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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A story from my Childhood: Fartloaf Sandwiches.

Good morning my friends!

Thinking yesterday about my drive from New Ulm to Milwaukee made me nostalgic and every time I get nostalgic I think of the many family dinners we had growing up...and that wipes the nostalgia right out of my head.

So sit back my friends, and enjoy this little tale I recently shared with my Sunday School class.  They liked it and I hope you do, too.

My mother is not a good cook.  To be fair, her mother before her was not a good cook.  It wasn't a lack of talent, for I can recall meals at my grandmother's home that were tasty, and I know my mother can whip up a fairy decent lasagna when called upon.  And, to be very fair to my mother's side of the family, my paternal grandmother did not enjoy cooking, and therefore did not do it terribly often.  She preferred going out to dinner, a recessive trait I've inherited.  No, the women in my family were not bad cooks because they had no talent.  They were bad cooks because they just didn't care about cooking all that much. 

Case in point, my mother's meatloaf.  There are many jokes about meatloaf, but when it comes down to it, there's a reason everyone knows about meatloaf.  It's because, even the lamest cook can make a meatloaf that people will enjoy.  I do.  It's one of the few things my kids eat that I make.  My mother's meatloaf was, when first out of the oven, a delight.  It was hot, bubbly, just crusty enough on the outside and sweet from the ketchup glaze. 

When it cooled off, however, it became something else entirely.  My brother has some very colorful names for it, but I like to call it FARTLOAF.

Yes, when my mother's meatloaf cooled, it smelled like farts.  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it was the green peppers she stuck in there  "for color."  (Is there anyone out there who's on the fence about eating meatloaf and then sees a touch of green and says, "Yes, that is the loaf of meat I'm going to eat!"  No, I didn't think so.)  I'm not a scientist, I cannot say what happened chemically speaking during the cooling process.

Since eating farts is not appetizing, there were always leftovers of the Loaf of Fart.  Which was perfect for my mother, who used said fartful meat for lunches the following day.

I'll give you a moment to wrap your head around the image of an inch thick slab of cold meatloaf nestled on two pieces of whole wheat bread.  And not the soft, mouth friendly whole wheat we have today, no, no;  the twigs and bark type of whole wheat that crumbled in your hands.  Now, put that sandwich in a fourth grader's lunch.

A meatloaf sandwich in a child's lunch?  Why ever would you do that, Dear?
So you can see why I , the fourth grader, threw those chunky, crumbly, fart tasting sandwiches away.  See, the worst crime you could commit in my family back then, besides lying, was throwing away food.  It was the 70's, we were the lower lower lower middle class, and wasting food was wrong.  Also, we lived under the iron clad rule that you had to eat your main course before dessert.  Generally this rule was moot since my mother, on an eternal quest to get my father to lose weight, rarely provided a dessert of any kind. 

It's completely logical, then, that I would have to dispose of the the sandwich if for no other reason than I wanted to eat whatever "dessert" sort of thing was in my lunch.  (Generally a home made marshmallow rice cereal treat with as little marshmallow as possible.  It really was like eating mildly sticky cereal.)  And I had  a sweet set up.  I couldn't toss it at school, no.  You can't throw out food at a parochial school...that's sinful.  But, on the walk home there was a vacant house.  And in front of that vacant house there was a ditch and in that ditch was a culvert.  And in that culvert were the remains of about six months' worth of my sandwiches.

Yep, it was fool proof.  I walked home alone, I ditched whatever lunch remains I had, and I moved on.  Given how perfect this was, I still scratch my head over the rest of this story.

One day, like any other, I had a fartloaf and wheat sandwich to dispose of.  Why I didn't go straight home from school that day, and send the sandwich to the culvert, I will never know, but on that day I threw the sandwich away at school and a classmate, I'd like to use her real name because it's one of those names you never forget, but let's call her Dora Donaldson, saw me and instantly told the teacher.

Let me tell you about Dora Donaldson.  Ours was a tiny school and there were only three girls in my class.  Dora, Kayla, the super cool girl who had horses, and me.  We were friends because there simply was no one else.  But Dora was one of those girls the teachers all like, but the kids can't stand because they constantly wreck whatever game you're playing at recess with things like, "Well, it just doesn't make any sense.  I'm left handed, so if I get a hit in softball, I should run to the left."  (No worries, Dora wasn't any good at sports, so the actuality of her getting a hit was non existent.)

Dora had lunch issues of her own.  She hated all things fruit.  But Dora was clever.  She would tell Teacher she was going to eat her fruit on the playground at lunch recess.  Then she'd go out, put the fruit in her special spot  (35 years later, I bet I can go to that playground and there will be a grove of apple trees there.) and "forget it."

Yeah, so Dora tattled.  That meant a note from the Teacher, who made me gather up as many of the pieces of the sandwich  (which had all but disintegrated in the garbage can by this point.) and put them back in my lunch box  (Emergency! with the Thermos!)  I had to take note and lunch home.

Now, a normal child with a normal childhood would have tossed the note.  Not me.  I wasn't living a normal childhood.  See, my DAD was the OTHER teacher in this two room school.  So I was smart enough to know that my teacher and he had conversations, and undoubtedly, the subject of a note would show up.  So I couldn't throw out the note.  I had to come up with a plan.

And I still had to ditch the sandwich. 

Hey, rule number one in the house:  Don't eat dessert before your main meal.  Since dessert was long digested, I had to do something with the chunks of farty wheaty goodness in my lunchbox. So, passing by my favorite culvert, I dumped the sandwich and cooked up a foolproof plan.

I got in trouble because Dora Donaldson lied.

Yep, that and some real tears was going to get me out of this.  Never mind that there were countless witnesses to me picking the sandwich out of the trash.  This was the gold star story that was going to save me from a week of no TV. (No Emergency?  No Johnny and Roy? Horrors!)

I'm not going to bore you with the court room drama, or lack thereof, that followed.  My parents were fooled by this story for about six seconds, which is how long it took my father to ask where the sandwich was now.  Knowing I couldn't tell the truth, I said, "I ate it."


Yeah, I'm not what you'd call a criminal mastermind.

Well, I didn't lose a week of TV.  No, I lost a month of desserts.  (Sort of like getting Al Capone on tax evasion.  Without the evidence, they couldn't really prove I'd thrown out the sandwich.  So, they nailed me for eating dessert before the main meal.)  The worst of it was my darling Aunt Carol  (her real name) was coming for a long weekend.  Aunt Carol, unlike my mother, was a BRILLIANT cook, and her speciallty was dessert.  So, in the final review, it was a painful punishment.

Did that stop me from throwing sandwiches in the culvert?  Nope. 

Know what did?  Two things:

1)  Shortly after this, someone actually bought the vacant house. Food dumping became trespassing and littering pretty quickly.

2)  We moved.  My walk to school got shorter, and there was no place to hide food.  I wound up having to actually eat it.

I shared this story with my parents a year ago, at Thanksgiving.  (Now you understand why I try to avoid Thanksgiving?)  I figured that, at age 42, I was safe from further punishment.  Besides, confession is good for the soul.

2 comments:

  1. I recall other tales of your mother's cooking, this is a gem and I'm so glad you shared. We went here with friends over the weekend, where my friend had the special sandwich of the month.

    I remember carrying my lunch and getting some less-than-special goodies, like dried-out celery, or some form of unidentifiable lunch meat, but I actually enjoyed my father's meatloaf sandwiches (as you'll recall, my mother doesn't cook) except for when he decided to start replacing ketchup with A1 sauce on everything.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, A1 is NOT the same as ketchup when it comes to a taste profile. LOL!

    ReplyDelete

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