I was strolling the virtual grocery aisles of Vons.com tonight putting together a grocery order for delivery tomorrow. Yeah, I’m lazy. I was checking out the canned goods and ran across the heading for beans. One was “Pork and Beans.” I thought, “They still make this stuff?” Van Camps Pork and Beans was a staple at my house growing up that I had long forgotten because I haven’t eaten any in years.
There are a few special delicacies my folks raised me on back in Alabama that I gave up when I got old enough to read labels and see whatthehell it was I was eating. I realize now that these “foods” appealed to my folks’ Depression-era sensibilities because they’re all really cheap. You can also eat most of them straight out of the can or on a Ritz cracker – the only kind we had at home. I may get nostalgic for this stuff but I have no desire to eat any of it. I can get my daily quota of salt and fat without eating cat food disguised as “meat.”
Those Van Camp’s Pork and Beans were probably the healthiest of the bunch if not the most tasty. You can buy a 15 Oz. can at Vons for just over a dollar and make three meals out of it with only 1 gram of fat and no cholesterol. Be sure to serve some fried bologna with your Pork and Beans to relive those happy memories of being in jail in Biloxi, MS.
One step up from plain ol’ Pork and Beans is another meal-in-a-can from Van Camp’s called Beanee Weenee, which not surprisingly consists of beans with pieces of chopped weiners. Eat these for a few days and ramen soup from the 99 Cents store will taste like a gourmet treat.
Moving down the food chain, we come to the All-American lunch meat – Spam. Vons sells a 12 Oz. can of Spam for $3.25 and each serving contains 16 grams of fat and 790 mg. of sodium. That doesn’t count the Wonder Bread and Hellman’s mayo you need to cover the taste of the Spam. Be sure to wash off that ham-flavored Jello first.
The next sort-of meat from my childhood was Armour Vienna Sausage. Not to be confused with real sausage. A 5 Oz. can costs a whopping $.60 and three sausages have 11 grams of fat. The ingredients as listed by the label include Mechanically Separated Chicken, Water, Beef, Pork, Salt, Corn Syrup, Less than 2% of Mustard, Spices, Natural Flavorings, Dried Garlic, Sodium Nitrite. Yummy! My folks kept these in the cabinet all the time so I could have some whenever I wanted. If I had kids (which I don’t) and put a can of these in his/her lunch box, how fast do you think CPS would be circling my house with bullhorns? But since back then they also put Coca-Cola (the real thing) in our baby bottles, we already had cast-iron stomachs by the time we could chew.
One step down from Vienna Sausage is Potted Meat. Not surprisingly, Vons doesn’t stock any potted meat but if you really have a Jones for it, Amazon.com. will sell you a case of 48 cans of Armour Potted Meat for $19.69. This is obviously a real bargain since “potted meat product” consists of Mechanically Separated Chicken, Beef Tripe, Water, Salt, Salt Less than 2% of Mustard, Natural Flavorings, Dried Garlic, Vinegar, Dextrose, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite. Let’s face it – this sort-of meat pate is Friskies Mixed Grill for humans. Be sure to stir in a little pickle relish before you plop it on that Ritz cracker.
I confess to actually eating the previous dubious delights when I was a kid but it gets worse. There were things my dad would eat that I haven’t touched to this day. That’s saying a lot since if you drag it out of the ocean and it isn’t actually still moving, I’ll probably try it.
Next up are canned sardines, with which my dad smelled up the kitchen frequently. Vons has Chicken Of The Sea Smoked Sardines In Oil - 3.75 Oz. for $1.00 a can. They have 13 grams of fat and I would rather slurp down an oyster that’s quivering and staring at me. Especially if there’s Tabasco sauce, horseradish and a lot of cold beer involved.
I’ve saved the worst for last. My dad loved a uniquely Southern dish called Brains and Eggs. Most folks like this for breakfast but he’d eat it anytime. North Carolina Congressman Howard Coble shared his recipe for this delicacy:
2-1/2 Tablespoons bacon grease
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can (5 Oz.) pork brains in gravy (Rose Brand preferred)
Melt bacon grease in an iron skillet on low heat. Add pork brains to heated grease. Stir with a fork. Add salt and pepper and stir. Whisk eggs and milk together. Increase heat and add egg mixture to brains. Scramble to desired consistency. Serve immediately over toast.
Predictably, Vons doesn’t sell pork brains but I found a site where you can buy Rose’s Pork Brains with gravy, 5 oz. for $2.54. One can, which is about 2/3 cup, has only 150 calories and 5 grams of fat but has 3,500 mg of cholesterol or 1,170% of your daily recommended intake. Bon appetite.
My parents both lived to ripe old ages. I have no idea why.