By DAVID GREEN
Ice milk. I haven’t thought about that so-called food in many a year.
J.P. Williams brought it to mind Friday when I was reading a profile about him. J.P. is a Hollywood agent who believes in redneck humor. Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White—they’re all represented by J.P. Williams.
They’ve all become fabulously wealthy, and as their agent, J.P. Williams has joined them. According to the article, Williams drives a black Bentley and wears a gold Cartier watch. He has 60 bottles of cologne in his bathroom and his cellar holds 1,500 bottles of wine. A masseuse comes to his house and a manicurist to the office, and he just took up yoga.
Sixty bottles of cologne might not fit your definition of success, but it works for Williams. Here’s an even more blatant indication of his stature: He’s instructed his wife never to buy or manufacture any food staple from his childhood, such as cottage cheese, Miracle Whip, casseroles, canned tuna, fish sticks or ice milk.
I remember that abomination of a dessert. Wasn’t it like an imitation ice cream? A healthier choice? A cheaper choice? Cold and icy, but missing the flavor of what ice cream is supposed to be? Perhaps it should just be called Poor Man’s Ice Cream.
Like Williams, I suppose we all have an unspoken list of childhood foods that we wish never again to encounter. I wouldn’t know a Bentley or a Cartier if I saw one, but I think I’ve achieved some success on the childhood food front.
I’ve never instructed my wife to avoid lima beans—maybe it’s a mutual dislike—but my memory of frozen lima beans is not a pleasant one. We have spoken about Spam many times, but only as a joke, never as something to eat.
I visited my sister and one of my brothers last weekend and posed the childhood food question to them. Unfortunately, it was after my parents had returned home, so my mother had no opportunity to defend herself. Without any prompting by me, Diane and Tom both started talking about “chipped beef on toast.” That was on my list, too.
I’ve been thinking about that item a lot this morning, trying to recreate it in my mind. If I recall correctly, the chipped beef came in a plastic package. Very thinly sliced beef shavings, pink colored. Some sort of milk-based sauce was created and the meat was added. This would be spooned onto a piece of toast. And consumed.
You could cut through the crust, but that would allow a flood of the sauce to flow off the toast and onto the plate. Better to cut into the middle of the toast and attack the crust last. That way, the crustal pieces could be used to sop up the remaining sauce.
I don’t think I’ve eaten chipped beef on toast since about 1966. That’s 40 years back into my past, but I can still recall the feel of that soppy bread in my mouth. It’s not a good memory. Bread isn’t meant to take on a near-liquid state.
And now the memory just got a little worse. I think canned peas were added to the sauce. Let’s change the subject.
I called my brother Dan in Seattle and the food he first mentioned was cooked spinach with vinegar. We both had fond memories of the vinegar cruet with the heavy glass stopper on top, but choking down the bitter spinach was not good.
Dan spoke of the disgust in discovering one of those orange vitamin pills hidden in his hamburger (his sister probably did it) or a pea at the bottom of his glass of milk.
My sister also mentioned welsh rarebit, but none of us could quite bring it to mind. Something to do with a cheese sauce and bread, I believe. A cousin to chipped beef.
Tom talked about Spam and cutting his finger when twisting open the metal band with a key. Diane tired of Friday night being hamburger night.
But her daughters got in on the conversation and they quickly spoke of a dish called Hamburger, Rice and Peas and another called Cheese Dreams—a couple of items they’ll never touch again now that they’ve left home.
But after a few bottles of J.P. Williams’ wine, I suppose even Spam and spinach might taste good.- Aug. 2, 2006