Let’s hear it for…liver and onions

by Bryan Salvage
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Liver and onion haters don't know what they're missing. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Everybody has a favorite dish or two they remember from their childhood. When it came to food choices, my mom was a creature of habit. She prepared certain dishes for certain nights week after week, particularly during the cold-weather months: pot roast or chicken for Sunday; sirloin steak on Wednesday; tuna fish casserole on some Thursdays; pigs in the blanket on Fridays…and last but not least—liver and onions on Mondays. Saturdays were often soup-and-sandwich nights while we watched TV eating from rickety, old metal TV trays.

I guess I’m odd because I always liked liver and onions. Most of my friends cringed when I told them I not only ate that regularly for dinner — but I actually liked it. I clearly remember my dad ordering several lbs. of liver at the old Hi-Low meat department in Dolton, Ill. Norm the butcher would carefully wrap the messy liver in white waxed butcher paper. Norm must have been an expert butcher because even though the pieces of liver were wrapped…the package never leaked. Today, most liver I see in meat departments are packed in plastic tubs with snap-on lids — and even then I still notice purge leaking through the lid and container every now and then.

Not wanting to mess with preparing food at home, I recently opted to go to one of my favorite little local haunts where my family dines maybe three or four times a year: Blackberry Inn, in Elburn, Ill.

It is a very small tavern/restaurant that offers good food at good prices and they usually offer one or two specials on their menu each night during the week. Another reason I like it there is because it’s quiet and many of the other diners are close to my age; no one is feverishly texting or talking on their cell phones at the dinner table. The people actually talk to each other while dining and appear to enjoy it!

It just turned out that the Blackberry Inn was offering two specials on Monday night: all-you-can-eat spaghetti or liver and onions. It had been several years since I last ate liver and onions and I admit I was a little apprehensive when the server approached — I was afraid she’d think I was a weirdo for ordering this. Instead, she smiled and admitted it was also one of her favorite dishes and that the cook did a great job preparing it.

What I remember most about how my mother made it was its simplicity. I always had to slice up a lot of onions for her. She would add a little water to a frying pan, remove the liver from the butcher paper and place the liver into the pan, sprinkle onion salt on top of the meat and then bury the liver with tons of sweet onions. She must have cooked it for a while because during winter months the windows in our tiny two-window kitchen would always steam up and water would ultimately trickle down the inside of the pane prompting my mom to swipe the windows dry every now and then.

We had four people in our family and no one ever complained when she served liver and onions. Second helpings were allowed as liver was fairly inexpensive during those days.

Today, my liver consumption is very restricted to rare occasions at restaurants as no one in my family likes it — nor would they dare to ever prepare it for me. Eating it brings back lots of good memories. They don’t know what they’re missing.

Of course, cleaning the black skillet with a Brillo pad was always unpleasant….but that’s another story for another time.

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