Mom’s “Onions in the Stew…”

I have a short story that I shared a while ago, but since it’s chili season, I thought I’d share it again. : )

I think I’ve mentioned before, my parents are frugal. We always had a big garden and did a lot of cooking and canning, and we got meat from the farm. (Mom called it “over home.”)

I’m sure they bought food at the grocery store, but I don’t recall ever going as a kid. Pretty much everything we ate was homemade. 

That didn’t change at all as we got married and left home. There’s really nothing my mom loves better than having the family over and cooking a big meal.

My husband and she didn’t really get along well before we were married (she taught school, and he was the kid that almost made her quit. : ) , but now she likes him better than she likes me. Seriously.

Anyway, one day back when the kids were younger, we were at their house for chili and mashed potatoes. Everything is homemade, of course. 

You all have probably heard of bay leaves…my mom always told us they’re poisonous, although that’s not exactly true. They just break up into sharp pieces that can cut your mouth or pierce the lining of your stomach or intestines. It’s not likely to happen, but it’s possible.

People cook with them, using them for flavor, you just have to pick them out.  

I never use them. I like the flavor okay, but it just seems weird to put something that you know could hurt you in the food that you’re serving your family. I’m funny that way.

But my mom uses them in chili, although she normally picks them out before she serves it. Still, she’ll set the pot down and announce, “I think I got all the bay leaves, but if you find any, don’t eat them—they’re poisonous.”

On this day, my children were little, and Nana had a band-aid on her finger, which caught their attention. “What happened to your finger?”

She put her spoon down and held the finger up—the tip of her pointer finger was wrapped in the band-aid, and I could see that blood had soaked into the pad. Whatever she did, it had bled for a while.

My mom held her finger close to my kids so they could ooh and aah over her boo-boo.

“I was chopping onions for the chili, and my finger got in the way,” she explained to my kids, who had stopped eating. It’s not every day that Nana wears a band-aid.

Chili is one of my husband’s favorite meals. He had a big bowl in front of him, and he wasn’t going to stop eating just to look at my mother’s finger.

My dad, sitting at the end of the table, said, “We’re going to have to call the plumber over that eventually.”

That didn’t make any sense. “What are you talking about?” I asked, nudging my husband who was still shoveling food into his mouth.

My mom said, “I cut my finger, so I stopped chopping the onions and put a band-aid on it to stop the bleeding.” She waved her finger around. “That thing really bled a lot.” 

My husband was still eating embarrassingly fast, and since nudging him wasn’t working, I figured I’d join him. I picked my spoon up.

Mom kept talking. “I finished chopping the onions and put them in the chili and went to rinse off my hands and the cutting board. I guess I must have lost the band-aid in the sink. But I couldn’t find it, so it must have gone down the drain.”

Just then, my husband nudged me. I thought he was being smart, since I’d been nudging him about his lack of table manners, but when I looked up, he was holding his spoon in midair and staring at it.

HIs spoon was full of chili, but something looked odd. I thought at first it was a bay leaf that Mom had missed. I reached over (when you’re married, you can do this, right?) and went to pick it off the spoon.

It wasn’t a bay leaf.

I held up what was in my fingers. “I don’t think you need to worry about a plumber, Dad.”

So, yeah. “Onions in the Stew” or my mom’s version: “Band-aids in the Chili.” : )

Hugs and love,


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