Madison eats like a dieting bird with a broken jaw. Candy is her favorite food group. She might single-handedly put our dentist’s kids through college. She says things like “but I ate that yesterday!” in an attempt to get out of eating lunch or dinner, but she would gladly eat McDonald’s chicken McNuggets for every meal if she could. There are few things that I make which she actually eats. “Daddy Stew” is one of them.
“Daddy Stew” is the name Lynnette gave the dish that I grew up eating. We called it hamburger stew. It is my father’s stew. It is quick and cheap, two necessary features of any meal for a family who spends 99% of its free time at the baseball field. It is, of course, made a billion times better by adding a scoop of mac salad. My dad made it a lot as kids and I made it in college and as an adult. Matty makes it, too. In fact, once at a get-together at my parents’ house, Matty made a huge pot of it. “Check this out,” he said as he lifted the lid. I wanted to stick my arm into the pot, elbow-deep, then slow lift it out and eat the stew off of my forearm. Last night Madison had two servings of rice and hamburger stew. She never asks for seconds of anything except for candy and dessert.
Cole and Avery also had Daddy Stew for dinner last night. It was their first taste of my childhood. They both ate some before tiring of the dish and polishing off some applesauce and a danish for dessert. “I’m glad they like it, but I’m sad also,” Madison said as her brother and sister began their dinners. “Why?” Lynnette asked. “Because that means there’s less for me,” Madison said, echoing statements I have made many, many times over the course of her life.
Still, I’m glad the twins liked it. Maybe hamburger stew will become something of a family dish, a tradition of sorts. It reminds me of a simpler time. “Take the meat out,” my dad would say before we headed out to practice. He wanted it to defrost so he could throw that huge brick of hamburger into the pot as soon as we got home from practice. My mother bought these plastic ladle/spoons with the Asian print on the handle; we’d use these to scoop the stew out of the pot. I watched the red sauce slide off the white of the ladle/spoon and onto the whiteness of my rice. We went back for seconds, sometimes thirds if any was left. I would be uncomfortably full and in that weird limbo of happiness mixed with self-loathing. Not much has changed in that specific regard, I suppose. All I know is hamburger stew tastes like home.
How to make hamburger stew:
- Brown 1 pound of hamburger; drain oil.
- Mix in one packet of dry onion soup mix.
- Mix in one can of tomato paste.
- Mix in one can of vegetarian vegetable soup.
- Mix in one can of water.
- Stir until completely coalesced.
- Heat through, let simmer on low heat.
- Enjoy over rice.
- Eat with a scoop of mac salad.
- Eat with a scoop of mac salad and an over-easy egg.
- Eat with a scoop of mac salad, and over-easy egg (or 2), and a 20-ounce Coke, hate yourself long enough to fall asleep for three hours.