Saturday, April 29, 2017

Po' Folk Food

Growing up in a thrifty household, we ate a lot of "economical" meals: tuna casserole, hamburger helper, stuff that started with a box of pasta and a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, and the like. We grew and preserved a lot of produce, made jams and jellies, and while there was meat in every dinner, there wasn't much of it, and it was always an inexpensive cut. We ordered a party-size pizza every Sunday, had a slice each for dinner that night, and the rest got wrapped up for our lunches the rest of the week. Aside from that Sunday-night pizza, the weekly grocery budget for our family of four (plus at least two cats) was $100 well into the late '90s, and Mom made it work.

As a result of this upbringing, I acquired some unusual food-related affections. The one that's probably the least healthy for me is also one that few people are familiar with: P&P loaf. It's essentially bologna with bits of pickles and pimentos in it, and it's got a distinctive, tangy flavor (sort of like the difference between Miracle Whip and mayonnaise). Along with things like licorice and Moxie, you either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground... and I love it. I don't let myself get it very often, because it's so processed, but every now and then it's something of a treat.

The good thing about having been raised this way is that I know how to weather economic downturns and tight personal budgets without resorting to things like ramen (which is absurdly high in sodium) or boxed mac-n-cheese (which we ate, but only after it had been doctored with some real cheese and a little bacon or ham, and always with two different vegetables on the side), and I can do all sorts of creative and tasty things with a couple of veggies, a little meat, and some pasta or rice.

The downside is that sometimes I do weird things (like drain a can of tuna and mix it with mayonnaise and sweet relish to make sandwich filling, or eat cold pizza straight out of the fridge) or have odd preferences (like p&p loaf), and people look at me weird or turn up their noses in disgust. But hey, to each their own. I'll keep eating my po' folk food, and y'all can eat whatever you like -- and maybe we'll find some common ground along the way and start swapping recipes.

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