Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Green Peas
Mom and dad had just returned from a short honeymoon after being married in Tacoma in early September. They arrived home at nearly midnight before dad had to head out to his brother's butcher shop wh...
Mom and dad had just returned from a short honeymoon after being married in Tacoma in early September. They arrived home at nearly midnight before dad had to head out to his brother's butcher shop where he had worked the past two years. The day was busy as usual cutting meat as neighbors made their daily runs for the evening meal and dad and Uncle Auby filled their requests.
The day started with the meat truck arriving early. Dad and Uncle Auby got there around 4:30 AM to load the meat into the lockers and begin the preparation so that by the time they opened later that morning they would have freshly cut strips displayed and prime sections trimmed and ready to cut to the desired thickness. Dad knew this was not his future but for now, it paid the bills.
Everyone was asking dad about the wedding and the honeymoon and kidding him about "the little woman". Of course, everyone from the neighborhood knew dad well since they had watched him grow up over the years and although many did not attend the ceremony it was only because they all worked hard during the depression and time was of a premium. Mom and dad both understood.
All in all, it was a good day. Dad was well liked and he could feel the love of the neighborhood as it wished him and his new bride the best. Dad looked forward to getting home to see what Betty had in store for their first dinner in their home and also finally getting a full nights rest in their own bed. But what Harold didn't know, he was in for quite a surprise.
When mom was 14 and her sister Francis was 12, their mom died of cancer. Grandma had been dealing with the illness for close to a year and during that time she spent hours with her daughters preparing them to handle things for their father when she was gone. Francis was given kitchen duty and mom was responsible for cleaning the house. And in both cases it was important to do things just right so that had to be their focus. Grandfather was the President of a bank in Tacoma and not only did Grandma feel there were standards to be upheld because of Grand dad's position, Grandfather ran his home much like the bank and although he loved his family and was a loving father, it was important to him that those standards were met ' to built character and display pride.
As a result, Francis became quite a cook and mom never missed a beat when it came to keeping a home looking well cared for. But when it came to marriage time, there was one thing that dad didn't know: Mom didn't even know how to boil water.
Dad got off work around 6 PM and made the 5 mile trip home. He had eaten lunch but just a snack of sorts since his first day back to work was so busy with everyone wanting to know about the wedding and honeymoon. As he walked in the door he yelled "Betty, I'm home!" But there was nothing but silence. "Betty, are you here?" Dad walked to the back of the house thinking maybe mom was outside talking to a neighbor but he could see no one. Then he looked at the stove and nothing was in the oven. There was a knife on the counter and a small pan but nothing else. "Mmmmm..." he thought and just then he could hear something coming from upstairs. It sounded like whimpering. "Betty, are you upstairs", he said as he started to take his first step.
Sure enough, mom was in the bedroom on the back side of the bed on the floor with her hands covering her head. She was crying like a baby. "What happened?" "Are you alright?" Dad patted her back and asked her again what was wrong. Slowly mom sat up and told dad her problem. "Harold, I have tried all day long to figure out what to do for dinner but I have never cooked before. And I don't want you to be disappointed in me." Typical of dad, he sat next to mom and put his arm around her and consoled her and said "It's all right honey." "It's no big deal." "Let's go down stairs and see what we can figure out."
Mom and dad made their way downstairs and into the kitchen where dad found the chicken and asked mom to take a chair. Then with the knife that mom had already set out, dad proceeded to gut the chicken and cut it into pieces being very sure mom could see each step. Then with directions and mom's help they floured the chicken and baked it and then added potatoes and green peas. They both laughed after words as they sat at the table and enjoyed their first cooked meal. Mom wrote out the instructions so that she could remember and all was good.
For the next three weeks, mom and dad enjoyed their fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green peas and there was no doubt that mom had this meal mastered. And if you knew my father at all, every evening (and this continued to the day he died) it didn't matter what he was eating he would sit there and quietly show his contentment with satisfying sounds saying "Betty, you have done it again, THIS is absolutely delicious."
At work one day, he was talking to his brother and telling him about the dinner meal and asking how was he ever going to tell Betty that he was getting tired of the same meal every night. Auby suggested finding the right moment and suggesting adding a little variety to just change things up a bit. So that evening, dad did just that. After dinner, dad suggested they take a nice walk around the block and he even brought home some flowers to put on the table and paid special attention to mom and complimented her on how she looked and so on. Then as they were sitting out on the porch enjoying some coffee, dad mentioned to mom how much he appreciated her cooking and suggested that maybe it was time to add some variety to the meal and mom quickly perked up "I was thinking the same thing and actually was going to try something different tomorrow night. But I don't want to say anything right now, let it be a surprise." Dad was so relieved. I guess mom too was getting sort of tired of the same thing every night.
That next day, dad went to work to tell Auby what happened. They both chuckled about having to eat fried chicken for 22 days straight and had quite a time chiding each other as the day went on. "How about a chicken sandwich for lunch...?" "No, I'm too chicken for that." "Is that a cackle in the back room or another one of your chickens?" The day continued...
Dad was looking forward to seeing what mom had come up with and so on the way home he was trying to guess what she had done. Pork chops...a nice roast...some sort of beef stew...lots of possibilities... As dad walked in the door, mom greeted him and asked him to stay in the front room till it was time to serve dinner. She even handed him a nice glass of red wine and had his favorite chair all fluffed and ready for him to plop into. "This was sort of fun..." he thought. The anticipation was killing him.
Mom talked with dad from the kitchen about her day and asked all about dad's work as she cooked away and dad sipped his red wine. Then mom appeared at the doorway and everything was covered and set on the table ready to be revealed. Dad was in for quite a shock. As he opened each lid to serve up each plate he found variety all right. Mom had found some food coloring and everything in every dish was a different shade of blue. Blue fried chicken, blue mashed potatoes, and, the specialty of the house, dark blue green peas. She was so proud of her accomplishment and again, if you knew dad, it was all about making mom happy and making her feel good as he commented "Oh my goodness Betty, you have done it again, this is absolutely wonderful!" With that encouragement, and the secret to variety that next week mom went crazy and used a different food coloring for each day of that week. It took over 20 years for dad to recover before he could face fried chicken, mashed potatoes and peas again.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Gustafson and MyHATT, An international dinner club concept where people get to know people one bite at a time...thank you to The Daily Buzz and my entire MyHATT contributing staff for the educational content for world culture, the history, world traditions, the international menus for this family activity... http://www.myhatt.com