Before leaving for work, The Wife gave me a hug and kiss then asked, “Will you set out the meat for dinner? Please don’t get busy and forget.”
How could I forget? Today was Tuesday, Taco Tuesday. Following her to the car, I replied that I’ve been eating tacos on Tuesdays since I was a little kid. But Tuesday wasn’t the only day of the week with a certain food assigned to it.
And that’s when she stopped walking, turned around and inquired, “This isn’t going to be one of your stories from Flamingo, is it?”
Why, yes…yes, it is.
I have many memories from those seven magical years we spent growing up on Flamingo Street; one of the most delicious is what we had for dinner each night.
Saying our mom was a good cook was an understatement. To us, she was a five-star chef. Mom assigned a main dish to each day of the week. She said it took the guesswork out of what we were going to get for dinner and made it “easier to cook for the picky eaters in our house.” (Don’t really know who she was talking about. I wasn’t the picky one – just didn’t like to eat certain things, that’s all.)
Meatloaf Mondays: As a kid there was nothing worse than trying to choke down dry meatloaf at dinner. And we should know, our Aunt Betty made the driest meatloaf any of us ever tried to eat. (A handful of dust would’ve been easier to swallow.) Thankfully, our mom’s wasn’t. Don’t really know what all she put in it. She’d just say, “Oh, a little bit of this and a lot of that.” I just know “this” and “that” always made for a great main dish on Mondays.
Taco Tuesdays: Every year, Dad always had a garden full of vegetables. He turned his tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro into the best homemade salsa I’ve ever had. Mom cooked up the rest of the hamburger meat leftover from Monday’s meatloaf, chopped up lettuce from the garden, opened some store-bought chips and taco shells, and dinner was ready.
The meal was always delicious. The only surprise was just how hot, Dad’s salsa was gonna be. Unfortunately, Dad didn’t love tacos, so Mom always cooked him a steak. Steak Tuesday doesn’t sound as cool as Taco Tuesday, but I bet it’s still delicious.
What’ll Ya Have Wednesdays: Growing up near downtown Atlanta, our house was just a short drive from the best hotdog place in the state – The Varsity. For us kids, hotdogs, fries, a big Frosted Orange, and a fried apple or peach pie was almost heaven. Mom always loved the peach pies and not having to wash dinner dishes.
Every time we pass the Varsity, I think about What’ll Ya Have Wednesdays — and my mom — because many years ago, I made a trip there for a very special fried peach pie. It was one of the last things mom ate before she passed.
Other Meat Thursdays: Slow cooked apple and raisin pork chops were one of my mom’s favorite things to cook. They were second only to her fried porkchops covered in lumpy brown gravy.
With fried porkchops came a giant scoop of mashed potatoes and a lake of the same brown gravy right in the middle. She also made Brussels sprouts, but not the normal bitter tasting way. My mom fried those little green things with bacon, making them taste so very good.
Frankfurters Fridays: Most kids who lived on Flamingo had hotdogs on Fridays. We had Fun Spaghetti because we went to the Varsity on Wednesdays. I’m not sure, but I think Mom used almost every kind of vegetable in Dad’s garden to make her homemade spaghetti sauce. In fifty years, I’ve not tasted any sauce better.
What made her spaghetti so much fun? Dad let us kids test to see if the pasta noodles were cooked by throwing one on the kitchen cabinet door. If the pasta stuck that meant it was done. If it fell off, then it needed a few more minutes of cooking time. It’s something I still do to this very day.
Reader’s Note: Throwing a piece of spaghetti pasta on little sister to see if it’s done will not only get big sister in trouble, but The Big Papa for showing them the fun way to test pasta.
Surprise Soup Saturdays: To be honest, I think Mom dumped all the vegetable leftovers we didn’t eat during the week into a huge pot and let it cook all day. It was always a surprise and always delicious.
Paired with the soup was her special Mexican cornbread, made with creamed corn, onions, and lots of cheese cooked in a giant cast iron skillet that was handed down to her by her mother. I can still taste that crunchy crust, gooey cheese and the heat from those peppers, because I still have the same skillet and cook cornbread the very same way.
Sandwich Sundays: After cooking all week and a huge Sunday lunch, when dinner time came around Mom sent us to the refrigerator to make sandwiches from all the leftovers.
We got creative, and some of our sandwiches turned out really odd, but oddly really good. Ever tried a peanut butter, banana, and jelly sandwich? How about taking a big bite of a corn beef, lettuce, bacon and tomato sandwich? My favorite sandwich to make was fresh tomatoes out of Dad’s garden, bacon, peanut butter with mayo, a little grape jelly, a touch of yellow mustard, lettuce, and sweet pickles.
The Wife scrunched up her face after I described my favorite Sunday sandwich. Getting into her car, she said, “Please don’t make that for the girls this Sunday.”
With a promise that I wouldn’t, she drove off to work. It would be an easy promise to keep. After all, the tomato growing season is over in Georgia, but spring will be here soon enough. I think I’m going to grow some nice sandwich tomatoes.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]