My mom is an excellent cook. Just ask anyone she’s ever fed, and they’ll tell you the same. No matter what she fixes—unless it’s liver and onions—it’s bound to be fabulous, and you’ll be determined to make room for seconds.
Growing up, if we had a favorite teacher, Mom would occasionally make a couple jars of her homemade spaghetti sauce and send it to school with us to give to the teacher.
My fourth grade teacher comes to mind. That was the year I was mauled by a big dog and was out of school for a while recovering. When I finally came back to school, I came sporting a giant bandage that covered nearly the entire right side of my head. When I got on the bus, the kids were great, but when I got to school, my teacher made a joke and I cried. I was homeward bound before lunch. He told my mom I wasn’t feeling well and maybe came back to school too soon. I told my mom what he said, and my best friend Debbie from across the street told her mother the same story. That night just happened to be parent/teacher conference night, and my mom was like a lion about to rip into the beast that hurt her cub. Let’s just shorten this story by saying my teacher didn’t receive any of Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce, and is in fact fortunate he wasn’t wearing a jar of it home that night.
But the real subject of my story is one my dad was fond of telling. It’s about the little boy who lived across the street from us. One evening he had dinner with us because his parents had to visit someone in the hospital and they didn’t want to drag him along with them. My mom fixed a pasta dish that really was a combination of spaghetti and chili complete with the red kidney beans and all. It might not sound delicious, but she served it over a heaping pile of mashed potatoes and with a side of bread buttered to perfection and there was rarely any left over. It was also a meal that stretched when there were extra mouths to feed like that evening.
So we all sat down, and the neighbor kid exclaimed what a delight dinner was, which always tickled my mom when someone complimented her cooking. When his parents called to say they were home, my mom was going to walk him across the street—deliver him safely. When they got outside, his mom was waiting on their porch. She called over to him, “What did you have for dinner?”
He beamed with pleasure as he yelled back, “Slop, Ma. She fixes the best darned slop I ever ate.”
My mom’s face was about as red as one of those kidney beans and so was his mother’s face!
She met my mom at the edge of the yard, face still as red as could be, and asked, “Did you serve chili?”
Mom nodded. “Sort of. I make a spicy tomato sauce, add kidney beans and ground beef and elbow macaroni.”
“That’s what we call slop because there doesn’t really seem to be a real name for it. It’s not the best name for it—and I certainly didn’t expect it to ever be called that at someone else’s house—but that’s what my older son called it when he was little. It sort of stuck.”
Mom smiled, glad her neighbor didn’t think she served her son something unfit to eat like he was a barnyard animal. From then on anytime she made that meal, she’d call us all to the table by yelling, “Slop’s on!”
I don’t know what made me think of this incident today, but it made me smile, and I thought you might smile as well.
Hope you’re all well and enjoying the fresh start of summer!
Until next time…