The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Soup, slop and sanitation

Rachael Conlin Levy
“Songs We Sing From Rogers and Hammerstein” illustrated by William Dugan. Golden Press, 1957. Image from Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves.

I made clam chowder last night and it was a stinker. Perhaps it was because (one) I refused to run to the store for four stalks of celery or (two) I lazily tossed in the potatoes without peeling them. But whatever the reason, it was bland, boring and kinda dirty tasting. (Even though I distinctly remember scrubbing the potatoes!)

We ate the chowder, anyway.

But the leftovers? Into the slop bucket. Well, to be more exact, ours is a compost bucket, but when I was growing up we raised the occasional pig or two, so our scraps turned to slop. And how our first pig loved that garbage, nudging her nose into curdled milk, congealed Cream of Wheat and gobbling up the crusty ends of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Doesn’t that remind you of “Charlotte’s Web“?

Wilbur lifted his nose and sniffed. The smell was delicious… He walked to the trough and took a long drink of slops, sucking in the milk hungrily and chewing the popover. It was good to be home again.

While you can go on loving Wilbur, I’ll love Star, our family’s big, black sow who gave birth to a run of piglets who were so darn cute and pink. Star was smart enough to escape from her pen, so now and then my brother or sisters or I would spot her trotting down the dirt road, a line of babies behind her. We’d yell to mom, who’d hop in the car and chase her down. You know, I can’t remember how my mom got Star and her babies back home. I like to imagine her as big and tough as Pecos Bill’s true love, Slue-foot Sue, roping and riding that sow into the pen again.

Eventually, Star’s antics grew tiresome and the piglets outgrew their cuteness because one day the pig pen was empty, the slop bucket was fed to the chickens and a conversation between a mother and child went something like this:

“What’s for dinner?”


We ate the pork chops, anyway.

But today — as the swine flu spreads and worries grow about a possible pandemic — people are hesitating when it comes to pork, according to The New York Times. Several nations closed their borders to pork and Wall Street analysts predict a drop in pork sales in the grocery stores, the paper reported this week.

Although pigs were the original source of the new virus, experts said the animals don’t appear to be playing a role in its transmission now.

“The virus is passing from person to person … most likely by the spread of respiratory droplets,” the Times reported.

So I’m not passing up bacon, nor am I running out to buy face masks. I won’t even demand that my children’s teacher be quarantined following her vacation in Mexico. But I have taken the precaution of posting hand-washing signs in our home’s bathrooms. Should you be overcome by a similar desire, here’s one poster and links to the rest:

Have a swine-free, sanitary weekend!

One response to “Soup, slop and sanitation”

  1. mamapease says:

    You always find the best illustrations! I love the story and I have to say, I really love your mom’s sense of humor. She is funny.

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