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10.17.2010

THE DRIED BEEF DIARIES

Some of you reading this may be unfamiliar with the salty, thinly sliced and cured meat lovingly called dried beef.  It's uses are several - please note I did not say many are the uses for dried beef.  My parents, believing without a doubt that we still lived pre icebox/refrigerator era, were great lovers of this dried and cured meat.  I once asked my mom in my adult life - now this side of a world of dried beef - why they had so much dried beef around when I was a kid.  My mom replied, "Well, when we butchered a cow we had them put a lot of it into dried beef.  It was cheap and kept for a long time."  The only thing missing from us being pioneers was the hard tack:)  You can imagine if in the 1970's your parents are buying dried beef in bulk what their stance was on buying your lunch at school or packing it.  It did not take me more than about 2 days of bringing my packed lunch to school to realize I was in the minority, but even more so when I removed my dried beef sandwich from its waxed paper baggie that had been neatly folded over at the top.  Oh I looked around that what other lunch packers were bringing to school; peanut butter and jelly, bologna, ham, Twinkies, chips, cookies.  Incredible bounty!  Then I looked back at my 2 pieces of bread that were only separated by a smattering of mayo and one thin, salty slice of dried beef.  With it was applesauce or an apple and maybe some carrots or celery.  I remember no processed anything or even homemade dessertish items in my lunch - ever!  Soon I realized after eating a dried beef sandwich every day for lunch since school had started that year, that there was a sort of swap meet thing that went on during lunch.  It was almost like everyone and every lunch item was a free agent up for trade.  I thought one day that I couldn't bear to eat that mostly bread and salt sandwich one more day - I too would try a trade.  Making my offer to another kid at the lunch table I suggested a trade - my deliciously salty pioneerish mostly bread sandwich for oh I don't know ANYTHING BUT a salty pioneerish mostly bread sandwich!  I put that sandwich in the best light possible as trades were occurring faster than I could market this sub par sandwich.  Nothing.  No one would trade.  Did I really blame them?  Seriously who wants to eat salty dried cured meat on two pieces of bread!  Who I ask wants that?  When no trade could be had I realized I had to come up with some other alternative to get out of eating that sandwich.  In our cafeteria there was a teacher on duty who monitored the behavior and the food consumption of the kids.  I knew I could no longer eat a dried beef sandwich.  After some thought, I decided starvation would be a better alternative which would at least permanently remove me from the possibility of ever having to eat another dried beef sandwich.  How to get dismissed from the lunch lady and hide the fact that I did not eat my sandwich?  I would need to conceal it under my napkin and then quickly throw it away.  That too was risky though as Roscoe the school janitor usually stood near the lunch trash can and would tell kids they couldn't throw uneaten items away off their plate.  I had witnessed Roscoe scolding a kid into eating something before throwing it away.  My caper almost completed, I walked to the trash can and smiled at Roscoe and threw my lunch trash away - including the sandwich wadded up in my napkin.  I hurriedly walked away trying to not look or act guilty, feeling as if I had done something and actually gotten by with it.  NO MORE DRIED BEEF SANDWICHES...HOORAY!  My excitement was short lived as Rosco found the sandwich in the trash and he, like all the school, knew it was the Cherry kids and ONLY the Cherry kids who had dried beef sandwiches every day.  He came to talk to me about throwing my sandwich away.  I was scared and intimidated and confused why all this fuss over a sandwich not being eaten, let alone a dried beef one.  I wondered as Roscoe talked if he could eat a dried beef sandwich daily since school had started.  As he scolded me a bit I just nodded my head in agreement and didn't say a word.  Though now, as I  look back after eating all those salty dried beef sandwiches for an entire school year, I was probably thirsty and didn't have any saliva in me from excessive salt consumption!  I'm thinking anytime you have to rinse the excess salt off of something and pat it dry before you place it between two pieces of bread it will not be good to eat or eligible for any lunch trade - ever.  And I do mean ever - not in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade. 

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