1. When we were young, my mother would serve boiled tongue several times a year, a big old globby hunk of pinkish grey meat, boiling for hours, smelling like dead worms.
2. Since my mother didn't drive until after I got my driver's license and taught her on a stick shift VW Beetle, my father bought the groceries, including the beef tongue, yet to be boiled.
3. In hindsight, I can only assume he chose beef tongue because it was cheap and we were poor. I vaguely remember liver with bacon and fish sticks, both of which my mother would overcook. Mostly, I remember the boiled tongue, which was bought at just a long enough interval that as little kids, we would forget about it until the next time.
4. Despite my father being brilliant at mathematics and chess, he wasn't great at knowing too much about children and what they liked to eat, boiled tongue not high on the list. We would have been happy with Velveeta cheese and Spaghettios or cereal.
5. Fifty-plus years later, I can still vividly see the boiled tongue, which sort of bobbed up and down in the pot, uncovered. As a kid, I thought the least she could do was hide it with a lid. My mother might have added celery, carrots, and potatoes, but that only made it worse.
6. My mother would start cooking the boiled tongue before we all got home from school, so as soon as we walked in the door, we knew, changed into play clothes to have a game of kickball or war or go tromping through the woods.
7. I was often a lone adventurer, with an imaginary friend or two, (on rare occasions, my older brother) hunting and gathering, building forts and digging up clay, doing anything to keep my mind off the impending dinner of boiled tongue.
8. It didn't matter what season it was, on Boiled Tongue Night, I'd stay out as long as possible, trying to delay the inevitable...until my Mom rang the triangle, or if God-help-me, I failed to hear that, my Dad's loud whistle.
9. Our town also had a five o'clock firehouse short alarm, which was usually the precursor to Mom on the triangle. I took my 8 to 14 year old chances, waiting til Dad's two finger whistle on Boiled Tongue Nights. What could he do? Make me eat the stuff?
10. The answer to what my father could do was frightening. Dinner consisted of blaring classical music after the rote blessing, said at rapid speed by my father without feeling, followed by a sign of the cross. We were expected to eat everything put on our plates. Boiled tongue, boiled potatoes, canned peas, jello without whipped cream. No talking or laughing.
11. Since there was always leftover boiled tongue, my father would make our lunches for school: two pieces of Wonder Bread, cold boiled tongue, with ketchup that bled through the white bread, wrapped in aluminum foil, not even cut in half. On the brink of mercy, he would add a package of Twinkies.