Column: Where's the beef? Plenty of options back in Sav-Mor daysWORTHINGTON — I was talking lately about Worthington’s Sav-Mor market, the building at the corner of 11th Street and Second Avenue that was bombed by the old YMCA last month. The Y bomb reminded me of The War.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I was talking lately about Worthington’s Sav-Mor market, the building at the corner of 11th Street and Second Avenue that was bombed by the old YMCA last month. The Y bomb reminded me of The War. In the summer that Pvt. Ryan was battling through the surf toward Omaha Beach at Normandy, I was managing the meat department at the old Sav-Mor market.
You have to know two things:
(1) I was there because the butchers were gone, the men were gone. Three million men in U.S. uniforms. Stores hired whatever help could be found.
(2) There was no meat. Sav-Mor’s meat truck came every Tuesday morning. Cy Hendrickson, the manager, sliced loins into chops and carved out beef roasts. Regular customers knew of this and they stood in lines on Tuesdays to get meat. The rest of the week — well —
Our stock was in a long, white meat case with a glass front. As you walk up to the case, look to the left. This is where you will find things.
There was one big, white enamel tray with dry cottage cheese and one tray with moist cottage cheese. One percent fat? Two percent? Who knew? No one ever wondered.
There was a tray with pickled herring. There also were some dried, smoked white fish. Buy a white fish. Chop off the head. Peel back the black skin. You came to delicious, moist, loose white fish flesh.
Mostly there was cheese. No cheese was pre-packaged, save for Velveeta. In the meat department the two most popular cheeses, American and a pale yellow cheese we called Brick, came in long, square blocks. I could slice cheese for you but many people wanted only chunks: “Give me about three inches of that American.”
In summers, some of the American cheese was destined to be slipped between slices of homemade bread and carried to threshers in wash tubs lined with dish cloths. In other seasons the American went into grilled sandwiches, school lunch pails and brown bags.
Now look to your right — to the meats. Sad sight. There was always what we called souse. Souse was head cheese. Pig lips, pig ears, pig snouts ground into small pieces and suspended in flavorless gelatin. I know. I know. Unflavored Jell-o with cooked pig parts. But if you ate it and didn’t think too much about what you were eating, it wasn’t bad.
There was — well, today we call it baloney. Sliced sandwich meat. In The War years many still called it minced ham. Minced ham has made great sandwiches for decades.
When the meat truck arrived on Tuesdays there always was one wired wooden box of beef cheeks and one wired wooden box of flank steaks — beef from abdominal muscles. Those boxes were a highlight of my week.
I ran beef cheeks and flank steaks in equal portions through a grinder. Oh — and add to this the butt ends cut from the big rolls of baloney and souse. Maybe add a wiener that got lost behind a pan.
This was our ground beef.
Now let me tell you, however it may seem, it was very good. Customers sought it out. I ate it myself. Sav-Mor ground beef was a treat.
The governing factor in the meat department was ration stamps. You might offer $5 for a pound of my hamburger (no one would ever offer that much) but I had to say, “No.” You had to have your ration stamps. Your stamp book governed your meat purchases. Anyway, there were no home freezers.
I had to make a ration stamp accounting to Cy Hendrickson for my sales, and Cy had to make an accounting to the local ration board. There were strict penalties. No stamps, no meat.
My memory is that chickens were stamp-free. At Worthington, at least, the produce houses supplied stores with chickens. Chickens were sold whole, always and only. At times, at least, you could buy a chicken without a ration stamp. Same for turkeys, save that we never had turkeys except during November and December. No one would eat turkey in February.
So the days went by.
My title — meat manager — was like many titles: pretty empty.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.