LUNCH TIME MEMORIES

         After working out at my gym this morning I stopped at the local grocery to get a few items. It was nearing lunchtime and I had had only an apple so far since I had first gone to my doctor’s to have blood drawn and had to fast after midnight. So I was hungry.

         I had plenty of things to fix at home but they would require cooking time. I also had several types of fruit and carrots and celery I could munch on, but wanted something more substantive. Going down the meat aisle, next to all the packages of bologna and salami and boiled ham I spotted it…the perfect filling solution to my hunger. A small package of braunschweiger. I added it to my cart, checked out and returned home.

        Once inside I set up for my treat. There was a paring knife to open the hermetically sealed meat package. There was the regular knife I would use to spread it on the whole grain rye bread on my table. There was a bottle of the always dependable Heinz Ketchup and a head of iceburg lettuce as well as a drink.

         I opened the package and made two sandwiches, spreading the braunschweiger so the bread was completely covered, applied ketchup and a dash of hot sauce, draped lettuce over the mixture, added the top piece of bread and enjoyed.

           For the unsophisticated, braunschweiger consists of….well I’m not sure. I believe it to be the poor man’s liverwurst, but that could be a mistaken notion. It cannot be other than a conglomeration of spiced animal parts in the form of a thick spread in a casing rather than the solid sausages and other meats produced substantially the same way in a casing and meant to be sliced.

              I suppose some folks do slice their braunschweiger, but I learned to eat it as a child as a spread and will always do so. If liver, which I utterly detest in other forms, is the or a main ingredient, I wish to remain ignorant. Goodness, I was such a picky eater as a kid I would eat no applesauce unless it was Kroger brand, or at least put up a loud fuss. And don’t even ask about peas or I will horrify you with the gruesome details of the memorable dinner where, forced to eat peas by my mother, the little green bastards spewed all over the dinner table. I never had so much as  one pea placed on my plate thereafter.

        Savoring my lunchtime sandwiches, I realized how far I have come. Today, whole grain rye was my choice of bread. In  the fifties and sixties that would have been Wonder Bread which, after all, helped build my body twelve ways. These days I almost wish seven of those could be reversed and one way added. And while I found this meal exceedingly tasty, even at this late date knowing the entire make-up of this favored delicacy would likely trigger an ugly emulation of pea spewing. So I shall remain uneducated.

            There were some other family food-related traditions. Often at my grandmother’s in Wheeling she would prepare Sunday dinner, frequently a roast. I once marveled ( I was about 7) that the roast came out of the oven much smaller than when it went in. That was because, my grandma told me, “David, meat’ll shrink” Never the family to let a clever remark go unrepeated, that became a constant message in our household. In fact “meat’ll shrink” was the equivalent of today’s “it is what it is”, an explanation for everything while simultaneously being an explanation of nothing.

          As I matured (relatively speaking of course) and gained experience in the ways of adults “meat’ll shrink”  took on quite a new meaning, one which delighted me more than my seven year old wonderment, no doubt largely becasue I could produce and control the phenomenon myself. And on the not unheard of occasions when the meat didn’t shrink, the delight of my companion was all the more evident.

           Another food connection with that grandmother is ginger snaps. I went through a period one summer while visiting Grandma and my Aunt Mary Ellen, Grandma baked ginger snaps for me several days in a row. There was a nearby small park with a swimming pool, ball field and playground. I spent many hours playing there with a group of neighborhood kids and a few others also staying with grandparents. It was idyllic and I would run breathless back to Grandma’s and after a regular meal she made a batch of ginger snaps just for me. I loved to gobble them down, still very warm from the oven.

             These days I reside in a building with many grandmothers, none of whom is baking ginger snaps for me, nor allowing me anywhere near their ovens. But, then again, having watched a lot of HGTV, all of them would require complete renovations before using their kitchens.

            Meat’ll shrink? Like hell it will.

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