Posted tagged ‘American chop suey’

“My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.”

October 23, 2017

My back is a bit better. I can walk without holding on to anything. Yesterday was a sit on the couch day, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, the back aside. I have to go out today so I hope for the best.

I think I’ve used every adjective perfect to describe our weather of late. Think warm, sunny, deep blue sky and nearly breezeless. My house is again cooler than outside. In here it is sweatshirt weather. Outside is short sleeve weather.

My mother used to make fried dough for supper on Fridays, the no meat day. We’d all hang around the kitchen counter making sure we got our dough turn. My mother’s frying pan held three small or two big pieces of fried dough. She used to buy the dough at the supermarket. I remember it came in a blue and white box. We slathered butter and sprinkle salt on it. Fried dough was one of our favorite suppers.

We ate a lot of hamburger growing up, but my mother was a whiz at cooking hamburger so many different ways we never got tired of eating it. I still love meatloaf and American chop suey. She made spaghetti sauce with ground beef, another fake oriental dish of hamburger with water chestnuts and crispy chow mein on top,. The fall back was always  burgers. I love cheeseburgers.

My food in Ghana didn’t really vary a whole lot. We were lucky to live in the only area of the country which bred beef so we could always buy meat in the market. There was even a meat factory where we could buy some sort of tubular meat masquerading as a hot dog. The meat from the market was always tough. Only old cows were slaughtered. The meat was cooked in a broth like sauce with tomatoes and onions which tenderized the meat. I think we had that most nights though we also ate chicken, free range chickens because the chickens wandered all over the place all day but did came home to roost at night. We mostly ate mashed yams  but also had rice on occasion. Breaking teeth was a PC volunteer problem as the rice always had a few rocks. You needed to spend time cleaning it, but it was easier not to. When volunteers got together, food was always a topic of conversation.

Living alone means I don’t always make dinner. I improvise with whatever is in the fridge. I’m content with cheese and crackers or hummus and pita bread. I’m even happy with cereal. I do have meat in the freezer, heavy on the chicken, but I usually forget to take it out. Last night, though, I took out some Chinese sausage to defrost and I have some rice I can cook. That’s like a gourmet meal for me.

I still love making hamburgers on the grill. I guess whenever I eat them childhood memories come up for me.”

May 12, 2015

Last night was hot and muggy. Poor Gracie was panting so I turned the AC on in my bedroom. It was a delight feeling the chill, and we both slept deeply. Today is sunny but cool and tonight will be back to the 40’s. It rained sometime earlier this morning. I know only because the street was still wet when I woke up.

My mother cooked hamburger more than any other kind of meat. It was the cheapest and the most versatile. My favorite was always her meatloaf. From meal to meal it never really tasted the same. I know it had eggs and breadcrumbs but I have no idea what else she threw in for flavor. In those days herbs came from a bottle. My mother always had onion and garlic powder on hand as well as oregano and parsley. Sometimes her meatloaf had ketchup spread across the top with bacon strips covering the ketchup. We always wanted a piece with the crusty bacon. Sometimes she frosted the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and then would brown the tips in the oven. Every now and then we’d get a round meatloaf hand-formed and placed in a pie pan to cook.

We always thought ourselves quite the gourmands when my mother cooked her Chinese food. We had a chop suey sort of dish with hamburger, bean sprouts and water chestnuts. My mother always put crunchy chow mein noodles on the top. Then there was American chop suey, a name which still perplexes me today. It has nothing to do with chop suey; instead, it’s elbow macaroni, hamburger, tomato sauce and onions and peppers. My mother would sprinkle parmesan cheese from the green container on top.

Hamburgers were a summer staple grilled to perfection by my dad. I always wanted a cheeseburger, and my father would open the cellophane covering each piece of yellow cheese and crown the meat with the cheese. He’d put the top on the grill so the cheese would melt. My mother usually made potato salad. It didn’t matter how often we had hamburgers and hot dogs in the summer. I would have eaten them every night without complaint.

I think my mother was a bit of a magician in the kitchen. We never thought of how often we ate hamburger. All of those dishes tasted different to us and a couple were even exotic.

“Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody.”

