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Monday, October 12, 2020

60 years of memories: More than meat and taters

60 Years of Memories of Butler
by James Ring
9 October 2020

Exotic Food In Butler

When I came to Butler in the early 60s, we pretty much ate what was locally available. There was some trucked-in produce, but mostly we were a meat-‘n-‘taters community. Everybody gardened and shared the excess, and “puttin’ up” by canning or freezing was a ritual passed down by frugal mothers to their daughters. Ethnic food was a rarity, although some of the old German families ate delicacies like blood pudding, head cheese and fried brains, and the Black families gathered greens and fixed chitlins.

Farm butchering when the weather turned cool enough to hang meat was a common ritual. One of the neighbors would kill a hog or two and the folks would gather to help scrape and skin, turning the beasts into potential ham and bacon. A fattened calf in the pen was destined to become hamburger and steaks, and most country folk kept some chickens out back, ready to give their all when no longer able to produce eggs.

There were no avocados or artichokes in the little grocery stories at the time, and it was a few decades before we saw the first hairy giant gooseberry from New Zealand called a “kiwi fruit.” Do you remember when you ate your first pizza? I was in the Army, based near Chicago, when one of the guys said “wanna get a pizza?” and I said “shore, I’ll get one too,” not knowing that you didn’t eat a whole one by yourself. There was no Pizza Hut anywhere in this area, or McDonalds, or Taco Bell, or Sonic… Fast food was what you gobbled out of your lunch bucket so you could get back to work.

The first “fast food” joint was a Dog & Suds drive-in at the corner of Pine and 71, where Casey’s #1 now sits, built by Ludwig Becker. Against the existing Harry’s Dari-King and Margie’s Dairy Queen, it didn’t survive. Beulah Rice’s “Hub” drive-in on the corner of Mill and 71, now Laughlin’s Farm Equipment, was THE place to hang-out back then.

Yogurt was unheard of; the idea of eating intentionally spoiled milk was abhorrent, unless you made it into cottage cheese. Butter was still common table fare if you could get the cream to make it; some enterprising farmers near town sold raw milk along a delivery route. Oleomargarine was called “fake butter” but we were getting used to it, after it was allowed to have color added to resemble the real thing.

The only Mexican food we knew was canned “hot tamales” that we heated up on occasion. Noodles were a staple, made from dough in our kitchen, but that was the only pasta dish we ate, unless you were lucky enough to have spaghetti-eating Italian relatives. Chinese food was unavailable and until the Vietnam war produced hungry veterans there were no Southeast Asia Thai restaurants around.

Today, with refrigerated trucks rolling across the country overnight, we can eat whatever pleases us. Few families eat garden stuff anymore, and some of the Millennial couples don’t even cook, other than to grill out on the deck. Better keep close to a deer hunter friend if you want to learn how to prepare fresh meat.