a good portion of my father’s adult life, he worked as a butcher in local neighborhood
grocery store meat markets, well before the age of chain stores and packaged foods.
Sides of beef would be delivered and he would “hand carve” the various cuts for
presentation to customers. One of our family favorites was the “Crown Roast”,
about 3 inches thick, which contained a ring of rib bone for flavor. Definitely
a thing of the past in today’s world of meat purchases.|
The butcher block
would, with ritual, be scrubbed each night to remove meat scraps and blood and
salted down to sanitize for the next day’s processing of cutting. His knives and
cleavers were kept razor-sharp by using a hand-held hone. He would use boning
knives to retrieve meat from neck bones and other less accessible areas for sale
as chili meat or grinding into hamburger (no “pink slime” back then!). Lunch meat
was sold by slicing quantities from a “log” of bologna, salami, honey loaf, and
other types. Cheese was also cut from blocks. The customer always had the option
of either “thick” or “thin” slices and the depth on the cutting machine blade
would be set accordingly. One customer, in particular, would jokingly accuse dad
of leaving his finger on the scale when weighing the meat.
during my junior high school years, I worked with dad, at R. C. Sanford’s in north
Houston, stocking shelves, sweeping floors, and carrying out bags of groceries
for customers. The regulars would often refer to me as “little Butch”. I remember
having to get a vaccination shot in order to be issued a Health Card. It seemed
to me, at the time, that the needle was about a foot long (slight exaggeration!).
I can remember a lot of meals of pinto beans and cornbread; but, we never went
hungry. By having a garden, and canning the product, we somehow maintained a semblance
of diet that was not totally devoid of nutrition. My mother always seemed to “make
a little extra” for sharing with neighbors who might have been having a more difficult
time. Dad’s preference in trees and vines were those that produced fruit. We had
plums (of three kinds), figs (of two kinds), grapes (of two kinds), persimmons,
cumquats, and the seasonal wild berries. His pecan tree never produced, though.
In the Houston climate, the banana stalk was purely ornamental – one of his failed
I think, too,
that our home had been secretly marked for reference by the occasional homeless
passerby. We lived not too far from the railroad tracks and, a number of times
during the year, a “hobo” would knock on the door asking for a handout. Mom always
prepared a plate of food for them to eat. These less fortunate nomads were always
friendly and seemed honestly grateful for the meal.
I really hope that
you never have an occasion to speak with any of my cousins or neighborhood playmates
as to my “brat behavior” as a kid! Remember my mentioning the plum trees? It was
not uncommon for mom to use one of its branches as a switch to “correct my mood”.
And, no, I do not consider her actions as brutality; let’s just refer to it as
“corporal punishment” and leave it at that…
Shoe Horses, Don't They?
June 15, 2012 Guest column
| Mothers | Food
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