Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Team Teal Tuesday ~ The Night I Made Stoup for Dinner

I sat across the dinner table from my brother and my sister, both visiting from California, and we talked about our mom. Somehow we got on the subject of food Mom used to make, and I asked, “Remember stoup?”

Their reaction was one that still makes me smile as I type this story – we all had good memories of that yummy concoction that wasn’t quite stew, wasn’t quite soup – and even though we were never allowed to use the word “stupid” – we called that stuff stoup.

It was a basic mix of a half of a pound of ground beef, one grated carrot, one grated potato, a small can of tomato sauce and some water. In hindsight, I realize what a frugal meal this must have been for our mom who, at the time, was struggling financially as the single mother of four children.

In the weeks following our conversation about stoup, I craved it. I decided I’d make a batch of it for dinner one night, and I’d proudly present Doug with a meal that my siblings and I had enjoyed so much, so long ago.
Well, I made stoup. And it was awful.
When I put the first spoonful into my mouth, I spontaneously made an “Mmmmm…” sound. It tasted just like Mom’s stoup had, but mine was thicker {I used two grated carrots and a large potato – because I could}. I was amazed at how that one taste took me back to that little kitchen in Dos Palos, California – how I remembered having enough for a second bowl for each of us, but none leftover when dinner was done.
The second bite was more telling. And by then Doug had tasted it and innocently compared it to gruel. I asked, “What is gruel exactly?” and his answer hit me hard.
“It’s what they serve in orphanages,” he said, “when they have to stretch what they have in order to feed everyone.”
He hadn’t meant to hurt my feelings, I knew, and he had no way of knowing what memories and feelings I would be flooded with – over a bowl of stoup!
In that moment I felt embarrassed – ashamed of our poverty and that I had exposed that to Doug. Those childhood feelings of shame and embarrassment over our lack of funds washed over me, but suddenly none of that mattered anymore.
What mattered was the deep realization and understanding of what our mom had done for us. How she had prepared a meal that cost so little, but served it in a way that we still have fond memories of it to this day. We always loved when what-was-for-dinner was stoup!
Our mom set so many good examples for us. And even though I never plan to make stoup again, I'm really glad I did - just once - so I could fully appreciate the meal like I had never done before.
Gosh, she was such a great mom.


Cheri said...

We never had anything like "stoup" but I do think my mother was equally creative being a single mother of five - I remember plenty of meals of Shepard's pie, mac-n-cheese, goulash, fried spam sandwiches... We used to buy a 5 pound bag of ground beef direct from the slaughter house and that would make 5 different meals.

scrappyjacky said...

I too remember my mum 'stretching' food to feed a family...she made most of the meals Cheri mentions [apart from fried spam!]....and macaroni cheese and shepherds pie are still amongst my favourites....and I've never managed to make macoroni cheese that tastes as good as hers!
We certainly had something similar to stoup....though I think it had canned tomatoes....rather than tomato sauce.
I think the food our mums made always brings back poignant memories.

Karen said...

This brings back memories of the fall after my mother died. My dad and brother wanted goulash--a concoction my mother made from hamburger, tomatoes, and macaroni. How hard could it be? It took at least three tries before I came up with an acceptable imitation.

Carrie Rosalind said...

Love this post and love Grandma, and glad that I didn't come over the night you tried stoup. ;)

Beverly said...

So glad you quickly moved from embarrassment into gratitude, so many things are sweeter and more powerful because of the memories attached...and that's what matters :)

alexa said...

Very tender writing, Deb, and how powerfully you communicate the succession of your feelings... Your Mum was, clearly, resourceful and wonderful :). (Oh. and we use the term "stewp" in our family for something in between a stew and a soup!)

Karen said...

Your memories of your mom are always so sweet. Like you we had a frugal upbringing and I can remember having for our main meal tinned chicken soup with mashed potato in the bottom of the bowl. We thought it was such a treat at the time.

cate behind the purple door said...

Thank you for sharing such an amazing memory and understanding

Amy said...

I think it is wonderful that you didn't know any different - it was just another yummy meal Marti lovingly prepared for you and that is what you remember. I think there are many times that our parents, at one stage or another, have had to overcome adversity and I try to use their example when I have to make decisions or explain things or just simply do something that I would rather not but circumstance demands it.

Rhona said...

I think it's great that you have so many good memories of your Mom and are able to appreciate all the things she did/made for you - including stoup! I did have to laugh at Carrie's comment too ;) xx

debs14 said...

Isn't it great that something simple can spark such memories. One of my favourite meals growing up was cheese and potato pie. Now I look back it was really just mashed potato with cheese in it with slices of tomato on top and put in the oven to brown! But oh how I loved it.

CatieAn said...

I loved your sharing of 'stoup' I was from a family of 8 kids and we lived on a mini farm. Some meals were pretty slim when it was late winter turning to spring when most of the garden produce and the slaughter beef were running low. we had our go to dish of cooked rd beans---cooked in a little water and ham or bacon and onions on the back of the stove. Mom always homemade bread to go with it and if we had it jello for desert. To us it was warm and filling an we had no idea we were poor. I made it once when we were first married and my husband asked where's the rest of dinner?" Then I knew he ahd few 'red bean dinners' like we had.
You are so right...it isn't about being poor or not...it is the special memories we are tied to our youth by.
found your blog via the postcard swap site and am so glad i did. count me as a new follower.

Maria Ontiveros said...

What an amazing post Deb. It is so touching. (And how did I miss so many posts lately?) We had a macaroni, ground beef, cheese and ragu dinner that we thought was amazing but I probably couldn't stomach now. In fact, we ate a lot of ragu . . . six kids; both my parents worked to make ends meet.

tainted with a positive view said...

Never be embarrassed. This instance, and many more I am sure, made you who you are today - made you the person Doug loves. I think all of our mothers made their budgets stretch much farther than we have ever had to.

Lizzie said...

I'm glad your embarrassment went away so quickly. My mum was in a similar position; we had "shepherd's pie", but to eke out the mince, she used various tricks, including carrots, swedes and baked beans. We thought we were getting a big Treat, especially when there were lots of beans in the mince. It was only a lot later on, that I realised the beans were there because they were Cheap! She worked very hard and looked after other peoples' children, to make extra house-keeping money; but those beans and carrots must have saved her sanity - as well as the money. How to make 4oz minced beef feed three adults and five children? Carrots and BEANS ladies!

You did indeed have a special and wonderful mother. It's good to appreciate and understand what our parents did for us.

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