Slumgullion or Kelly Cooks
Kelly did a lot of the cooking for our family. He never thought he was a good cook, but he could whip up something to eat. He often said to me, how is it you can make a delicious meal out of next to nothing, but if I cook, it’s slumgullion? I never had a good answer for him. Slumgullion
– was macaroni cooked and drained, with a can or two of cream of mushroom soup thrown in, and then browned hamburger and vegetables added. Filling and nutritional. Kelly was always concerned about making sure the kids got enough protein in their diets. When we were first married, and so often broke, we ate a lot of biscuits, pancakes, macaroni, and Ramen noodles. When he was making macaroni or Ramen, Kelly would throw in an egg or two to hard boil. When it was finished, he would peel the egg, chop it up, and add it to the macaroni, along with hot dogs if we had them. Kelly was also one to make sure food didn’t go to waste. His mantra was you had to take at least a spoonful of everything, and you had to clean your plate. More than one child of his sat at the table long after dinner was over, with a bit of food they didn’t want to eat.
Kelly loved to eat just about anything, and he never had a problem eating left-overs. When we were engaged, he taught me how to make grits taste good, a skill he learned on his mission. First you cook the grits, then just as they are thickened, add butter and salt and pepper. Pour the hot grits over a good-sized slab of cheese, and then stir the melting cheese into the grits. Serve with a fried egg and bacon on the side. Yummy. When we were at Ricks, we would also get a big Navajo taco to share. He would eat it all except the olive, and I of course ate that. His pancakes were legendary. They were never quite the same twice, but usually pretty good. He liked to eat his pancakes with peanut butter and syrup with a fried egg placed on top. He also liked biscuits and homemade sausage gravy. When he made the biscuits they were really thick, like a double biscuit. I taught him how to make gravy, white or brown.
Kelly also enjoyed a good steak with potatoes and vegetables. That was about the only time he liked baked potatoes though, generally he preferred mashed potatoes, whipped smoothly with added milk and butter. He also liked a pot roast, cooked with carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes, with gravy made from the drippings. Another of his favorites was beef stroganoff, made from his mother’s recipe, and served over rice. Or sometimes we’d have pork chops. He always liked to have the homemade applesauce we made served with those. He was quite at home in the kitchen. One thing that always bugged me though was that he never cleaned up after himself. The empty cans, boxes, and plastic wrappers were all left sitting on the counter. . . grrrrrr.
When we went camping though, he always made sure everything was cleaned up. Usually we would roast hot dogs and have smores. Other times we would do tin-foil dinners. When Kelly made them, there were great big pieces of meat with LOTS of onions, carrots, and potatoes. In the mornings, if Kelly was cooking, we’d have pancakes, bacon, eggs, and juice. If I was cooking, it wasn’t cooking. We’d have yogurt, muffins, and juice.
If it was just a picnic, and not full-fledged camping, we always had a variation of the same thing, and now my kids do the same kind of picnic: a loaf of French bread, (two when we had all of the kids with us), cheese slices, (the kind that comes in individual packaging), grapes, bananas, or apples, but usually grapes. That was the basic picnic. If we had the money, we would add fried chicken from the deli, or sometimes yogurt, or Oreo cookies.
Kelly loved Oreo’s. He would eat them, dipping them in a mug of ice-cold milk. He also liked to have bread and milk. He would tear the bread into chunks, sometimes adding honey to the mix, and then he’d dip it in the milk, and eat it. I never liked it. . . . too soggy for me! Kelly wasn’t too big on sweets. He had to be in the mood for them. He stowed chocolate bars or other candies in his side of the headboard to save until he had a hankering for sweets. Unfortunately, either the kids or I ate it before he did, and it would be gone when he got there. I usually replaced it — but the kids didn’t.
For special occasions, Kelly was right in there helping me cook, and doing much of it. He loved to chop the vegetables, and was skilled at making an artistic relish tray presentation. For Super Bowl Sunday, he would create a platter of sliced cheeses, thin-sliced deli meats and crackers, with a large dollop of Miracle Whip in the center, then he would watch the game, making little cracker sandwiches with the meat and cheese.
Kelly would always splurge, and get eggnog for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had special glasses to drink it from. He taught the kids how to make it, first you filled your glass partway up with Sprite, (or 7-Up), then add the eggnog, filling it to the brim, then it was topping it off with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Quite a few years ago, we started making clam chowder and chicken noodle soup for Christmas Eve, the clam chowder a tradition carried over from his family, and the chicken noodle soup catering to a finicky eater who didn’t like clam chowder. Whenever we were making soup, the vegetables had to be diced small and evenly if he was doing it, compared to my larger chunky, uneven pieces.
Kelly loved my homemade soups, chicken-noodle, potato-cheese-broccoli, beef stew, and clam chowder. After awhile he would never order clam chowder at a restaurant, because he said none of them ever tasted as good as the kind I made. We didn’t eat out very often, but when we did, if it was something besides burgers or pizza, Kelly loved to go to buffet style places where he could have some of everything.
