“The Sweet and Sour”: toasted white bread smeared with peanut butter and jelly, then topped with a layer of smooth soft creamy Velveeta- the undisputed king of all processed cheese products, and finished with a squirt of mustard and a swipe of mayonnaise.
“When’s the last time you ate that,” I asked my Dad, incredulous.
“Two weeks ago,” he said emphatically and with a dash of pride. I grimaced on the other end of the phone, but couldn’t help but laugh.
When I was a child, my father left our home very early for work, but, on rare occasions I caught a glimpse of his breakfasting habits. “The Sweet and Sour” was not what I remember seeing as a child; I remember the toasted white bread, Velveeta, and mustard; my dad’s version of todays, oh so popular, breakfast sandwich.
Either way, I truly thought nothing of it; why would I. This was the same man who taught me how to enhance the taste of cooked spinach with mayonnaise, which I later learned was a nifty trick my grandmother’s neighbor gave her back in the day to get my dad and his sister to eat their vegetables without protest.
As I have now learned, creative cooking techniques were abundant in New England back in the late 1920’s through 1940’s, when my grandmother was growing up. Times were tough, and with no electricity, and therefore no refrigerator, making meals was much easier when the main meat course came from a jar, a can, or a wooden box. A quick mixture of milk, butter, flour, salt and pepper made a wonderful white gravy that seemed to be used universally and in abundance on all preserved meats.
Here are a few of my grandmother’s recollections:
“Codfish gravy or creamed cod”-salty cod from a wooden box, soaked in water to remove excess salt, then mixed with a white gravy and served over white toast or mashed potato.
“Dried beef gravy, also known as Chipped beef on toast”-dried beef from a jar, mixed with a white gravy and served over white toast or mashed potato. Add a few slices of hardboiled egg and you’ve gone gourmet. This dish is popular among U.S. Military members who back in war days likened the toast to a shingle, affectionately calling it S.O.S.- _ _ _ _ on a Shingle. (You figure it out)
“Salmon Pea Wiggle”- canned salmon and green peas mixed with a white gravy and served over white toast or saltine crackers. My siblings and I ate this dish without protest, which I am still shocked by to this day. I believe the fun of lining the saltines up on our plates was the hook.
Much to my surprise, these quick, simple, reliable recipes are still popular today. Actually, I thought my parents made up Salmon Pea Wiggle; I never thought any of my friends growing up would eat such a strange thing.
My dad enjoyed all of these delectable dinners plus pea soup – which always threw me for a loop, and liver and onions, which was his favorite go to meal when we traveled to Burlington Vermont to see my grandmother. The Howard Johnson Restaurant and Motor Lodge never disappointed. My favorite was the turkey dinner followed by a vanilla ice cream sundae with all the fixins’: chocolate sauce, whipped cream, nuts, and that enticing red food colored soaked maraschino cherry to top it off.
But aside from family dinners, it was the quirky things my dad and my mom enjoyed on a daily basis that amazed me.
Mom’s Favorite Sandwiches:
“Cool Beans”-leftover cold baked beans on white bread with a squirt or two of ketchup.
“Loafin’ it”-cold slices of leftover meatloaf on white bread with a squirt or two of ketchup.
“Vege’ Delight”-either tomato or cucumber slices, with a swipe of mayonnaise, and a dash of salt and pepper on white bread.
Dad’s Favorite “Sandridges” (as he and my grandmother say):
“The Pasty Porker “-peanut butter and bacon on white bread
“Tacky Tuna”-you got it: tuna fish with mayonnaise and peanut butter on white bread.
“The Mashie”-leftover mashed potato, probably with a squirt of a condiment, on white bread. (My grandmother said that was his favorite as a child. At least there wasn’t any peanut butter on that one!)
I’m sure there were so many more interesting food recollections from my dad’s past that he can’t remember; after all, he did spend his childhood summers on a farm in Vermont where I’m sure plenty of leftover shenanigans were going on.
In all honesty, I have to confess that I did love a “Cool Bean” sandwich once in a while. I also came up with my own version of “The Pasty Porker”- bologna and peanut butter in a pita pocket, which I brought daily for lunch in high school; I swore by its power to energize me for athletic competition.
In college, I was obsessed with toasted pita pockets with cream cheese and thin slices of apple. Of course when I was pregnant with my first child I loved a mixture of cottage cheese, pickles, and kidney beans – OMG!
All of the ‘dishes’/’sandwiches’ mentioned above are no longer in my wheel house, and I’m not sure what my mom is indulging in these days, but for sure, my dad has not stopped livin’ the dream when it comes to ‘sandridge’ concoctions, and I applaud him for it.
I say, ‘let the Ole’ Vermonter create’-whether it be sweet, sour or sticky, we are all loving him for it; his taste buds, his belly and his daughter. Who can argue with eighty years of success!
Happy 80th birthday to my dear ole’ dad!