Good ol’ Greenie

This cold weather spell we’ve been having has prompted me – pretty much daily – to take the lid off my pressure/slow cooker and stick a bunch of stuff in it so we could have supper later in the day.

The other day, as I did so, I was flooded with memories regarding a most famous kitchen appliance my mother referred to as “Good ol’ Greenie.”

Greenie was a magical vessel that could transform even the most questionable of ingredients into works of art.

She sat on the crowded counter of our tiny kitchen. Greenie occupied that space for the majority of my childhood.

Greenie was technically just an old, worn out crock pot. When she became part of our family, I’m sure she was bright and shiny with a glass lid that could be seen through.

But as the years wore on, she lost her handles. Her heavy, thick top was riddled with cracks. Strange, permanent stains could be found on her sides and scratch marks tainted her interior where we had used unorthodox tools to remove stuck-on particles.

Greenie didn’t have a removable interior as crock pots and pressure cookers of today have. She was just what she was – one unit with a cord. Of course, she was not supposed to ever be submerged in water due to the electrical properties at hand. But, with so many children in my family, she unfortunately went swimming in the dish water more than once – yet somehow survived.

Her name, of course, was earned by being that beautiful hue known as “70s pea green,” with a pattern of “70s pumpkin orange” flowers over top.

What made ol’ Greenie so special was that a collaborative effort between her and my mother could result in some breath-taking feasts. Of course, there were disasters as well. But the successes far outweighed the horrors.

I remember my siblings and myself, flying around the house to get ready for school while our mother opened the refrigerator to look for ingredients.

“We’re having Salmonella Soup for supper tonight,” my mother would declare and laugh.

I would smile because I loved Salmonella Soup – it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized Salmonella wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

What Mom meant by Salmonella Soup was that she was going to take whatever she could find, throw it into ol’ Greenie and we’d end up with a masterpiece.

Cabbage, onions, a couple raw potatoes, some green beans, a dash of random seasonings, some cornstarch dissolved in water and a small bowl of browned hamburger would become a nameless staple that somehow brought oohs and aahs at the table.

I remember her throwing a jar of canned chicken into Greenie and whipping up some flour goop that she’d dollop on top of the soggy mess. It would result in a heavenly concoction my mother swore was chicken and dumplings.

If she had potatoes but not much meat – she make some watery situation turn into gold and declare it was her “famous potato soup.”

Dried beans were cheap and my mother was the master. Between her and Greenie, they’d make something called “Chuckwagon Stew” that delighted all ages.

Sometimes Mom had a plan – she’d jam an entire roast in Greenie to go with sides that had actual recipes.

But most of the time, it was what Mom called “dump and stir.”

Mom insisted that Greenie could turn anything into something – which is good, seeing how my mother had about as much money as she had time.

But sometimes, no amount of Greenie magic could make things work.

My father went on annual hunting trips to Wyoming and on one occasion had a moose license in the Teton Mountains. He brought down a record trophy bull which meant a whole lot of moose meat. Most of the cuts were good and the moose sausage was wonderful. But the ground meat called mooseburger was the worst thing any of us had ever eaten.

Believing that no food should ever be wasted, my dad commanded that we eat it and my mother was determined to make it edible. Sometimes she’d hide mooseburger in what was supposed to be chili – but no matter what Greenie would try, there was no denying the gamey smell and taste that the awful meat was in there. It wasn’t Greenie’s fault.

After many years of service, Greenie wasn’t looking so hot. Mom decided it was time to get a new crock pot and maybe give Greenie a rest.

The new crock pot was a dark brown and so new-fangled it had one of those removable interiors “to make clean-up a snap.” The breath-taking model had various temperature options and a clock to time the cooking session (with Greenie, we just plugged her in to start and pulled the plug to stop).

I remember Mom was going to unveil the new one at a potluck dinner at church because it wasn’t stained or cracked yet. She put the ingredients in the darn thing and left it. Hours later, when it came time to leave, she was horrified to realize it had hardly cooked and wasn’t nearly ready.

Poor ol’ Greenie was sitting in the corner of the counter, unused and unappreciated. But in a moment of triumph for the ancient appliance, Mom declared that she would from then on out only trust ol’ Greenie to get the job done – until she took her last breath.

For years and years she churned out poor man’s food fit for a king while also teaching us to do what we could with what we had. Thanks, Good ol’ Greenie.

 

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