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Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

It's a chilly, snowy day here at the Ol' Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C., and I just came from the mess hall, where I gorged myself with two cold cuts sandwiches and a bowl of chicken noodle soup, with Boston cream pie for dessert.

If you're old enough, do you remember the Campbell's Soup commercials on television, which used a variation of the popular song, "LOVE AND MARRIAGE" to advertise "SOUP AND SANDWICH"?

Mama used to feed us kids Campbell's cream of tomato soup, with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mama was born and raised in Alabama, and she and Aunt Ellen and Grammaw and Grampaw loved fried okra and fried green tomatoes and buttermilk.

But, I didn't.

I was forced to eat that stuff and I hated it!

I liked my first taste of buttermilk, but I never liked it after that.

Go figure.

I went to school in Spring Lake, North Carolina, and they served turnips and turnip greens in the cafeteria.

Boy, I sure wouldn't eat that stuff!

I tried it, but I didn't like it.

But, other kids loved it, especially with vinegar.

Other kids also liked licorice candy, but I always hated it.

I had forgotten, but my sisters reminded me of Daddy fixing us fried egg sandwiches and pork and bean sandwiches.

He was a career master sergeant in the United States Army, initially trained as an Army cook, later becoming a personnel sergeant.

The sandwich was just plain fried eggs, with catsup, between two slices of untoasted plain white bread.

Another thing Daddy enjoyed, and we ate a lot of, were bowls of bread and milk.

That was just plain white bread, broken up into a bowl, with milk poured on top.

My favorite meals were Mama's spaghetti and cheese, preferably with slices of fried Spam.

I reckon the spaghetti and cheese was made the same way other folks make macaroni and cheese, but with spaghetti.

We ate a lot of Spam, and I always loved it.

Actually, I think we ate a lot more bologna and weiners.

We often snacked on uncooked weiners, calling them "cold dogs".

I think Spam was sort of a special treat.

I reckon this was peculiar to our family, for I have not seen anyone else fix spaghetti and cheese, fried Spam, bread and milk, pork and bean sandwiches, or fried egg sandwiches.

I like fried catfish, but Mama told me that proper Southerners don't eat catfish, for only Yankees and poor white trash would stoop to it.

Do you remember "MERITA" brand bread?

It was my favorite because of the commercials on "THE LONE RANGER" television show.

For the best effect, please be sure and enjoy watching this free Internet streaming broadcast, presented by the HULU web site, of the classic television series in "FULL SCREEN" mode.

When our family went on vacation, driving between Spring Lake, North Carolina and Jasper, Alabama, we would pass through downtown Atlanta, Georgia, and seeing the huge "MERITA" bakeries, I got all excited, figuring the Lone Ranger lived there!

I idolized my grampaw, and tried to copy everything he did.

After eating pancakes, he would mix butter into the leftover pool of syrup in his plate, stirring it into a delicious paste, which he spooned up and ate just as it was.

So, I learned to do that, too.

He would give us kids rides on his mule, he taught me to milk a cow, took me fishing on the Black Warrior River, and when he took me fox hunting, I had my first cup of coffee!

He grew up hard and poor, working in coal mines and plowing fields.

He drove nothing but Buick automobiles, and smoked Prince Albert tobacco in his pipe.

Across the road from Grammaw and Grampaw's house in Walker County, Alabama was Frenchy's Barbecue.

If you're Southern, you grow up with barbecue, and it IS gooo-ood!!!

Everybody in my family, and everybody I know, loves cole slaw, but I do not like it and will not touch it.

One time, our Methodist church in Spring Lake, North Carolina raised money selling Brunswick stew and Welsh rabbit.

Boy, I sure like that!

Another treat that Mama would fix was cans of tamales.

I love tamales!

Uncle Roy stopped by our house and fixed us some enchiladas.

That was the first time I'd tasted enchiladas, and when we later moved to El Paso, Texas, I was totally nuts about all Mexican food!

I think he also fixed us our first pizza.

I love almost any food that's Mexican or Italian!

Here at the Ol' Soldiers' Home, they just don't know how to fix real Mexican or Italian meals.

Well, them there is some of my faded memories of a Southern boyhood in an Army family.

Actually, there is more, but I'll write about that some other time.

Thank you.

John Robert Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."


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