Growing up in the South in the 70s and 80s was pretty great but contrary to popular belief we didn’t all grow up on a sprawling farm, in a farm-house with farm animals out back eating farm-fresh food.
Nope, most of us, like myself, grew up in something called a subdivision. Carefully plotted and laid out tracts of houses that mostly looked alike all with average sized yards and no room for cows. My particular subdivision was called ‘Wyndham’. It was comprised of 5, arrow straight roads, laid out in a ladder shape. Not a single curve to be found. We had about 50 houses, a community swimming pool and tons of undeveloped woods that belonged to someone else. And we treated them like they belonged to us. Us being the kids that lived there. Fortunately for me there were about a dozen or so of us near my age. Some came and went and some lived there their entire lives, like myself.
We would all play outside all day and all night if allowed. Riding our bikes, running through the woods playing war, playing a version of baseball that only required 3 people in the field and occasionally a fist fight or two. The only interruption in our day into night routine was dinner time.
It seemed each kid’s parents had a different method for calling in their respective child for the evening meal. My oldest friend growing up, Mike Anderson, lived nearly in the exact middle of the neighborhood. On the ‘middle rung’ of the ladder. This allowed his father, a very tall husky man, to simply step out onto their screened-in porch and bellow, “Mike…Mike come home” repeatedly. I imagined him rotating a quarter turn each time. .like some kind of human tornado siren, to ensure uniform coverage of his call across the entire subdivision. Mike would then wrap up his turn at bat or finish up his fight with whomever happened to wrong him that day and grab his bike and pedal home to whatever meal was waiting.
Dewayne’s family had a different method to call him home for supper. Dewayne had the “privilege” of having two younger sisters. Much different from Mike’s father’s baritone bellow, Dewayne’s sisters would screech “Deeeee-Wayne come home”. Where Mike’s call would reverberate like a fog-horn, Dewayne’s shriek would cut through the woods and heavy southern air like a knife. Impossible to ignore and possibly just to make it stop, Dewayne would make his way back up the hill towards his house.
My verbal summons was a bit different. We had a dinner bell. An old black, cast iron or steel, not real sure, bell. It has a shoestring tied to the clapper that my mom or dad would pull repeatedly when it was time to sit down for supper. Three pulls was all I would need to hear and I would make my way down the hill and back to my house. Unless my older brother was doing it, then it would be more like 50 rapid pulls in his bid to continually be annoying. As I pedaled my bike home I would wonder what would be waiting for me in the kitchen. I would of course be starving by this time of the day. Sometimes almost to the point of being dizzy from hunger. My mind would race at the thought. If dad was home we would probably have cornbread along with whatever else was cooking. My mom may have made one of the many casseroles that fed our family back then. Each seemed to have strange names like Ragged Wolf, Country Captain or my favorite, Shipwreck.
Until recently I thought my mom had made up the names of these dinners but, sure enough, I now have the cookbook they each come from. Below I submit to you, the staple of my youth, Ragged Wolf:
1½lbs round steak (or sirloin)
½lb bacon, cut up
Large onion, chopped
*Garlic (5 cloves) or tablespoon of chopped
**1 tsp curry powder
1 can tomato soup
1 can of water (or juice from mushrooms + water to equal 1 can)
2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp butter
8 oz can mushrooms drained
¼ cup beer
1 Tbsp whiskey
Pound meat and cut into bite-sized pieces. Brown bacon and drain. Brown steak and onion. Add bacon
back into pan along with garlic, curry powder, tomato soup, water, salt, butter, mushrooms, beer and
whiskey. Simmer all together for 1 hour or more, stirring often to prevent sticking. Serve over rice, if
desired. Serves 4
*I use the chopped garlic in a jar
** I am not crazy about curry and don’t always use it.
Travis Hicks - Contributing author
Travis Hicks was born and raised in Marietta GA, and with the exception of a very brief period of living in Denver CO has lived in metro Atlanta his entire life. A childhood filled with playing outside until way after the streetlights came on, being an expert on the original Star Wars trilogy and his induction into the Front Yard Football Hall of Fame has produced the bon vivant that is Travis Hicks. Travis developed his palate for true southern food by way of his mom’s cornbread, his dad’s mashed potatoes (and knowing to never let the reverse to ever occur). Also adding to Travis’ culinary expertise is knowing that Barbeque is a noun and never a verb.