One of my favorite activities as a young child was to accompany my grandmother to the store; be it the butcher, the bakery, or the department store.
One and one-half blocks from our house is where Vydra’s, our butcher, was located. Vydra’s was a small glass-fronted store flanked by family homes; a true neighborhood establishment.
The Vydra family butchered Angus cows they raised on their own country farm. I learned this one day by asking about the meat and was told to look up at the huge black and white photo poster on the wall; a picture of the Vydra cattle farm. I was impressed. A cattle herd was uncommon and noteworthy to this little, city (today, considered the suburbs) girl; stray dogs walking along sidewalks was a much more common sight.
Vydra’s had one extremely worn, square butcher block table which formed the corner of an ell between two glass-fronted refrigerated cases. At my earliest recollection, I was tall enough to where I could just peer over the wavy wooden surface while a requested cut of meat was cleaved or sawn off. The saws and cleavers conveniently hung as needed, within easy reach of the butcher, from long ceiling hooks just above the thick butcher block. Sometimes this meat went into a grinder for ground meat. All meat was packaged in what we called ‘white butcher paper’. The meat was fresh, bright red; never pre-packaged. The process was fascinating to me. I always watched intently from my vantage point; my eyes even with the undulating wood top, only a few inches from that sharp, decisive blade.
My Grandmother and I would go to the butcher shop at least once per week. We walked. My Grandmother usually pulled a wheeled cart to hold the purchases for the return trip home. On light purchase days, she would just take a cloth shopping bag. (Yes, the reusable shopping bag is not a new idea.) My Grandmother’s bag was lightweight, fine mesh, olive in color that expanded slightly as it was filled. It was conveniently tucked into her purse for every shopping trip.
On a good day to Vydra’s, my Grandmother would treat me to a pack of Hostess Twinkies. Actually, I had to take the package home and give the twin Twinkie to my brother. Those Twinkies were a special treat. First, I would gingerly open the crinkly cellophane wrapper and examine my Twinkie before eating it. I always made sure the Twinkie had three small cream dimples visible on the bottom of the cake. Then, I began with a small bite, purposely missing the cream. My second bite into the soft, spongy yellow cake included the delicious white cream; the mix of cake and cream was delightful. Sometimes I would scoop the cream out with my finger or tongue and savor the white fluff alone, no cake necessary. I ate very slowly. I relished every mouthful. This treat had to last as long as I could make it last. I did not know when I would get another as money was tight. I did not realize it at the time, but looking back, I do believe our family was ‘poor’. And, that occasional Twinkie was an amazing indulgence for a little kid…me!
Note: One of the stories my Grandmother use to tell me was that she always put a Twinkie in my Uncle Gerald’s lunchbox. He was thin and my Grandmother always tried to fatten him up. He enjoyed the Twinkies but never did gain any excess pounds. My dear Uncle recently died at the age of 95 (2012), which means that he started eating Twinkies at age 13. Uncle Gerald, a very knowledgeable man by his own effort, did not finish high school as he had to go to work to make additional money for his family. Those Twinkies were an absolute gift during those hard times.
There is definitely a lot more to a Twinkie than just golden sponge cake and white cream filling; a lot more!
|beautiful November autumn day at Mountain Glen Farm|