Monday, November 24, 2008

Simple Pleasures or Pleasures for the Simple

Sometimes the strangest things receive the most ecstatic reactions around here.

Heir 1 will find an ancient video game for the very first Sega system and wax poetic about, of all things, the music from it, as if that music weren't burned into my brain 12 years ago when the system appeared under the Christmas tree (it was used, even then) and played for hours on end, a practice that led to video game time rationing and probably the first chapter of the Heirs' Mommie Dearest book.

Or Heir 2 will get a song in his head which he will spontaneously and joyously break into at the most inopportune times -- say, when Dirtman is stressing the importance of the proper division of labor while cleaning up after dinner and how disappearing into the bathroom is not one of the requisite chores. While this sudden burst of melody leads to a visible rise in Dirtman's blood pressure, one can't help but have to escape into one's bedroom lest one's amused countenance add fuel to the extremely explosive and very loud fire.

So imagine my surprise when a weekday, frugal meal elicited the kind of joyful outburst more akin to Mrs. Cratchitt presenting the Christmas pudding to the small assorted Cratchitts.

When the kids were little I used to call this Who Hash, after what the Grinch took the last can of when he was stealing the Who's Christmas. Really, it's just a variation on yet another of my grandmother's Depression Era meals.

I have to admit that my grandmother's version had only two things to recommend it: it was cheap and it filled you up. In case this is enough for you, here's the recipe: ground beef, mashed potatoes, salt. Brown the beef, add salt and potatoes, flip around the skillet and there you have it.

How much beef? As much as you can spare.

How many potatoes? Depends on how many people are coming for dinner and how much they want to eat. Potatoes were really, really cheap.

My version uses the same principle, but I add a chopped onion. Instead of mashing the potatoes, I cube them (I guess just to give your teeth something to do), and I add some Worchestershire sauce and pepper. Once it's all heated through I put it into a casserole, sprinkle some cheddar on top and bake it 10 or 15 min. in a 350 degree oven. See above to amounts of ground beef and potato. Everything else is to taste.

I'm sure you'll agree that this is unremarkable and, really, I wouldn't mention it here were it not for the surprising reception it received. I was expecting sighs of boredom, reluctant compliments (Dirtman always compliments whatever I put in front of him), and one of those meals where I'm sitting alone at the table as it's cleared around me.

Instead, when Heir 1 asked what was for dinner and received the reply "Who Hash," he kept popping up from the basement -- with the dogs -- and asking, "How long 'til dinner?" When Heir 2 arrived home, his brother couldn't wait to deliver the news that there was Who Hash for dinner. There was hovering in the kitchen.

Then dinner: You'd have thought I threw a single bone to all six dogs in order to watch them fight to the death. Instead it was Dirtman and the Heirs and a casserole dish. They ate the hash and appeased themselves with the mixed vegetables.

And leftovers? A crumb that was even too small for a mouse.


Trasherati said...

I might make this tonight. Thanks for sharing. I'd love to get hold of the grandma's cabbage dish that is lost forever to history...

Gwynne said...

If you throw the mixed vegetables into the Who Hash, does that make it Shepherd's Pie?

Sisiggy said...

Trasherati: Some might consider the loss a good thing.

Gwynne: When it comes to recipes like this, you can call it whatever you like...

John said...

sounds yummy...yes, it's pretty basic, but I am going to do it. I love pan fried potatoes (my mom used to pan fry sliced potatoes with onion and oil in a big cast iron skillet...yum-oh!) and will probably do mine that way before adding the stuff. We'll probably call it Who-hash as well...we often make reference to the roast beast at Christmas or when ever we have pot roast. Thanks for the idea!