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Friday, August 17, 2012

Liver, Anyone?

Lest you think how to look for a job or take vital signs is all I learned the summer of 1968, let me tell you about liver.

“Okay, girls, the menu is on the counter. We’re having liver for supper tonight.” Having left her orders, Aunt Mary was out the door on some kind of errand. When she returned she would be headed for bed because she worked the midnight to seven A.M. shift. It was our night to make supper for the family.

“Uh, Joyce, do you have any idea how to cook liver?” I had taken the package out of the refrigerator to see if the package had any directions on the label. You know, Bake for one hour, kind of thing.

“I’ve never done it. My mom makes liver and onions sometimes, but I don’t know how she actually prepares it. I think she uses a frying pan and maybe some flour.”

“Well, there are no directions on the label, unfortunately. I’ve neither cooked it nor eaten it. Guess my parents don’t much like liver or something. In any case, they’ve never given any to us kids.” I reached in to return the package to the refrigerator and turned back to Joyce. “Well, how hard can it be? It’s just a piece of meat, right? We’ll check later.” Thus decided, we were off for a day of shopping. It wasn’t often we both had the day off work at the same time.

At the hour we needed to prepare supper, Joyce and I began pulling out pots and pans for the side dishes. Boiled potatoes for one pot and green beans for the other. I took hold of the frying pan but then paused, pan in hand, halfway off the shelf.

“Hmmm, I’m not sure about frying the liver, Joyce. Aunt Mary always broils the meat and chicken or fish. I don’t think she ever fries anything.” Replacing the frying pan, I closed the cupboard door and moved over to get the liver out of the refrigerator. “It never takes long to broil the meat, though, so let’s get started on peeling the potatoes.”

“Do you think we still slice onions for the liver? I wonder if they will just shrivel up on the broiler. Maybe we should just skip the onions.” I agreed with Joyce so that was that, no onions.

When the pots were filled and the veggies well on their way to being cooked, we, carefully, laid each piece of the spongy, beef liver on the broiler pan. A little salt and pepper and in went the liver. We remembered to turn it during the broiling process but, then, couldn’t remember if we had turned it once or twice when the rest of the meal was ready to put in serving dishes. “Well, the family isn’t here anyway, so let’s just flip it over and leave it in there to keep it warm.” It seemed like a good idea to me, so I did what Joyce suggested.

“Well, that certainly smells great!” Uncle Glen was such an encourager when it was our night to cook. “Ummmh, liver and onions, is it?”

“Well, kind of. We didn’t do any onions because we thought they would probably get shriveled up and burn in there.” Uncle Glen’s eyebrows arched and his eyes opened wide in response to my words.

“How’s that? In where exactly would onions shrivel?” He was rubbing his chin as he spoke. As for me, I began to feel a bit of panic creeping in, with the accompanying cannonball in my stomach.

“Well, in the broiler. Aunt Mary always broils everything so we broiled the liver, too. We even kept it warm because people were a little late coming to the table tonight.” I watched Uncle Glen open the door to the broiler and pull the liver out.

“Hmmm, interesting. Is that the way your mother cooks liver, Sojourner?” He was staring at the pieces of meat on the tray but didn’t start to remove any to the waiting serving plate.

“No, we don’t eat liver at our house. I’ve never eaten it and, of course, have not prepared it either. This is my first time.”

“Uh-huh. Well, I’ll see what Babe says but I’m pretty sure the kids are gonna want to have a trip to the A and W tonight.” The drive-in restaurant? Uncle Glen was trying to put a fork into the liver. It made a thump sound when it fell off the fork. “Broiled liver, uh? That’s a new one on me, Sojourner. I think it may have stayed a bit too long in there. It’s pretty tough to fork and we’d need steak knives to cut it, I think.” By now the laughter of my younger cousins had filled the kitchen, followed by their delighted agreement with the change in menu.

When we returned from eating hamburgers an French fries, Joyce and I put the cold liver in the refrigerator, not sure just what we would do with it. Probably wouldn’t be any more tender the next day.

Well, as it turned out, the next day the cold liver resembled shoe leather. Well, can’t say we’ve ever tasted shoe leather but, at least, it felt a lot like that. Since I had never tasted liver, I decided to nibble the cold, broiled strip. “Yum, this is really good! It’s a bit tough, for sure, but I really like it!”

“You’ve got to be kidding?” Joyce was more of a liver-tolerator than a liver-lover, but she was not about to eat it cold in any case.

As it was, the broiling had toughened it up to make it finger food. I loved it and ate the whole piece for breakfast. No one touched the rest of the plate of cold liver, but I did manage to eat the plate of broiled liver by snacking on it for the rest of the week. I just loved it.

In fact, liver remains one of my favorites! This is the one and only time I have ever eaten it cold or broiled, though. The next and all subsequent times I ate liver, it had been fried in a pan and smothered with onions, oh yum!

I might never have discovered the joy of liver and onions had I not gone to Spokane for the summer. I am also not sure I would have given the liver a second chance had I eaten it properly prepared in the first place; I really didn’t like slimy foods. As a stiff piece of shoe leather, it was the taste, not the texture I focused on. After that, it didn’t matter that the texture of liver that had been floured and fried in a pan with onions was a bit slimy. The taste was worth it! Only God knew that I would like it. Yes, I do think He laughed at what I had done and took pleasure in the joy that broiled liver brought me! He knows His kids, after all!

****Have a fun weekend!

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