectibles. Next time I will probably go earlier so I can actually shop there. We also went to the mall and I saw the most exploded Books-a-Million I have ever seen. Books were scattered everywhere. I only saw a couple of workers, so I have no idea how long it would take them to be it back to rights, if they even tried. The mall was packed with kids. PACKED. I saw teen couples shopping in large groups in Bath and Bodyworks, and was confused, until later I realized this was the teen hangout (that explains the BAM). Historic Downtown is pretty closed down on Saturday and so I got to see one other store (than the hobby shop) on Friday afternoon and that was it. Most of the other places we found were accountant offices and similar. Fast food joints. Restaurants. We did not even find that many grocery stores (two Food Worlds, one kind of far East and the other in or near Attalla, I forget which). Oh, and the Wal-mart (lots of teens were there, too).
Maybe next time we will go West and see what we can find. There is also some sort of shopping center across from the Inn & Suites (across Meighan, I mean). I'm curious about what that is.
Si Vales, Valeo