By YC Takahashi
I have managed to avoid corned beef hash for thirty years. I know where the cans are placed in the grocery store and I never go down that aisle. I see it on breakfast menus but I quickly glance away.
I will never forget the taste. The slimy, inferior, mashed-up meat mixed with gelatin-like potatoes melts in your mouth even when it is cold. I was six years old the last time I had to eat it.
My father was a deadbeat. He came home when he ran out of clean clothes or if the newest girlfriend found out he was cheating on her. He always reeked of cigarettes and sweat. When he stumbled home, he only showered, ate and slept. Sometimes he stayed for a couple of days to rest up and off he went again.
Since he wasn’t there most of the time, he didn’t know if the utilities were turned off or not. When he decided to appear, he paid all the fees and turned them on again. During the times of involuntary darkness, the stove didn’t work and we were forced to eat food out of cans. The most convenient choice was corned beef hash.
Mother bundled us up and we braved the cold and snow while we walked four miles to Farmer Jack’s grocery store. She always looted my father’s pockets while he slept. Between the few paper bills in his pants and the change that fell into the couch, she usually came up with three or four dollars.
I don’t remember where my mother got a can opener from. We certainly couldn’t afford to buy one. Maybe a neighbor or family friend gave it to us. Maybe she stole it. Every time she opened up a can, she welled up.
“Here, have some dinner,” she sniffled.
I ate it and never complained about it. She braved the cold and humiliation for my meal and I pretended it was great.
I always wondered if it would taste good if it was cooked. I never quite mustered up the courage to try it. I think I might cry right there in the restaurant.
My husband says it is irrational to avoid the entire soup aisle because of the corned beef hash.
“It’s not your father. It’s mashed up meat.”
Of course I know he’s right. Maybe I’ll buy a can and test it out in the safety of my own home. This time I will fry it and place a sunny egg on top.