One downside to growing older is that when you reach your 80s, and even your 90s, some of the things and methods you remember fondly have disappeared.
If they haven’t done so directly, it may still seem as if they have.
Here’s my personal experience with that situation. Every so often over recent years, I’ve remembered the occasional macaroni and cheese suppers that we had when I was younger and, finally, I wished to recreate not only them but also my own feelings of personal enjoyment. The first step would, of course, be to find all the needed ingredients, right? Easy, right?
You see, what we used to call macaroni — in the Moeller quarter-block plantation we occupied — were actually “noodles,” and therein lies the problem.
Whenever I went to the nearby chain store to buy “macaroni,” I always came back home empty-handed. Those “macaroni” just weren’t there on the shelves. Oh, there were small tubular things in various shapes but never— I say never — was there any pasta of the shape I wanted on display!
After several attempts to find what I was looking for on the shelves I usually searched, I went against my usual feelings of local loyalty and drove to the Walmart store in a nearby city where I found some.
The next step was to find the old recipe for macaroni and cheese in my kitchen files and discover that I, apparently, never had one.
A book I found at a yard sale, “Joy of Cooking,” had one, but it was far too complicated with a large number of ingredients required. So I went online for a simple version and found one called “Campbell Soup Macaroni and Cheese.”
In putting all the “simple” ingredients together, I missed seeing the part that said “cooked” macaroni — and so I had to fish as many pieces of them as I could out of the bowl of other ingredients I’d already mixed together. After cooking the macaroni, I mixed them back into the other ingredients and then put everything into the oven.
The eventual result can only be placed in the category of “all right, I guess” due — probably — to the fact that hard and dry “ribbon style” of what I called macaroni didn’t cook as well as I remembered.
I suppose I could have made a tuna noodle dinner instead, if it wasn’t for the fact that it probably would have turned out just as marginal. You see, every recipe I’ve come across for that dish calls for two 4-ounce cans of tuna. Have you looked closely at a tuna fish can recently? Those 4-ounce cans have been quietly reduced to 3-ounce cans! I’ll bet you haven’t been aware of that, have you?
Changing the topic, when was the last time you saw one of those “wringer” contraptions on a washing machine? Remember them? For the younger readers, they were devices consisting of two close hard-rubber parts that looked like rolling pins with the purpose of squeezing the water out of your clothes, sheets, diapers, etc., after the washer part of the task had been completed. Spinning the water out of them hadn’t been invented yet.
Yes, you younger parents, diapers were indeed washed and reused instead of tossed into a garbage can to be hauled away by someone else back in those days.
As a matter of fact, when the youngster had outgrown them, they were often washed and then neatly folded to be used for one — or maybe more — future “blessed arrivals” in the family. Those primitive devices could be dangerous, too. My wife, Frances, once got her hand caught in the wringer of our washer at a time when I was away at work. It took more than a week for the pain to fully go away.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.