WARNING: Content may not be suitable for vegetarians or those with weak stomachs.
Peanut butter sandwiches
Mom explained that "during the War," her family received peanut butter from the government, which had separated into a hard glob, topped by a thick layer of yellow oil. No matter how deep Grandma dug when she mixed the two, a tiny bit of "peanut concrete" was always left on the bottom. Since they never knew when (or if) they'd receive more, they chiseled every crumb from the bottom of the can, and stirred it together with Miracle Whip.
When we were kids, Mom made us peanut butter sandwiches with Miracle Whip for lunch. We advised friends we brought home from school they'd be offered grape jelly or strawberry jam if they said, politely, "No thank you, Mrs. Phillipson." I think Mom rather enjoyed hearing them choke out this phrase while gagging.
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Mom and Dad bought a "side" of beef once a year from a local farmer, who delivered several hundred lbs. of white butcher paper-wrapped packages to our house, loading them into a big freezer in our garage. We ate the steaks in the summer, after they were cooked over charcoal on the grill in the back yard. Dad considered it criminal to serve a steak that wasn't rare and Mom warned dinner guests they might have to tie the arteries before they ate. She intercepted those who were squeamish before they were seated, offering them a meat fork with their plates and suggested they tell Dad they preferred cooking their own meals. Mom was kinda the "anti-Martha Stewart," if you haven't already guessed.
By mid-autumn, just before it became too cold to eat outside, we'd finish the steaks and burgers. Pot roast, Swiss steak, stew and liver were consumed over the next few months. I never knew what Mom did with the heart, and I'm glad I don't. The tongue, though, went to Grandma.
None of Grandma's recipes were written down, including her method for preserving cow's tongue, which had presumably been learned from her own mother. If you have a spare cow's tongue just hanging around and are looking for a fun cooking project, you may want to try this sometime.
One cow's tongue, intact, i.e., skin, tastebuds, and ragged guts hanging from the place where it was ripped from the cow's head.
One glazed ceramic crock. Grandma's was so huge and heavy it took three of my cousins 10 minutes to get it up the stairs to her apartment, and the floorboards in the pantry no longer support any weight whatsoever.
Rock salt. I don't think it was stolen from the City, but since I don't remember picking it out of the treads of Grandma's tires, I assume it was relatively clean. If you're fussy, you can use pickling salt.
Tap water. It costs a little more than the leftover water used to boil vegetables, but it's worth it, and the leftover vegetable water can be used as soup base.
An old plate big enough to serve as an airtight lid for the crock. Grandma's was chipped, and slightly cracked, but any old plate will work.
A BIG rock.
Fill a teakettle with water. Chipped enamel or scorched aluminum works best, but you can also use a clean pail. Repeat this step as many times as it takes to fill the crock within two inches of the rim. In Grandma's apartment, this step provided a week's worth of aerobic exercise, as the pantry was down the hall, past the bedrooms, through the foyer and off the living room.
Rub the tongue liberally with the salt, then immerse the rough slimy thing in the water, being sure to push it far enough down to get your sleeves wet.
Quickly, before it has a chance to climb out, place the plate on the crock, and the rock on the plate.
Close the door and wait several weeks until you no longer hear tiny licking noises coming from the pantry.
Now you know why I said "BIG" rock.