It’s Thanksgiving week, and my thoughts normally turn to turkey and all the trimmings. But my son Josh, who lives and works in Japan is coming home for Christmas for the first time in two years, and since turkey is one of his favorite meals, we’re postponing our meal until he joins us. I make a pretty good pot of chili, so that will be my feast for the day. I won’t have turkey sandwiches the next day, but I will have chili dogs.
One of my favorite meals however, which I haven’t had in over FORTY years is lovingly referred to as “S.O.S.”, a delicacy from my Air Force days that I truly miss. You can find “Chipped Beef” at some stores (Stauffers frozen) and very few restaurants. But these all contain dried beef. The Air Force variety was made with good old ground beef.
Poured over toast and served with coffee, it quickly became my all-time favorite breakfast. I’ve tried a LOT of different versions since I got out, but NONE compare to the simplistic taste from my Air Force days. Don’t tell World War Two veterans of my happiness, they hated it. I keep telling myself that perhaps the Army just couldn’t cook as well as the Air Force.
Visiting my grandparents house during the summer didn’t just mean getting to play baseball or wiffle ball with my friends. We played hard, usually many hours at a time. When we took a break, we were thirsty. My friend Russ often provided the refreshments. We cooled off with a long drink of water from the hose on the side his house. Why not pop you ask? Money was scarce, and if I had a dime in my pocket, I was always tempted to buy a couple packs of baseball cards.
But then, there were THOSE days. The 95 degree days when you couldn’t stop sweating no matter how much you drank. And the water from the hose seemed to get warmer and warmer. For THOSE days, we had a solution. It was just a short walk to the corner of Madison and 106th. There was a gas station there that eventually stopped selling gas and became just a place for car repairs. The two bay doors were ALWAYS open though, and the chest style pop machine had the COLDEST bottles anywhere.
The other unique thing about this machine was the pop they stocked it with. It didn’t have just Coke or Pepsi but a very nice variety of fruit flavors as well. My favorite was Suncrest Orange (followed closely by Suncrest Grape). In my own neighborhood, the local store didn’t even stock Suncrest, so it truly was a west side treat. You had to open the chest, deposit your dime, find the row you wanted and move the bottle through the metal maze to the end. You then popped the cap off on the built in opener/cap catcher on the front of the chest and you were ready. Tiny crystals of ice would fill your mouth with each refreshing gulp. To this day, I’ve never found a machine with a bottle so consistently frosty.
We didn’t play ball all the time. If the wind kicked up, we couldn’t play wiffle ball very well because it was hard enough to control them without a wind. With the wind blowing you could never get it near home plate. On those days and during brief periods of rain, we retired to the front porch. We could talk about baseball and the Indians for hours. Most guys would have cards on them just about any day and there was always the chance for a card trade. Strategically trading your doubles and triples was an art form. If you didn’t do it, your chances of completing a series was a lot tougher.
If the weather really got nasty, we’d go inside with Russ and he would play records. His taste in music didn’t always jive with mine, but we enjoyed listening to the 45’s and continuing our talk about the Tribe. So no matter the weather, we had a lot of fun. And if I had the dime, the pop was tremendous!
I loved visiting my grand parents for lots of reasons, but one for sure was that I knew I would get to enjoy my favorite breakfast ever… basted eggs. My grandmother made them the BEST! My Uncle Jim was a driver for Swift Meats, so if he was visiting there might be a slice of ham or bacon available, but I really didn’t care that much about the meat. I looked forward to two perfectly cooked eggs with a slice of toast from the old Toastmaster.
She cooked the eggs in butter and patiently used a teaspoon to baste the yellows of the eggs with the hot butter so a light skin would form. She knew just when to take them from the pan. There was no raw, runny stuff anywhere and the golden yolk was the perfect consistency for dipping a warm piece of toast. I often attempted to make them myself after she passed but it was always hit or miss with mine. She just had the touch. I’m certainly sorry I never asked her what the secret was.
For years I would go to restaurants and attempt to order basted eggs and got the strangest looks. Over easy is what most people order, but they can come back so runny you can’t look at the egg or the yolks are so hard you need your knife to cut them. Basted is best. The irony of this story? I developed a violent aversion to eggs about 25 years ago and haven’t been able to have ANY egg for breakfast since. It certainly is a good thing I savored those eggs as I did. How about you? Will there be food you enjoyed growing up that you’ll never enjoy again after I’m gone? If so… better ask about the recipe now while you can. Restaurants come and go, but if you teach how to cook that favorite item, it will be passed on from generation to generation.