A Meal That Made Poverty Seem Wealthy
The Famous Hog Slop Recipe
I grew up poor. I was never homeless or without bare essentials, but I understood my family had less than others. My clothes came from thrift stores or second hand from friends and family. We sometimes had to trade in our TV for electricity, and a lot of the times, lunch consisted of saltine crackers with sliced American cheese.
I remember going to school and getting picked on a lot for my wardrobe, even from a few teachers. My clothes were usually a mismatch of colors. Most of the time, they were sewn by my mother, using whatever cheap fabric she could find. I never complained, though.
It was easy to witness the work my mom went into providing for my brother and me. Working night shifts at a nursing home to come home and watch us without a wink of sleep. My father was usually unemployed and either in front of a TV screen or sleeping in bed. At a young age, I knew a simple understanding of family and understood my mother was, without a doubt, a single mother raising two children.
When I was nine years old, I became aware of how much my mom struggled for my brother and I. It was Christmas morning, and we were too excited to sleep past five in the morning. My 4-year-old brother was scrambling at the presents under the tree like a fish in need of water. As I forced him to wait until mom walked into the living room, I could already see something was different this year.
Only four little packages were under the tree. Two of which were easily noticeable as pillows. As my mom came into the living room looking groggy, I could see the sadness. She sat down and gave a look that seemed to scream a desperate apology to us.
I didn't realize then, but my mother made sure to save enough money to give us a great Christmas each year. She would work overtime and skip meals so that we would never realize how poor we were. All I knew back then was that we had a tree with presents under it and no school.
However, this year was different. As my little brother tore into his presents, I knew his reaction would be one of confusion and a little bit of sadness. Watching the tears fall from my mom's face, I made a big deal at the gifts he had just received: a pillow and a flashlight.
"Wow, that's an amazing gift! We can make a fort today and read scary stories with our flashlights!" My enthusiasm pooled out of each pore until it consumed the room. Trying as hard as I could, I ripped my presents with the same spirit as my brother had. "These are amazing gifts," I exclaimed.
Jumping up to hug my mother, she hugged back fiercely with heaves of breath that slowed down her sobbing for a second. "I'm so sorry. I promise I'll get you better gifts next year," she pleaded with us. Without a second thought, I made sure to show her that these WERE the best gifts we could have gotten and looked at my brother to force the words out of his mouth.
That day I made sure to play games with my brother, always including a flashlight or pillow in the mix. To this day, my mom talks about this day as one of her saddest, and I continue my mantra as making it one of the best days for us. After all, we were with family and playing games without school.
That was the first night we ate this concoction known as hog slop—a favorite meal in my family, made out of poverty and desperation. There was very little in the house, and, for reasons I'll never know, money was incredibly scarce that year. Never showing this fact, my mother started creating a dinner that would be a mystery to everyone, her included.
To be honest, I never realized this meal was due to being poor. I only remember devouring every last bite and begging for another bowl. Adding noodles, green beans, and beef, my mother created a new tradition that night.
To my mother's surprise, my brother and I loved hog slop. This time there were no fake smiles in the house. We asked what it was, and that is when hog slop came to be. To this day, it is a staple in our household. Whenever we go over for birthdays or holidays, we make sure this is the meal of choice.
To me, this wasn't a meal made from poverty. It was a meal of the wealthy. I was delighted to share this dinner with my friends and teachers, never understanding their confusing looks when I talked about it. Wasn't this a staple in everyone's homes? Didn't everyone eat this every week?
I see now that this meal was made from a desperate plea to give her children something more than poverty that day. To make something that wasn't the same ramen noodles or can of vegetables as we usually got. To make us forget that our father couldn't be bothered to leave the bedroom, even on Christmas Day.
It was created in times of need, but it was made with enough love to last a lifetime. This meal reminds us of times when we didn't have much, but we had everything simultaneously.
It's incredibly simple for those who want to recreate the meal and, as stated above, pretty affordable. You only need three things to make this work:
- A pound of beef
- 3-4 packs of beef-flavored ramen noodles
- 1-2 cans of green beans
You ground the beef as you usually would. Then, in boiling water, crush the ramen noodle packets until they are small tiny noodles before dumping them in and cooking like normal. Once cooked, drain the water and add the beef flavoring packets.
From here, you'll add the noodles and cans of green beans to the beef and stir. It doesn't seem like much, but I can assure you children and adults will love this easy concoction all around. I've forced most friends to try this throughout the years, and it has always been well received.
To anyone suffering or feeling like their kids are going without, remember how much love can fill their bodies. I might have grown up poor and even known this, but I never went without happiness and love. This is what I remember from my childhood. Give a kid this, and you'll give them the world.