Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dottie Was Famous For Her Sloppy Joes

Up until the second grade, I attended the James Marshall Elementary School in the South Western section of Modesto, California. Modesto was a bustling but not very affluent community at that time, it's about the same today. It may be a little more bustling and a little less affluent, mostly having to do with an extraordinarily high per capita consumption of methamphetamine by the inhabitants.

The school custodian used some kind of highly aromatic oil to dust mop the floors and wipe down the walls at James Marshall. In the morning everything was shiny and slick but as the day wore on a layer of dust and grit adhered to every surface. The oil worked its way into our clothes and pretty much ruined them for anything but going to school in, so most of the kids only wore one set of clothes to school. We were a shopworn looking bunch, gritty, oil stained and funny smelling.

The school cafeteria was a big Quonset hut that somebody had got for surplus and set up out on the playground. We all ate in there, whether we bought lunch or brought it. I guess it was easier to keep control of us that way, so that most teachers could enjoy their own lunch, someplace else. People that bought lunch were prepaid by parents and their names were on a list. You couldn't just decide to buy a hot lunch on any arbitrary day, except for Wednesdays. Wednesday was Sloppy Joe day. Dottie, our cafeteria lady was famous for her Sloppy Joes. That's what they always said. Because her Sloppy Joes were so famous, it wasn't deemed fair for all of us brown baggers to miss out. On Wednesdays, if you brought a quarter you could get the delicious, entire meal, complete with a scoop of green beans and peachy cobbler or for 15 cents, you could just get that famous Sloppy Joe. My father got paid once a month. Early in the month, I usually got the 15 cent Sloppy Joe to eat with my apple and homemade cookies. Later on in the month, Wednesdays were just the usual baloney, mustard and mayo on white bread. I liked that just fine. Mostly, I just missed being with the crowd clamoring for Dottie's Sloppy Joes, they being so renowned and all.

Except for that brief period of my life, Sloppy Joes have never been high on my list of culinary delights. In fact, I went most of my life with no Sloppy Joe intake whatsoever. Strangely, I have been making them pretty frequently the last couple of years. I just use tomato paste, with a little vinegar and sugar for sweet and sour, chopped onion, garlic powder, shredded potato as a binder and filler. Great comfort food. Filling. Cheap. They're also soft and my teeth aren't good anymore. A mouthful of titanium implants would prob'ly run North of 50 grand. I'm not going to live long enough to get my money's worth out of something like that. My Sloppy Joes are a lot better than that greasy sludge Dottie was pushing. Sweet memories of youth.

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