We would go out for Chinese, Hunan City was our favorite. I remember, we went one day, and there was this music playing in the background. It was “Happy Birthday” – then another song came on, it was also a “Happy Birthday” song. .. apparently, it was a whole cd of them, set on repeat, because while we were there, it played through about three times. Kelly taught me how to eat with chop-sticks, at first it was so awkward, and I couldn’t seem to catch on. But he kept showing me, over and over, and I was so excited when I could finally do it. I still eat with chopsticks when I have Chinese.
The other place he liked to eat out at was LaCasita’s, in Springville – a kind of hole-in-the-wall sort of place, it has great Mexican food. He would eat it all, including the beans and rice. It was kind of funny, a couple of months before he died, Kelly would say to me, “let’s go out to eat” — this was a little unusual, because we really didn’t have the money to do it, but he really wanted too, so he took me to all of our favorite places. We had steak and shrimp one night, another night he took me out for Chinese, and we went to an all you can eat buffet place as well as LaCasitas. I’m glad he got to do that before he died.
Although he liked to eat out, his favorite thing to eat was Fullmer Tacos. The first time I had them at his parent’s home when we were engaged, I thought they were kind of strange, but I came to love them. To make Fullmer Tacos, you brown the ground beef and season it with salt and pepper — and that is all. Then you fill a large soft-flour tortilla with typical taco fillings, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and cheese – but on top, you add salad dressing. Kelly liked Catalina or Ranch on his. We often had these tacos for his birthday dinner.
Several years before Kelly died, we started the tradition of taking turns taking the children out to eat for their birthdays, at whatever place they wanted to go. I know Kelly enjoyed spending that time with each child individually. Now I get to go out every year with each child for their birthday. Kelly liked to celebrate everyone’s birthday but his own. He never liked the whole getting older thing: he endured birthdays rather than enjoying them. I always tried to tell him I saw his birthday as a celebration of having him in my life for another year. He, however, never saw it that way. He often quoted the Garth Brooks song to me, “I’m much too young to feel this damn old.” I think much of it was that every passing year reminded him of things he wanted to have accomplished, and another year had passed, and he hadn’t done them.
Actually, Kelly liked most foods with just a few exceptions. He did not care for olives including green olives, he did not like okra, (he ate it on his mission, two platefuls, and described it as having the consistency of slimy snot), he didn’t particularly care for seafood, except he did like shrimp and halibut, and would eat salmon. He didn’t like “gummi” anything, and wasn’t a gum chewer. He preferred “soft” rolls over “hard” rolls, and he always laughed at my attempts to make Jello.
I am a good cook, except for Jello, but after Kelly died, I quit cooking, for nearly ten years, in fact. I didn’t cook beyond the necessary cooking, unless the mood hit me to do a big, nice meal. More than once in the last ten years I’ve eaten a sandwich standing over the sink. (Less clean up that way.) I think my aversion to cooking perhaps came from so many years of not quite having enough, and always having to figure out what to eat on very limited budgets.
Kelly always equated being loved with me cooking for him. He also grew up with meals at set times every day. I grew up with a haphazard eating schedule. We would eat, usually whenever Dad got home, which could be anywhere from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. I was also never much of a breakfast person. This caused Kelly and I grief many times. It’s one of the things I wish I could go back and change. Despite this, some of my treasured memories are of working in the kitchen with Kelly, preparing a meal together, or working together canning.
Kelly was always a great one for gardening, and I hated it. Every spring, he would get all excited to get a garden in. When he had the time and energy, the garden looked mighty fine and produced well. Other years, they turned mostly into weed patches, but we still enjoyed the fresh food. The kids would be excited about planting the garden, but when it came time to weed, they wanted none of it. But Kelly thought it would be good for them, and he was probably right. I was as reluctant as the kids though, when it came to weeding and such. It was not high on my priority list.
The first year we were married, he planted a garden in some of the rockiest soil I’ve ever seen. Amazingly, it produced well though, and I canned bottles and bottles of green beans. I also canned vegetable soup. I was pregnant, and the smell of the soup made me nauseated. I think I made like two dozen quarts. Later on, just the smell of that soup made me sick, and I couldn’t eat it. Kelly did though, poor guy. I think even he got tired of me sending that soup with him for lunch. Through the years, we canned peaches, pears, jams, and made applesauce every year. Some years we made apple-pie filling, and other years it was salsa.
I guess, in many ways, food is a big part of our lives. I know Kelly was always grateful for what we had to eat, and he was never picky about food, and he was a fair cook. I love the pictures I have of him in his apron, making pancakes with the kids. And I’m happy to say, I’ve made a comeback with my cooking. The only problem I have now is that I still don’t know how to cook for only a few people; but that’s okay, more to share, right?