When I was growing up, all I ever heard about was the things that used to happen — before I was born. For instance, they’d always go to the beach and go different places. My mom would buy all the good stuff, back in the day when things were cheaper and my mom wasn’t as spendthrift.
From what I remember, a lot of the food she bought came in a white package with blue lettering or outlined pictures depicting what was inside. Chances are if there was a generic version, it was going in the shopping cart at The Commissary. Often times our refrigerator was stocked with Shasta instead of Coca Cola, off-brand ice cream instead of Dryer’s (it was a HUGE deal when my mom bought that tub with the trademark black and white striped lid).
So, when I started going to school, I couldn’t help but notice all of the things other kids had that I didn’t. When I was in the first grade, I discovered something new at lunchtime: Polska Kielbasa. My classmate, Joan, seemed to have brought it for lunch every day in her cute Sanrio-themed magenta lunchbox. It was really nice, with that hinged type handle, not the square plastic one that so many other lunchboxes at the time had. (Add that to the list of things I wish I had.)
I suppose one day Joan offered to share a slice of that polish sausage with me (although the truth is that the early carnivore in me asked if I could have a slice). It was love at first bite. It had a different texture from the Vienna sausage I was used to. While Vienna sausage is some strange shade of pink/tan and mushy, the Polska Kielbasa was kind of chewy and greasy — the perfect combination.
Joan usually had maybe 5-6 quarter-sized slices, all perfectly packed in a small Tupperware container. And it became a sort of obsession. My PB&J sandwich couldn’t hold a candle to ground meat packed neatly into casing. I had to have more of it.
I looked forward to having lunch with Joan (or should I say having Joan’s lunch). I don’t remember how it went down, but I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to stop asking permission to have some of her sausage. So, every time she turned her head away from me, I’d go into stealth mode. It was a three-step process: 1. Watch Joan’s every move, especially when she was looking away from the lunchtime treasure; 2. Get a piece of sausage without dropping it (I only had my fingers to use, so it was a little bit of a challenge); and 3. Chew fast but try not to choke.
I would say I’d do this maybe twice per lunchtime. I mean, Joan still had to eat, right? I can’t recall if she ever wondered how her sausage started disappearing or if she ever caught me or if she ever had a hands-off policy. My mom probably bought the sausage a few times when I lived at home. But when I started living on my own, I think it was one of the things I was all too eager to buy.
Nowadays I’ll see it on sale or something and will buy it, still remembering how good it tasted 25+ years ago. Then I toss it in a frying pan and eat it. It just doesn’t taste as wonderful as it did when I was six.
Lesson Learned: You’ll love it now, but know this: you’ll hate it later.