What would Grandma say?

On Brandy, field below the house

By Tami Blake, copyright October 2015

“It’s a damn poor dog that can’t sort through the cigarette butts to get to the scraps.”

My mom remembers my now-almost-90-year-old grandmother saying that back in her younger days.  It’s the kind of thing an older woman says to a younger woman as they are working together in the kitchen.  I can imagine dishes clinking in soapy water, the flash of white drying towels, a cigarette snuffed out in a bucket overflowing with plate scrapings and potato peelings and onion skins.  Grandma looking a lot like she does in this photo taken in ’61:  lean, mean, full of quips, a matriarch in her prime.  And always, always, Grandma’s sassy, to-the-point, there’s-too-much-work-to-be-done-to-overcomplicate-this simplicity.

“It’s a damn poor dog that can’t sort through the cigarette butts to get to the scraps.”

The reason I know my grandma said this, probably years before I was born (as she quit cigarettes when I was very young), is because table scraps have represented yet another moral dilemma for me in my ongoing, angst-driven quest toward correct homemaking.  I come from a family of women who have always dumped anything unwanted and food-related into a bucket, then hauled that bucket from the kitchen out to the ditch bank for birds, rabbits, and yes, family dogs to poke through.  (I am convinced that the beloved Border Collie of my adolescence died from swallowing too many watermelon rinds coated with bacon grease.  I mean, what self-respecting dog doesn’t swallow anything that’s covered with bacon grease?)

I, on the other hand, tend to overthink things.  I feel a need to carefully sort the kitchen scraps.  Pure vegetable and fruit peelings must go out to the mulch pile — but only if they are unadulterated by seasonings and fats.  The dog may receive special treats from the kitchen including meats and drippings, bread crusts, eggs, cheese, and occasionally grits.  As I continually have to remind my husband, as far as I’m concerned dogs are not allowed to eat ketchup.  Or noodles. Or desserts.  Or any sort of casserole.  Any scraps that involve foods mixed together, i.e. spaghetti or PB&J or chicken potpie, have to go into the burn barrel — as the dog isn’t allowed to eat such things and you certainly wouldn’t want common leftovers in your mulch pile.

(Before you call social services, I promise I am not this legalistic about what my kids eat.  For some reason it’s the dog I really chaperone on this issue.  But in my defense, the aforementioned Border Collie did one time barf up leftover shrimp salad on my couch.  So I guess I do have my reasons.)

Anyhow, when people come to visit and help me with kitchen work there is constant confusion (and ribbing) over my Rules for Kitchen Scraps.  It would seem that others — including my husband, my fellow mom friends, and my own mother and sister — just can’t see the obvious lines that I see in the kitchen.

And maybe I do make too big a deal out of it.  As Mom finally pointed out to me, Grandma used to put cigarette butts in the kitchen scraps, then haul the whole heap of disgustingness out to the ditch bank for the dog to have his way with.  Those were simpler times.  When a dog that couldn’t sniff his way past a cigarette butt to get to a hamburger crumble wasn’t worth his salt, and everybody knew that, and there simply wasn’t time to worry about dogs that couldn’t keep themselves alive.  The good ol’ days. When one woman’s kitchen was like any other woman’s kitchen:  you all had a bucket, you all had a ditch bank, and you threw in whatever in the hell you felt like throwing in!

I’ve got a little of my grandma in me.  But a little OCD too.

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