Monday, July 13, 2009

Down-Home Vegetable Plate

When I was back home in Alabama for my father's passing, I got to eat a vegetable plate for lunch. Usually, you get to choose five different vegetables to fill your plate. Here in the Northwest, this isn't offered in restaurants. However, it's the norm or tradition in the South. No meat is on the plate. But lots of vegetables are included. Here are examples: butter beans, country green beans, pinto beans, collards, cream corn, turnip greens, fried okra, black-eye peas, field peas, purple hull peas, sweet potatoes, squash casserole, fried green tomatoes, skillet cornbread, etc...

This is the type of food I grew up with. Meat was expensive for my parents to feed six kids, so we had vegetable meals often. My dad loved to grow vegetables, so they were plentiful and practically free. We did have roast meat on Sundays, one night during the week we would havefried chicken, and another night of the week we would have pork chops. Otherwise we had meatless meals throughout the rest of the week. I remember having steak maybe five times before the age of twenty. That was a rarity. Occasionally, we had spaghetti, but not very often, maybe once every other month. We rarely ate out, due to the cost of feeding a family of eight. But the few times we did, we ate catfish with hushpuppies at Catfish King in Ensley. When we moved to the gulf coast area, we were given seafood as gifts from people. Then we got to eat shrimp and oysters.

Nowadays, people take eating out for granted. Like I pointed out, growing up we always ate at home. My poor mother had to cook three meals a day most all her life. Mother always sent my father off to work with a home cooked breakfast and my father came home from work for his lunch break, she always had a nice lunch prepared. Of course, she cooked supper everynight just like clockwork. One night a year, she was taken out for a special dinner, that was on their wedding anniversary. My father worked very hard physically, and he felt that eating out was a waste of money.

When I was four or five years old, I remember my father taking our family out to eat after church one Sunday at Jack's Hamburgers in Pelham/Alabaster area. We all got to order a burger, fries and a shake. It was such a big deal, I'll never forget it. Someone had given my daddy a gift of money, so he felt he could splurge. Funny the things we remember, isn't it?

I'm pretty spoiled now. There's not a week that goes by that I don't eat at least one meal out. If I'm not feeling well, Dale will pick something up for us to eat. My, how things have changed. I guess I'm making up for all the years I could never even darken the doors of restaurants. Who know, maybe by eating all those vegetables growing up, I'll live to be one hundred years old!

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