Once again, I find myself looking for something to fill up these pages. If you skip down a post or two, you will find that the President of our country got my hackles up with what can best be described as a royal screw-up. In that same time frame, I tried to comment about a current event, some delicious gossip, if you will. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at expressing myself over those kind of things so to make up for that, I’m going to throw in last week’s newspaper column free of charge. You won’t have to buy the paper or pay to access their web sites:
Many years ago, I was working in a factory in Jasper, Indiana. On an overcast day in mid-March, a few of my workmates and I climbed into a car and went in search of our dinner. At that time, I was still calling my noon meal dinner and I suppose I might still be today had I not gone off and married my wife, Susie. I’ll explain that later. Since we only had an hour to clock out, drive somewhere, eat, drive back and clock back in, there was never any time to waste. Fast food joints had not yet been invented and then, adding to that the fact that there were several factories in the area, all of whom turned their workers loose at noon meant that the process of eating your noon meal had to run like clockwork. Consequently, most restaurants served a ‘plate lunch’ that you could be served almost as soon as you sat down, allowing you time to to eat and still get back to work in your allotted dinner hour. These ‘plate lunches’ consisted of a meat course (or fish on Fridays), bread and two sides. Sometimes you could request the sides you wanted and sometimes you couldn’t. In the latter, the restaurant would tell you what the sides were. I was never able to figure out why it was done one way or the other and never bothered to ask.
Also, if you have been paying attention, by now you’re wondering why it was called a plate ‘lunch’ but was served at dinner. I never questioned that either. I suppose that was because I was not the inquisitive intellectual I am today.
All of this took place before I met Susie and instantly fell iin love. Being a product of the big city, she convinced me that more sophisticated folks preferred to refer to the noon meal as ‘lunch’. The term ‘dinner’ was reserved for the evening meal. Before I could marry her, I had to learn to say dinner instead of supper and lunch instead of dinner. I know, I know. It’s confusing as all get out, isn’t it but isn’t that what love is all about?
On this particular overcast day, my workmates decided to skip our usual neighborhood tavern and instead elected to try dinner (lunch) at the new Moose lodge because one of my lunch companions announced he had a good supper (dinner) there the night before. I started to object, remembering that the Nuns had told me it was a sin to patronize these ‘secret handshake’ organizations. (note 1) However, I was more afraid of going hungry than I was of carrying around one more venial sin.
On this day, their plate lunch was fried chicken and the two sides were their choice. This didn’t bother me. In all restaurants I frequented, one side was always mashed potatoes and the other varied between green beans or corn and occasionally, navy beans when the cook was feeling creative.
When the food came out, there were mashed potatoes all right but the other side dish was an unrecognizable lumpy, white stuff.
“What the hell is that?” I asked, having learned at the factory that waitresses were impressed by men that peppered their conversation with cusswords.
“Cottage Cheese.” She answered a bit defensively.
Now I know it was the 1960’s and I was 21 years old but I swear I had never seen cottage cheese before. Being well-read, I had heard of it but until this day, had never laid eyes on the stuff. (note 2.) In our fried chicken and mashed potatoes family, there had been nothing like this. I immediately suspected it was something the communists were trying to foist onto the general populace.
“What’s in it?’ I poked at the lumps with my fork.
“It’s sour, curdled milk.”
“Are you kidding me? I can’t eat that.” I told her.
“Don’t eat it.” Was her feisty reply. Having grown up with demure, Catholic educated females, I had not yet learned that girls of all varieties could be feisty. This one was undoubtedly a protestant and maybe a communist, at that.
“Couldn’t I have some green be….”
“No substitutions.” Before I could even finish, she cut me off , whirled around and disappeared into the kitchen.
There was no time to argue and since I was still hungry, I elected to eat the side dish. It wasn’t half bad and I now eat it on a regular basis. I suppose God was looking out for me that day because He saw to it that the lumps were of the small curd variety. I doubt that I could have kept the large curd stuff in my stomach.
While the whole experience turned out to have a happy ending, I was left with one apprehension. I can’t force myself to enter a Moose Lodge. The Eagles and the Elks organizations are okay, but the Moose….. You can just forget it.
Note 1. I was wrong about the Moose lodge being a sin. It was the Masonic lodge I was supposed to stay away from.
Note 2. I tried to explain to my 9 year old granddaughter how I could live to be 21 years old without having ever seen cottage cheese. I told her it was possible because I grew up in a time period before our nation of Marketing directors decided to bombard our senses 24/7 with advertisements for every product under the sun. She either did not understand what I was talking about, didn’t care or else, didn’t believe me. To tell you the truth, I can barely believe it myself.