Inspired by the “butter cow” seen on a long-ago trip to the Iowa State Fair, I grabbed a big block of cheese the other day and attempted to carve something gallery worthy — a tiny cow.
I ended up with a little block of cheese.
So I grabbed a kitchen appliance not used since the William J. Clinton presidency — a “knuckle buster” cheese grater — and turned my cow into a sandwich bag of cheese.
Today’s youth probably think cheese comes grated in a plastic sack the size of a pillow. Boomers know better — especially when checking their knuckle scars.
Examining my kitchen, preparing for Thanksgiving, anticipating a feast, I found the beginnings of a pioneer museum. Grandma Gertie’s rolling pin, egg beater and recipes for Swedish meatballs. Grandpa Oz’s nutcracker. I also found Pyrex bowls. Cast-iron skillets. Flour sifters. A 1971 Betty Crocker cookbook featuring recipes for apple bread and banana spice cookies.
An old Mason jar. A nut grinder. A potato masher that got stuck when I tried to pull out the drawer.
Made me recall some of the “great” foods of the 1960s, when I was knee high to a butter cow, and the Summer of Love was followed by the Fall of Food.
7-Up mayonnaise Jell-O salad was a favorite — but any Jell-O salad would do. Also tantalizing were weineroni casserole, pigs in a blanket, pineapple upside down cake or any food turned upside down.
I also loved space food. The peanut butter-flavored space food sticks developed for the U.S. Aerospace Program as we raced the Russians for moon dust were a favorite. Combined with Tang drink mix, the sticks sent me into orbit.
Being a typical kid, I loved getting sugared up before 7 a.m. If my mom, Rhody, the kindest, sweetest home baker ever, hadn’t objected, I would have feasted on Fruit Loops, Sugar Smacks and Frosted Pop Tarts for breakfast, Pizza Spins, Planters Cheez Balls and Ding Dongs for lunch and a Swanson frozen TV dinner topped with spray can Easy Cheese for supper.
Rhody, though, laid down the law. She was for “real food” and against processed food with its preservatives, additives, dyes, emulsifiers and anti-caking agents. She believed children needed to grow vertically, not horizontally.
Cheesecake cookies were out. Cheesy potatoes were in (my grandpa was a spud farmer). Tunnel of Fudge Cake was out. Meatloaf was in (with gravy, not grape jelly).
When growing up, I had a “hollow leg,” grandma said, and my cousin, Bear, had a “hollow body.”
At Thanksgiving, as the family watched in amazement, being extremely thankful for our blessings, Bear and I dove into an Olympic-sized swimming pool of food.
On the first course, turkey, Bear and I ate to a virtual tie.
The second course was Jell-O salads, my specialty, featuring suspended items, from olives and Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes to Spaghetti-Os and sliced up Oscar Meyer weiners, and I took the early lead.
On the third course, yams swimming in melted marshmallows and brown sugar, we tied. But in potatoes — baked, wedges, hash browns, scalloped, pan-fried, herb-roasted, usually with gravy and grated cheese — he took a slight lead.
I fought back to even with vegetables, as Bear would not touch carrots or peas.
Then we went for the pies. I had slices of caramel apple. Cranberry. Pecan. Bear had slices of pumpkin. Pumpkin pecan. Sweet potato.
The cakes were also spectacular. Bear went for carrot cake. Pumpkin cheesecake. Angel food. Slowing down, I went for devil’s food, which I liked best.
Then, after a trip to the back porch for a mighty belch, holding a slight lead, Bear went to tart heaven — apple, pumpkin, apple-pumpkin, pumpkin-apple, cranberry — while I, now in food coma, could only watch on with amazement.
Thanksgiving celebrations were special in the 1960s, and we had much to be thankful for, including indigestion remedies.