May 3, 2014

Yesterday it was a joy to be out and about doing errands. I think I smiled the whole time. The day was brilliant with a bright sun and a temperature in the high 60’s. Poor Gracie had to be left home as I had too many long stop errands and didn’t want her stuck in the car in the heat. This time of year she comes when I go to the dump or take a ride. She was out in the yard most of the afternoon and spent part of it stretched on the deck enjoying the sun.

For breakfast when I was a kid, I had cocoa, oatmeal or eggs and toast during the winter, and in the summer I had cereal or toast with juice or milk. For lunch it was mostly a bologna sandwich. I was never good at slicing the bologna so my sandwich was always misshapen. Some of the bologna pieces had thick edges on one side and thin on the other. I added hot peppers from a jar and yellow mustard. Dinner was my mother’s choice. She knew what we’d tolerate and served it. Mashed potatoes were almost always part of the meal, and there was at least one vegetable. Hamburger in a variety of dishes was the most common meat. I didn’t realize why until I was older. Hamburger was inexpensive. My mother was creative. She made terrific meatloaves. She also cooked American chop suey without the onions and a Chinese dish with bean sprouts, water chestnuts, hamburger and crispy chow mein sticks on the top. Salisbury steak in gravy was another meal. Just plain hamburgers were mostly summer fare with hotdogs cooked on the grill. Sunday was the big dinner and we never had hamburger. Mostly it was a baked chicken or now and then roast beef. The last Sunday dinner I had before I went into the Peace Corps was roast beef, mashed potatoes and peas.

In Ghana I was still a creature of habit when it came to food. I had two eggs, toast and coffee for breakfast, fruit for lunch and beef and yam for dinner. I’d also have chicken now and then. Sunday was food from a chop bar, a hole in the wall eatery at the lorry park. Mostly it was fufu and soup. After the Christmas package came, Sunday was eat something from home day. Macaroni and cheese was a dish fit for the Gods.

I hadn’t good at making meals. I’m far too lazy. I’d have brie and crackers for dinner or eggs and toast. Lately, though, I’ve been using meat from the freezer and have had real meals: chicken thighs, mashed potatoes and a vegetable. Last night it was my old stand-by, peas, and a baked potato for variety. Dinner was delicious, and I felt accomplished.

“Plain food is quite good enough for me. “

October 8, 2013

More fall-like weather followed last night’s rainstorm. Today is in the 60’s and the rest of the week will be the same. I went back to my sweatshirt this morning. The day is a bit dark though no rain is predicted. Every day is closer to the end of deck time. That makes me melancholic.

This morning I had a library board meeting, the last entry on this week’s dance card. I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s empty card except I did have that cleaning frenzy, now gone thank God, so this week looks like a lie on the couch and read week. Maybe I’ll add a few bon-bons.

The sun has just decided to make an appearance. It has that sharpness that comes on a cool day when the sun is just light, not warmth.  I can see it glinting through the leaves. The bird feeders by the deck are in shadow now, a consequence of the changing angle of the sun. If I never went outside, I would still know the time of year by following the path of the sun.

When I was a little kid, I liked fall but I disliked the shorter days because we’d only have a little time to be playing outside after school before homework and dinner. In the summer we’d be outside until close to seven and even later. This time of year five was pushing it and four was more likely. We’d come in, plop down in the front of the TV and watch Superman and The Mickey Mouse Club while my mother cooked supper. We always had a vegetable, usually from a can, mashed potatoes and some sort of meat. My mother was a whiz with hamburger. Her meatloaf was spectacular with ketchup on the top and bacon over the ketchup. We used to fight to get the crispy bacon strips. She’d also make hamburger in gravy over mashed potatoes and American chop suey. One of our favorites was a pseudo-Chinese dish with bamboo shoots and hamburger. That one always seemed exotic. We’d also have chicken, but my mother always baked it. Roast beef was reserved for Sunday dinner. The only fresh vegetable I remember eating was carrots, and I didn’t like carrots until I was older. I wanted canned Le Seuer peas and could eat them every night. For my last family meal before leaving for Ghana, I chose roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy and Le Seuer peas. I chose comfort food.


%d bloggers like this: