My family has a thing about nicknames.
Sure, I know. So does yours.
My family has a thing about nicknames.
It all starts, at least from my understanding, with my grandpa, Papa. Maybe Papa had a bunch of nicknames as a kid, too. Maybe it was something one of his aunts or uncles did that stuck with him. But, whatever the cause, he started the nicknaming of others early in life. He met my grandma, Mamaw, when they were kids. Her name was Genevieve Louise Gates. That quickly morphed into a handful of variations. G-L-G (her initials), six-L-six (what her initials looked like when he wrote them), Silky (a natural extension of the previous), and Glug (a callback to the original).
He didn’t stop there. And it wasn’t limited to family members.
My best friend growing up, Lisi, (pronounced Lizzy) was Lie-Sigh.
Jason Cooper was Jason and the Golden Fleecer (Every. Time.)
Freckle-Head Sally was Ashley Tracy.
My cousins on dad’s side were “Megan and Morgan and Megan and Morgan and Megan and Morgan and CHRIS!” (Their names being Megan, Morgan, and Chris – maybe that was obvious but I wanted to clarify how many actually existed.)
And the nicknames weren’t limited to Papa. He passed on this habit, to all of his children, but none-so-prevalent as my mother. She gives everyone nicknames. Even the people walking past her on the sidewalk. (For example: “I Am The Walrus” is anyone with a prominent mustache.)
And so, of course, it’s no surprise, I’ve continued the strangeness. My daughter, Devona, is Babs, Tootie, Scootie, Miss Scroom-Of-It, Boombie, among others. She’s one-and-a-half, so I’ve got time to add to the collection.
It makes me wonder sometimes how many aspects of family life we keep hidden and tucked away in our living rooms. My Zimmermann family (Mom’s side) are kind of “what you see is what you get” people. In a delightfully charming way. Usually. We don’t hide away our strange voices or nicknames or the songs we’ve made up for our animals (really, there could be an album or two). But, that isn’t the case for everyone.
And it makes me wonder why we hide parts of ourselves from certain factions of our lives. Which parts are the parts we don’t want to be seen? And why? Are they too precious? Too personal? Too embarrassing? Too morbid or strange or easily misunderstood?
In the confines of our families, these types of habits – nicknames, inside jokes, responsibilities, stories, quirks, traditions – they change and grow and morph until, sometimes, they’re unrecognizable as the thing they started out as.
My name is Maddie. Madeline Suzanne. My nicknames? Shuffy, Shiney, B-Sweet, Little Maddie Fu-Sue, Crainch-Grainch, Crumpertina Muff-Mertudy (she’s the cutest of the cute-cute-cuties), Crunchy, Shine-a-lau, Sholly, Shollarific, Madelina Susanna Maria, Midge, Scrummy, and everybody’s favorite: Screebits.
I don’t think my brother, David, has called me anything but Screebits for at least five years. And it’s all because, when I was about 18 or so, my mom called me Scrubbits in a fit of her wild and beautiful love for me, and my cousin Daniel almost peed his pants laughing and thought she said Screebits.
So Screebits isn’t even the name Mom shouted. But it’s the name that stuck, especially for David and Daniel.
And now it’s not said with the smirk it used to be said with – it’s not mentioned where it came from. Mom doesn’t say “It was Scrubbits” anymore. Because enough time has passed that Screebits isn’t about Scrubbits anymore.
Screebits isn’t a joke. Screebits is the name my brother calls me. Or Screeb, for short. My nickname even has a nickname.
I’m thinking about all of this – the changing and morphing and growing and hiding and loving families do – because I did something I’d never done with a family recipe before this week.
I changed it. And its name.
This recipe, from Mamaw, just didn’t work anymore. I, surprise, blame Campbell’s Soup for changing the consistency of their cookin’ soups. But that soapbox is in another post.
I’ve tried to make it so many times and it always failed. And I realized, just last week, that if I change it, it can remain. This recipe didn’t have to die.
Maybe in two or three generations, somebody will wonder “Who is Glug?” “Where did this come from?”
But. I think that’s good. I think I like the idea of that.
Because in the original recipe there was a little bit of soy sauce, and unfortunately, only because of that, this recipe used to have the unfortunate name of “Oriental Rice”. I could make excuses for my grandma, or whichever person titled the recipe, whoever they may be. I could talk about how it was a different time and things were different then. But all we mean when we say that is that things were more openly racist “back then”. And that’s just not an explanation we can use anymore.
Do I think my Mamaw was a bad person? No. Not even close. She was a warrior, unmatched in this world. But I’m leaving the original name in the trove of lost family secrets, along with the recipe. I’m attributing this new version to her. To who she was to her husband, whom she may not have spent her whole life with, but with whom she brought ten children into this world. Whom she fed, mended, tended, and cared for through their parenting years. Whom she eventually forgave and somehow forged a different, yet beautiful and meaningful, relationship with post-divorce. In my lifetime I’ve heard the nicknames of their youth.
Papa’s nicknames were an expression of love. My grandparent’s love, regardless of how their marriage turned out, was unending. Papa cared about and for Mamaw all her life. And her role as the mother of his children was a role he cherished. Mamaw loved her children. So much so that she spent the majority of her time in front of a stove providing the best she could, through early-onset arthritis, a divorce, the loss of her first two babies, the loss of her daughter Kathy, and so much more that remains in the hidden halls of our history. She made love-filled food for all their mouths three meals a day, eight days a week from 1951 to 1983 and beyond.
She was extraordinary. This recipe is delicious. And it’s hers. And it’s mine.
And I dragged it into the 21st century so it can be yours, too. Do what you will what it.
Glug’s Pork & Rice
- 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into cubes
- Some olive oil
- 4 celery stalks, chopped (plus some leaves, also chopped)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 C vegetable stock
- 1/2 C heavy cream
- 1 T cornstarch (mixed with water) *wait to prep this until the end
- 1 C white long grain rice
- Sauté pan with high sides
- Stirrin’ spoon
- Chef’s Knife
- Cutting board
- Various measuring cups and spoons
- Prep everything first! This is something I always do after multiple stress cooking sessions. Cut your veggies, pork – have everything ready to go.
- Start your rice.
- Heat a little olive oil in your pan over medium-high heat. Season your pork cubes with salt and pepper and brown in the olive oil – anywhere from 3 to 4 minutes on each side. You don’t need to worry about the pork being cooked through at this point. Once browned, remove to a plate and set aside.
- Toss your celery and onion in the pan and cook until tender, about three to five minutes. Add your garlic and mushroom and continue cooking until all veggies are softened and garlic is fragrant.
- Add soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and vegetable stock. Stir well. Toss your pork back in, nestling the little cubes down into the veggie mix. Bring to a small boil, then lower the heat and simmer with a crooked lid, for about 20 minutes.
- Turn the heat way down and add the heavy cream. Mix well. If the sauce isn’t as thick as you’d like, add 1 T cornstarch mixed with a little water and stir. Cook a few minutes to allow to thicken.
- Serve over white rice.