I really wanted to write a “biting review of the salad bar at Byerly’s” just to please anonymous commenter Zipper, but I just can’t do it. It’s too delicious! Instead, I’m writing about my mom. And home cooking. And consequently have an excuse to use the phrase “smoked butt.” (If Zipper thinks last week was manufactured earnestness, wait until he/she gets a load of this.)
Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. We weren’t poor, by any means, but we were on the lower end of the middle-class spectrum. We ate a lot of Encore frozen entrees (I LOVED Salisbury steak), and canned corned beef hash.
Every once in awhile, my mom would prepare our favorite dish: Smoked butt. Did we like it because it gave us an excuse to say “butt” in the house? Perhaps. But I also remember it being delicious.
Over the years, I’ve given my mom a hard time about smoked butt, mainly because I’ve never seen it labeled as such in a grocery store. So this past weekend, when I organized a gathering for my brother and sisters and parents in the Wisconsin Dells, my mom immediately volunteered to make dinner. And she made smoked butt.
Now what is “smoked butt?” I never knew. You might see it sold as pork shoulder. Pork butt is the top portion of the shoulder, on the front leg of the hog. Disappointing, right? It’s not the butt at all.
Often you’ll see pork butt used for pulled pork, because it’s so flavorful. It’s pretty fatty, and very easy to chew, which is probably why I liked it as a kid.
Eating it all these years later didn’t disappoint. My mom made it in a slow cooker—nothing fancy. It was exactly like I remembered as child.
I think the best thing about food isn’t the actual food itself. It’s the memories. It’s the power of the meal to transport you back to a place in time, or to a group of people. Food can be just a way to nourish your body, but it’s the ceremonies surrounding it that really nourish your soul.
Not that I’m planning on cooking up smoked butt for dinner this weekend. (Although I do like how my five-year-old nephew Parker called it “smoked bottom.” ) I’m going to keep the butt as a treat for the family only. Now I’ve gone too far.
I’d love it if you’d share some of your food memories in the comments. What’s the meal your mom or dad made for you growing up, that you’d never make yourself today, but it takes you back to that specific place?
(FYI: “Butt” count in this blog entry: 12. A Minnesota Monthly record.)