Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!
Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice —
even if that makes you a little nervous.
around 7 or 8 years old, i was living with my dad in a small trailer (aka: mobile home, sans double-wide) in a tiny compound off county road ‘po’ near the town of ‘dunk’. pockets stuffed with green plastic army men, a wad of firecrackers, some matches, a pocket knife, and my bb-gun, i would set off into the wood that seemed to go on forever. out the back door and down a slight hill, the wood’s edge was just over a small crick (that’s what we called a creek or stream in that part of the country). i’d pass the dog pen, sand box, and fuel-oil tank on my way. i never took the dogs; they were stubborn beyond belief and never listened to me.
i had a brother then who was 4 years older and sometimes we would go together. he being armed with bb’s also, usually did his own thing while i played. tall trees, sun rippling down through the branches, a gentle breeze, bird song, and no one around for miles and miles. my destination was a small sandy bank of a gentle winding creek deep in those woods. now, ‘deep’ here is relative. it could have been one or two miles into the wood or it could have been 5, i don’t remember but i do know this… it was far, i was young, no walkie-talkie could reach me (cellphones where science fiction), and i would stay out from sun up to sun down.
my brother and i each had, what i remember to be, an authentic army mess kit and i remember the time we filled ours with left-overs my dad had made. one day, when i hiked out of the wood as usual, my dad was in the trailer-kitchen cooking up dinner; making something i’d never seen before. i’m sure i asked, “whatcha cookin?” and i’m sure he said, ‘wait and see.’ but this i do recall: at the tiny table, when he set down the pan, he told my brother and i that this dish was his own creation: kidney beans, ground beef, tomatoes, macaroni noodles, onions, and spices… a thick chili-like concoction. it was magnificent; one of the best dinners ever from the old man.
i asked him what it was called and he said it wasn’t called anything, that he just made it up. “but,” he said. “i think i’ll call it….. goolash.” a word, he said, he also had just made up.
we laughed at the silly name and ate our fill. we did our chores and dad stored what was left over in the fridge. the next day, my brother and i would take it out again and pack our mess kits with white bread, goolash, and a forced vegetable; we’d finish it off in the woods (probably tossing the vegetable). i’m sure it was as good – or better – than the night before. i can’t remember precisely but i can picture a boy playing on a bank next to a creek in a deep southern indiana wood. strategically placing army men in an assault formation and planting firecrackers in the sand around them, setting them off to simulate artillery fire and aerial bombings. taking a break to eat another bite or shoot a hanging walnut with a bb-gun or whittling a stick.
years later, i would hear that word and think… what a crazy coincidence that someone else called their dish the same name my dad thought up! i was 17 before it dawned on me that i had been played a father-son trick, had my leg pulled. he didn’t really invent that word or the dish. but i don’t care. as far as i’m concerned, he did. what i wouldn’t give to have some now.