While doing research , I ran across an old black and white magazine ad for SPAM. In the Hormel line-up was Tongue Spam. Unfortunately, I can’t find the ad again in the internet maze, but it brought back a shadowy part of my childhood.
Now I’m not really that old. The problem was, we were dirt poor. As a matter of fact, about all we had was dirt. So, I grew up living 20 years behind the rest of the world’s modern conveniences.
“Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do.”
This wasn’t even a slogan for us. It was a lifestyle. We….
- Saved bits and doodles of soap, and then melted it to make a soap bar. (As well as making our own lye soap)
- I thought we were strutting with the elite when we got a wringer washing machine. I was petrified that the masher would take my little fingers off.
- We grew or raised most of our food. Not because we were hippies, health-nuts, or part of a commune. All the old folks in the family had been kicked around by the dustbowl and the depression. They believed calamity could be hiding around every corner.
- But the most interesting was eating animal parts that none of my classmates had ever seen in a grocery store.
Grandma loved to tell us grandchildren, “I can use every part of
the cow, but the moo.”
Up until the age of six, I thought this was cool. Fortunately, my investigative powers of sass kicked in when I was about seven, and while getting a cooking lesson on some repellent food such as headcheese or sweetbreads, I asked her:
“Whaddya do with the eyeballs, Gramma?”
“Oh, heavens. I don’t use eyeballs. Just poor people have to use the eyeballs.” ( I was thrilled to discover we’d surpassed this benchmark of poverty.)
“Whaddya do with the hooves, Gramma?”
“Give ’em to the dogs.” (Yes, those cow hooves and knuckles strewn around the yard make wonderful lawn ornaments.)
“Will the dogs eat tongue too? Please?”
“Heavens, no, child. This is good eating.”
Then she’d throw it in the pressure cooker and steam it for thirty minutes. The weight on top of the cooker, rattled like it was building up to blast to the moon, and she was lecturing about the dangers of how it could blow like TNT in the hands of the unskilled cook.
For me, tongue is a fearful food. You can’t disguise it. No matter how much mustard you put on it. Or ketchup. It represents “hard times.”
I suppose if we had meat rationing today, I’d be pretty hungry. I’m not sure which I’m more afraid of…the tongue or the cooker. Sorry, for all the sass, Gramma, but thanks for teaching me there are times in life when you have to make do with the Moo.