My mother grew up on a farm during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Frugality was bred deep down in her bones.
No scrap of string was too short to be saved; no brown paper bag too wrinkled or worn out to be carefully folded and put away in a kitchen drawer.
We took fastidious care of our good clothes, taking them off and hanging them up in our closets as soon as we got home from school or church. I wore my sister's faded and worn out hand me downs for play.
Mother's frugality extended to her cooking as well. We ate plentiful, wholesome, but cheap food; lots of beans and cornbread, sweet potatoes, Kraft American cheese slices, hot dogs, apple sauce, canned fruit, Jell-O, Campbell's tomato and vegetable soup, iceberg lettuce, and whatever vegetables were in season.
Mother nearly always bought inexpensive cuts of meat. Chicken legs, ground beef and pork chops were every day fare, with the luxury of a chuck roast on Sunday.
But, since my mother was a farm girl and grew up where they slaughtered and ate entire animals, she bought and cooked a lot of organ meat too.
There often was a carton of pig brains in the refrigerator which she incorporated into scrambled eggs. Occasionally, she cooked a whole beef tongue, which sliced, made delicious sandwiches.
Kidneys smelled particularly nasty while cooking (and I remember they required several laborious steps to make them edible though they were never what I would call fit to eat) and had a rubbery, chewy texture, no matter how long they were cooked or how finely they were chopped.
Every once in a while, Mother would even buy a pancreas, which I never did develop a taste for. And of course, once a week, there was the loathsome pork or beef liver, which made me gag as I tried to swallow the requisite two bites.
But when I was very little, what I really thought the most special treat of all was the sweet, tender meat of a cow's heart. Yes, sometimes my mother would buy an entire beef heart, which she would braise ever so slowly all afternoon long on top of the stove until it was fork tender.
I can remember the four of us, Mother, Daddy, Anita and I, sitting around the gray, formica table eating dinner in the kitchen at the old East Village house.
I see a little girl, me, about three years old, greedily eating slice after slice of beef heart while her mother and father watch, with looks of bemused indulgence, amazed at such a voracious appetite in a tiny little girl.
What Mother and Daddy did not know was that I was not just eating meat; no, I was eating love. After all, had I not been told repeatedly that hearts are full of love?
And I was ravenous, famished, starved for love. My own heart felt like a yawning, empty little chasm. How I longed for it to be filled with love!
From Snapshots from the Secret City, A Memoir by Martha Maria
Be Well and Good Luck,