June 23, 2010

The other day I mixed a can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken into left-over brown rice. I added a can of tuna, stirred vigorously. After cooking it into a sort of casserole, I ate it. Yummy.

Isn’t it strange how we find ourselves doing what our parents did at the same age? At 73 (just my age now) “D”, as we called my dad, was a widower who lived alone and existed on concoctions often involving canned soups and leftovers.

D was proud that he could make do on his own, inventing dishes that reflected his frugality. Brimming with pride, he would don his threadbare cook’s apron. He’d ask a grandchild to tie it behind him because he could not manage that arm twist any more.

Then out would come the big pot, the cans, the small custard dishes containing, well, limp leftover carrots, shriveled peas, and always, it seemed, lumpy mashed potatoes.

His grown kids might dutifully nibble at the resulting cacophony of tastes, but the grandchildren, culinary cowards, would either suddenly remember a pressing date, or say they had just finished a “huge” meal.

As for me, I’d generally eat it unless there was fuzzy stuff atop a custard cup leftover. One time I stayed with my dad for several days before my wedding, and he stirred up a breakfast blend in a frying pan.

“This salt pork’s been here a while, but it’s okay, I’m sure,” he promised as he tossed it in. That was my first experience with food poisoning. Luckily I had three days to recover before the wedding, and so all was well.

As D grew into his late 80s, he had his meals delivered. Having lived on institutional food most of his life, he thought the steam table meals were tasty. So good, in fact, that he put the unfinished portions in the trusty custard cups and saved them for “later.” Trouble was “later” might mean a few weeks.

As the years went by, and D outlived his friends, he became depressed and less and less able to take care of himself properly, though he would insist he was okay. In his 90s, he began to feel as if he had had enough of life. “One thing about old age,” he would say, ”if something goes wrong with your body you can be sure it will never get better.”

One day my brother Jerry visited and bravely began clearing out the aging leftovers from the fridge. Jerry is not demonstrative unless he’s talking politics, but this time was an exception. Holding up a particularly rancid leftover, he turned to his father and said, “Someday you’re going to kill yourself eating this stuff.”

“So?” my father replied. It didn’t, either. He made it to 97, and died of being worn out.



Posted by Bill Doolittle at June 23, 2010 12:31 PM
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My Dad's story as well but not quite that extreme. Dad actually turned into a pretty decent cook when he was forced to. Not towards the end though. Chances are we might be the same.

Posted by: One Fly on June 23, 2010 1:17 PM

For a nice healthy cheap meal take a 15 ounce can of collard greens, drain the water out and then lay on a can of chili with beans from Aldi stores.Or any good 15 ounce can of chili with beans. Meat or no meat, doesn't matter which. The combo doesn't sound too enticing but it's pretty darn good. I was a bachelor for a lot of years and sometimes you actually can cook up something better than the original canned version by combing the right stuff from cans. If you don't like collard greens, this is the best way to get the nutrition out of them plus make them tolerable. Plus they make your pecker grow if you're young and stay hard if you're old.

It's a damn good recipe considering I made the whole thing up. But try it, works for me. Too bad I didn't start eating it until it was too late for the younger benefits. But tell it to your 13 year old. He'll gobble his collards right up from now on.

Posted by: Buck on June 23, 2010 8:52 PM

I used to take the rotten food out of mom's fridge when she wasn't looking. That story was mine, too. Memories.

Posted by: Bendra on June 24, 2010 9:49 AM

i will be 77 this December / i am grateful to me that i still like to cook for myself and i still have all my teeth (see me smile?) / all food prep much simpler tha it used to be; just as tasty and nutritious / i am not beyond some exciting "gourmet" canned concoctions either.

Posted by: Katherine Hunter on June 26, 2010 1:20 PM
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