Grandma was also hard of hearing, and also had trouble seeing well. For this reason, she had a fire bell above the telephone that would let her know that someone was calling. If that wasn't enough, she also had a light that would flash. Often, that wasn't enough. I wondered as a child if I inherited her eyes. Because of my interest in music, I prayed that I didn't inherit her ears.
Grandma had an intriguing house. Everything was compact except the living room that greeted you when you entered the main doorway. When I think back on it, it had a bit of a European charm to it. She collected blue glass of most shapes and sizes, and these could be found displayed proudly throughout her house. While I am sure that these pieces were well crafted, I wasn't too interested in glass cups and vases at the ripe old age of 10. I wanted the toys.
To get to the toys you had to walk into the very back bedroom (which was generally poorly lit) and open the door to a closet. This closet was my own personal doorway to Narnia. All of the toys there, including board games, seemed to be relics from another age. There were some I recognized even though the illustrations were completely foreign when compared to the versions at home on my shelf—for example, the Monopoly guy looked less affluent, but still quite well-to-do. Grandma had actual Tinker toys, old dolls whose eyes shone brightly enough to be creepy, and wooden toys that were most likely hand-made by a skilled craftsman who was trying to earn a few extra dollars in a time preceding any I had known.
The thing I remember most about Grandma's house was the food she would make. She always toasted a whole loaf of bread for breakfast, even if there were only six of us. If we were there the next day, she would throw the same pieces of bread back into the toaster the next day. I think she couldn't see well enough to tell if it was toasted. She always had pineapple juice as well. We would always search for the pineapple juice. I remember one particular night that my brothers got in a bit of trouble because they were rummaging around to find it, and she happened to get up to use the restroom. Since the only restroom in the house was adjacent to the kitchen, it was kind of a dead giveaway.
But the thing that will always go down in infamy was Grandma's cereal. She would stock up on all sorts of cereal because she found a good deal at the store. While she was very frugal, living through the depression, she kept quite a bit of food on hand so in case she needed it, it would be there.
The funny thing was, I don't think Grandma ate cold cereal. I remember one particular time when I was eating a bowl of Rice Cripsies. I always liked to read the back of the box to figure out what I could learn, and happened to run across the copyright date on the box. I was probably about 10, and was shocked to see that the box had been printed before I was born. Even more shocking, it was best used by the date before I was born as well. I think I mumbled something about not being hungry, and drank my milk so that Grandma wouldn't feel like I was wasting precious food.
Which brings us to the point of the story...
While we were over for dinner at my parent's house the other day, Mom was making a meal. I told her to sprinkle a little bit of garlic in it to see if Dad would notice. Dad and garlic are not good friends—well, Dad and spices in general aren't good friends. Mom only uses half as much taco seasoning in the meat when she makes tacos. And even then, he drowns the meat with other condiments and hopes that he doesn't get heartburn.
Mom nonchalantly told me where the garlic was. I pulled out the battered container of McCormick brand garlic, and was brought back to her mother's house and that bowl of Rice Crispies.
My first thought was, "Wow! This is really old," followed by, "Mom really doesn't use a lot of garlic, does she," followed with a smirkful, "I bet Dad is happy about that."
And then I got the idea to turn the bottle over to see exactly how old the jar of garlic could be.
|Aged-ripened circa 1981|
Yes, this garlic label was printed the year I was born. I could not find any marks imprinted into the paper to tell me a best-if-used-by date. I don't know if those things were even in place when I was born. If they were, did spices fall into that category?
Before I let myself go too crazy with all of this, I walked over to the pot of simmering spaghetti sauce and sprinkled a dash or two in.
The best part of it all was the fact that both Mom and Dad mentioned how good it was. Dad didn't even get heartburn. I'm starting to wonder if the Ph.D. has some unresolved psychosomatic issues. But you know what they say—it takes one to know one.