There were times growing up when I heard people complain about what they ate for dinner at their house…
“I’m tired of having to eat pork chops three times a week.”
“Awww, not chicken again! We just ate that night before last.”
I should have been so lucky! But no, ours was a six member family on a one member salary and fifty years ago that particular salary didn’t add up to much. So my mother did what anyone would have done in her shoes…she made do.
If anyone would have stopped by on a Sunday at our house, they would have seen a banquet of southern delights…fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob…all the goodies to be found in a southern Louisiana home. A day to enjoy Mother’s good cooking and go to bed knowing your belly was full.
Not so much on the other days of the week.
You never knew what would be waiting for you in the kitchen when you got home from school. Sometimes it was a metal wash tub full of pig’s guts just waiting to be cleaned for your next meal. Or maybe it was a cow’s stomach lying in the kitchen sink just waiting for someone to tackle it. And then there were the half rotting vegetables my mother bartered from the local farmer who made the rounds with produce on the back of his truck to all the families in the area. We were the last stop on an otherwise profitable route. What other families would consider unpalatable often found its way to our dinner table.
There was a term used by the elders in my hometown…”awfuls”…and in Cajun talk that meant the parts of a critter that should have been thrown away. My mother wasn’t a proud woman when it came to trying to feed her four children. When Daddy’s paycheck didn’t stretch enough and the government’s monthly food subsidy ran out before the month did, Mother relied on whatever could be found to fill our stomaches…even if it didn’t exactly enhance our taste buds.
First was a mystery concoction that one might possibly call chicken soup, except for the fact the parts of the chicken being used were the rooster combs and the chicken feet. I kid you not…I can laugh now, but it was a strange thing to sit down to eat and try to eat a meal made out of that! Then there was Mother’s fish head soup…where you could lift the lid and literally see that fish staring back at you with it’s bulging eyes.
I can even remember walking home from Sunday school one day and seeing an armadillo being hit by a passing car. Not knowing what we might have been forced to eat when we got home, my brother decided to accept what the good Lord placed in our path and we took turns dragging that thing by its tail down the back alleys to our house. I was only 4 or 5 at the time and I can still remember taking my turn to help bring food to our table.
Some reading this week’s tale might find what I was forced to eat as a child revolting, but that was just a small sample of what was done to survive. I understand why people would feel this way. But growing up back then in such desperate times enabled me to grow into a person with an extremely compassionate nature toward my fellow man.
I’ve known the fear of not knowing where the next meal would come from or if I could even keep it down in the first place. I’ve known the humiliation of being teased and tortured at school because my mother could only clothe me in old lady dresses she bought for pennies after our neighbor had died. And I’ve known the stress of not knowing if I would have a roof over my head at night when we moved from house to house as my parents struggled to come up with fifty dollars a month for rent on a poor man’s paycheck.
A life of little means helps me to appreciate all God has seen fit to bless me with now. It has helped keep me humble. I take nothing for granted and I share what little I may have with those around me because I still remember the scars of my childhood. And with the understanding as an adult myself of just what my mother went through for the sake of her children, I actually consider myself lucky…and grateful I had a chance to eat some fish head soup…
International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.