***WARNING! This particular tale is not for the weak stomached among us.***
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 forty 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 would barter from the local farmer who made the rounds of all the families in the area with his produce on the back of his truck. What other families would consider unpalatable was often found on our dinner table.
There was a term used by the elders in my hometown..."awfuls"...and in Cajun talk that meant the parts of the critter that should have been thrown away. My mother wasn't a proud woman when it came to trying to feed her four children so 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 make a meal 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 eye.
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 had 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 and that was just a small sample of what was done to survive. I understand why people would feel this way. But growing up in such desperate times back then 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 even if I could keep it down without throwing up. 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 agony of not knowing if I would have a roof over my head at night as we moved from house to house as my parents struggled to come up with 50 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...