Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oh my Lord, I've become my Mother.....

     My blogs, of late, seem to have been more serious, and I think I'm bumming some people out, so this week I'm returning to the original format of light comedy and a retelling of a family story, and this one about my mother seemed to just fit the bill.  I'll thank sister Peppermint for suggesting it and serendipity for giving me the idea on how to start it.   

     This epiphany came as I flipped open my suitcase on one of my double beds in the 2nd hotel that I has stayed in that week.  As I did that, the coffee K cups that I had liberated from the hotel room that
The stash I got from the Hilton
I had occupied the night before came flying out of the unzipped top section of the suitcase and flew across the room.   As I bent to pick up the pilfered pc's (short for portion control in this instance), I was struck by two thoughts, the first being that I really have to start being less dramatic about opening my suitcases in the empty rooms I occupy and the second was that, like it or not, I had become my mother. 

     My mother's frugality was legendary.  If there was a way to reuse something or stretch it, my mother not only knew how to do it, but she did it better and likely invented doing it.  She may have invented the whole idea of recycling or at the very least was green before being green was popular.  Where most people would see an empty Millbrook bread bag, my mom saw the inner liner of a leaky winter boot. The paper ones would become our book covers or the resting place for hot, greasy cookies right out of the oven. Empty plastic milk jugs became bird feeders hung in trees by their handles, and coffee cans were used for storage of nuts and bolts in the garage.  I could go on and on, but this story really is about her hoarding of portion control condiment packets that you get from restaurants and C-stores, and at that activity, she had no equal. 

     I'm not sure who to credit with inventing the pc packet for restaurants, but if I had to guess it would be McDonald's, Greek diners for jelly packets, or Chinese restaurants.  Whatever the case is,
someone recognized that it was expensive to fill souffle cups with sauces and condiments and see half of them get thrown away, so they invented the 7/8 oz shelf stable packet and started serving them with meals or leaving them on counters for patrons to use.  It surely was a cost savings in most instances, that is, until my mother came through the place.  Now I have to be careful to not mar the memory of a near-sainted woman by implying that she took more that what was coming to her, but I can easily say, that if you delivered it to her table,
Monty quizzing a potential player
she considered it to be hers for the taking and the inventory would be secured in her purse (My mom called hers a pocketbook, not a purse, but I never saw a pocket that would hold that small suitcase sized handbag) prior to the 2nd coffee fill up, and yes she stockpiled everything.   While I was growing up there was a game show on called "Let's Make a Deal" and the host, Monty Hall would challenge women to find obscure items in their purses for the chance to play on stage.  My mom spent her lifetime preparing for that eventual meeting with Monty, and if he had asked my mom for pancake syrup, mayonnaise, jelly, margarine, and crackers, she could easily have supplied these out of the top strata of her purse (I picture archaeologists viewing a cross section of mom's purse at this point and picking out the years represented by the items like Halloween candy and pc's included in each layer or by carbon dating the packets).  There is an urban legend in my family that has my mother making complete sandwiches out of her purse for us one time on a long car trip.  It might be slightly exaggerated but it's highly
likely she would have had crackers, peanut butter, and jelly in there to at least make a snack.  This reminds me of an oddity of what she carried, which was, I always remember her pulling wet-naps from Kentucky Fried Chicken out of her purse to help clean our sticky faces, but for the life of me, I never, ever remember going to Kentucky Fried Chicken as a kid, ever.  I think she may have been having an affair with Colonel Sanders while I was at school each day, it's the only logical conclusion that I can come up with, and have you ever, seen my brother Socrates with a beard?  See, I told you so.  There's another story of mom saving a life with her purse by using a hair scrunchie as a tourniquet, a tampon to stop the bleeding and a travel sewing kit to suture the wound, but that's just silly and not at all apropos to this topic of storing food in her purse, so I won't tell it now.  I think that I've painted the picture well enough now, of my mother's habit and now I have to talk about my problem.

     If there is such a thing as a gateway pc, then for me it was definitely the hot mustard packets at Chinese restaurants.  As embarrassed as I was at watching my mother sweep a table clean of condiments and emptying the roll basket directly into her pocketbook, that did not stop me from
I found this picture buried in mom's candy drawer, weird.
grabbing a few extra packets of the hot mustard for when I had egg rolls at home.  For me you see, lobster is the vehicle that delivers butter directly into you and egg rolls do the same thing with that delicious spicy mustard.  My wife would serve egg rolls at home and I wanted to have the same experience that I'd have at the Chinese place, but I couldn't because they didn't sell jars of that stuff at the supermarket, so I'd take a couple extra each time and stockpile them in my fridge.  I'd rationalize my theft with thoughts like, "I paid for my meal, why can't I take a few for next time that they forget?" or "it's covered in their overhead cost" or finally " They wouldn't put them out there if they didn't want people to take them", but if I'm being truthful, it was the beginning of a slippery slope.  Soon I started taking and stockpiling things that I didn't need like soy sauce and margarine packets from KFC.  I
My 4th grade math book
was beginning to have an issue.  I progressed from soy sauce, to jelly (sometimes you just need a little), to honey and then it kept going.  I'm posting an actual picture of the things that are currently in my fridge but if you can't make it out, they include, KFC margarine, honey, mustard packs, a flavored coffee creamer, picante sauce, soy sauce, Chinese hot mustard (I'm almost out), McDonald hot mustard (it's a backup to the Chinese one, because you know I need a backup), and the makings for a Caesar salad, Italian dressing, Romano cheese and croutons.  God help me, I've become my mother, she could make a sandwich out of her purse and I can make a salad out of mine.  I need help.  I opened this blog with my admission of taking the coffee from the hotel, but truth be told, it didn't end there. I came home with a wrapped bar of soap (handy for backpacking with my Scouts), a shoe shine cloth (and I never shine my shoes), a makeup remover cloth (not going there), a bag of complimentary microwave popcorn, tea bags, small lotion, shampoo and conditioner and finally a travel sewing kit, because hey, you never know when you'll need that.  I've admitted I have a problem, now I just have to find a therapist.


Rob Carey said...

I seem to remember you coming home from Wally's with chicken wings in your pocket on at least one occasion!

cdyarger said...

This blog is EPIC! I recall your mother taking all of those things, and also the rolls from the table if there were any left! She was a very frugal woman; had to be - raising 12 kids!!

florrie said...

Great article...I can remember Grandma Dora taking things home from rolls from Ponderosa wrapped in napkins...lol..I must admit..I also took home packs of honey from kfc..they never gave you enough..lol..I remember being fascinated with the sugar cubes...til they crumbed in pocket..i don't think at my age that I have ever bought a box of them cubes..lol..Bill...wendys had those single serving ketchup cond. they are great for little kids...Chinese food...we used to get extra soy sauce til it sprayed across the table upon opening it..we buy the bottle now..ahhh...them good old days..

Debbie said...

love it...had me laughing all the way through! But, in your mother's defense if the restaurant gives you condiment packets, they throw them away if you leave them on the table when you go!