Apologies for missing Sunday Dinner. I have 2 sets of dinner prep pics… I stared at them for five minutes each, trying to formulate words. But, all I heard were the words to THIS blog “The Liver and Potato Famine of 1982”. After trying, unsuccessfully, to work the story into one of the 2 Sunday Dinner options… I gave up. Enjoy! 🙂


The Liver and Potato Famine of 1982.[1]

I grew up poor.

Working class poor, but poor, nonetheless.

It was the eighties though. The entire country was settling into a recession. I remember my mother rinsing and washing out Ziploc bags to reuse them later… and neighbors borrowing coffee, shortening, and cups of sugar.

I suppose a lot of us were… poor.

Still, my family never went hungry. And we weren’t on welfare. Not on welfare was doing pretty well for a family of 6 to 8 people.

Mom always had a garden.

As did the neighbors in whatever town or community we lived. Trading was always an option.

My mom would grow vegetables like cabbage and zucchini. The lady down the road might have corn and green beans. The vegetables varied, but we always had fresh varieties. There were even fruits available. There was an apple tree in one place we lived that fed 3 families… and a few pear trees, and cherry, and one with a grape harbor. My favorite job at the rural, country houses we lived? Collecting black berries. (One for the basket, two for me…)

As I said, we were poor. Working class poor, but we were resourceful. And frugal.

Especially my dad.

Besides being the one always pacing around the house turning off lights and cursing under his breath, he was always the one out talking to people, chatting, gossiping, and always managed to work out some deal or other. (i.e. “I will paint you a new sign for your business, if you give me a deal on…” was common, in fact, the ‘painting sign’ offer turned into a side-business for a year or two.)

My dad’s people skills, while keeping us afloat many times… led to more than a few… sort-of-lean times.

I can’t really say we ever starved.

But, my dad’s trading and conversational skills led to the weirdest 2 weeks of mine and my siblings’ childhoods.

I can say, regardless of the incidents, and lack of starvation… in THIS particular instance… We, most definitely, suffered.

I call it “The Liver and Potato Famine of 1982”.


Dad was chatting with the butcher shop owner one fine day.[2]

It seemed the butcher had something like 20 or 30 pounds of beef liver he had to sell soon, or it was going to go bad. Dad seized the opportunity and said, “Well, I’ll take it off your hands!”

Later, he told us he “got it almost free…” meaning, he probably barely paid for it, and unloaded some trucks, or repainted the storefront sign, or maybe all of those things. We never asked…

We still don’t know where the bags of potatoes came from…

The two, extremely large, 10 pound reinforced paper bags of potatoes appeared on the kitchen floor, the exact same afternoon the freezer and fridge were overloaded with packages of beef liver.

We didn’t really have time to ask. School was out for the day. Homework time was over, and it was TV time until dinner. Dad had just gotten home from work. The liver had been delivered earlier that day it seemed…

There was a fight brewing in the kitchen.

The verbal assault and counter-assault was fierce. Past transgressions were dug up and knocked down. Egos were bruised and assaulted… neither ever emerged from a dispute unharmed. It was brutal. And this one… well, in the end… NO ONE WAS VICTORIOUS. After this particular dispute… Well, we were all a little humbled and more aware of the blessings around us.

As the fight continued… Mom and dad went, round and round.

In the end… it appeared dad had won.

Mom’s frugality led to her ultimate apparent downfall.

Dad had posed the resolute, and irrefutable fact, “Well, we have all this liver and potatoes, what are you going to do? Are you just going to waste it?”

To most people, that statement might have yielded a different, and more consumerist response. But, in my mother, it was read as a challenge.

Mom never wasted ANYTHING.

The gloves were off.

She was talking, almost whispering and hissing through her clenched teeth. We didn’t have to see it to recognize it.

Fine. If you want liver and potatoes… that is ALL you’re going to get. UNTIL IT IS ALL GONE.

With those, now-known-as-ALL-CAPS-ITALICIZED words, we shot up from the couch and chairs, backs straight.

Me, my brothers and sisters, looked at one another like frighten fawns, ready to dart towards the first possible escape route. Once our racing hearts calmed to a gallop… We quietly, and casually scattered from the living room where we’d been listening in. One by one, we tiptoed out of the area, bedrooms, front door, didn’t matter… Oh boy…

What a few weeks it was (14 days to be exact)…


 

Here’s the menu:

Day 1: fried liver and onions with fried potatoes (discs)

Day 2: fried liver and onions with mashed potatoes

Day 3: fried liver and onions with boiled potatoes

Day 4: fried liver and onions with fried potatoes (strips)

Day 5: fried liver strips and onions with mashed potatoes

Day 6: baked liver and baked potatoes

Day 7: broiled liver and potato soup

Day 8: fried liver strips and hash browns

Day 9: boiled liver and boiled potatoes

Day 10: fried liver and fried potatoes (diced)

Day 11: barbecued liver and baked potatoes

Day 12: fried liver strips in barbeque sauce with boiled potatoes

Day 13: boiled liver and boiled potatoes

Day 14: barbeque liver (broiled) and baked potatoes


Did I, or my siblings, ever complain?

Hell no.

There was no room for complaining.

My mother and father sat across from each other at the table, for two whole weeks at dinner, glaring, and chewing. Daring the other to complain.

To this day, I have never heard my parents[3] speak of the incident.

Even my sisters and brothers… we only reference it. We never talk about it. In fact… I had wiped it from my working memory for almost 2 decades before it resurfaced.


The prompt?

My kids saying this:

“Aw, man! DO WE HAVE TO HAVE SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, FETA, AND OLIVES WITH PASTA AGAIN???[4]

The gloves were off…

Forget the hiking 3 miles in snow to get to school.

I ATE LIVER AND POTATOES FOR 2 WEEKS STRAIGHT.



[1] This is a highly fictionalized tale of survival. The events happened, yes. But, my memory, well, I don’t trust it. So I feel the need to provide a DiScLaiMeR. It is as true as I remember. Any gaps in small detail have been filled, possibly erroneously, with what probably happened. I will say that any of my siblings who read this, well, they will agree… it captures the Spirit of the Event.

[2] Yes. In 1982 there were butcher shops. Even today there are one or two scattered about. It’s true. There were just more of them back then…

[3] They’re divorced, by the way. (Surprise!)

[4] The ‘unholy trio’. The girls hate these three… along with artichokes… so I only rarely fix a meal and make them eat it. I tell them, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger… eat up…” and then I tell them about The Liver and Potato Famine of 1982. Again.