My mom died thirty years ago today. Forget all that Dr. Phil crap, I got over it, ok, but I do reflect. Of everything she ever said to me, one thing stands out in my memory. Don’t ever drink blended whiskey. In her very old age we went to the Venus Bar and grill, and she ordered drinks for both of us. I asked for coke in mine, and with a stern look she told me not to act like a queer, and never drink blended whiskey. I’ve been a Jim Beam man ever since, though I do an occasional martini, stirred, with the vermouth drained before introducing the gin.
There were many things in 1950’s Louisiana that were different from now. Tea, for one. I didn’t see a glass of iced tea before coming to Texas when I was around ten or so. In Ma Maw’s Annabellum world tea was “steeped” in a porcelain pot over about an hour. Tea LEAVES, not that bag thing. Then it was strained through a tea strainer, and four ounces poured into this little cup that you’d better not break if you valued your life. It TASTED like tea! It tasted like FLOWERS! Yes, children drank it, and no, it didn’t bother anyone.
Orange juice was about the same. There was this glass gadget that looked like a bowel with a knob sticking up in the middle. You’d cut an orange in two, that’s TWO, not halves, and press each part down on the knobby thing yielding about one or two sips of orange juice. It was so stout that it would make your teeth “gritty.” Ma Maw also squeezed great fruit, but that never crossed my lips.i never drank buttermilk either, and for the life of me I don’t see why anyone would.
Eggs were a treat. My mom and grandmother would use this iron skillet designed for cooking cornbread. It had preformed slices so when you cooked an egg in it the result was a pie slice shaped egg. Dad just scrambled his. Dad was good at cooking chicken. Chicken took forEVER! People gripe about the line at KFC, try two hours. We gave the wings to the dogs because only white trash ate wings. You had to watch dad because he was prone to eating frogs. At the tender age of five I watched him and my uncle eating frog legs while the heads were on the sink blinking at them. Now folks, that’s a whole new level of screwed right there. Make a Taliban puke.
My uncle Charlie made ice cream one night. Peach, I still remember it. We never had real ice cream, only something called “melorine,” which was a mixture of lard and a little vanilla, I Crappith Thee NOT, and not having an ice cream scoop, they’d slice it, box and all, and slam it down on a plate. Hey, these people ate FROGS, ok? Anyway, Uncle Charlie cut up, and mixed peaches in it. Real ice cream takes a while, people. First, you churn it. Motorized ice cream maker? Never heard of it. Man power. Beer, churn, whiskey, churn, cigarette, churn. After enough time for Jesus to come back the first part of the ice cream would emerge. Ok, now this stuff never came out of Baskin Robbins. It looked like someone vomited buttermilk with peaches in it, and us kids were foaming at the mouth to dig in. Not yet, and here’s the good part, they put it into a large, square pan, wrapped in newspaper, stuffed it in the freezer, and drank beer for an hour. Now, you’re not going to believe this. BLUE BELL! For you Yankee folk out there who don’t know what Blue Bell is, I’m not gonna tell you. My God! You’ve stolen everything else. Anyway, it has been sixty years, and I can still taste that ice cream.
Cokes came in six ounce GLASS bottles, matches struck anywhere, candy bars were a nickel just like the movies. This was my mother’s world. A hamburger at Smith and Malloy’s drug store was fifteen cents, but I never owned one because kids weren’t allowed to have fifteen cents. We spent summertime praying for September because in Louisiana that’s when you can breathe again. TV was black and white, but so was the society.
I can’t really say that scarred me for life. As I drive by Boot Hill in Killeen I wonder what all those old timers would think of us now. Then it hits me. With one foot in the grave, and the other slipping on a banana peel, I am an old timer, so I reach deep into my heart, with over forty years of composition under my belt, and the only thing I can leave the Millenniums is, “Don’t drink blended whiskey.”