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Making Hash

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
I remember when Mama used to make hash.

To clarify, before the cops head out to 807 and put Mama in a hammerlock and handcuffs and haul her off to jail, hash used to have a different meaning back then than it does now.

Now, it is slang or short for hashish.

I discovered my gaffe in word choice and the gap between generations when I googled "making hash" to see if I could find a picture of the gadget Mama used to make hash with. There were 25,600 hits on "making hash," and most of them had to do with cannabis, leaves, stems, and blenders.

I decided to see if the gap held in my own family, so I called Son #1. "Do you know what hash is?"

"Hash?" he said, "ha-shish? It's like weed. It's a European or Middle Eastern version of marijuana, but blacker, gummier, and stronger."

He didn't mince his words.

I asked Son #2 the same question. "Yeah, I know what it is. It's a condensed form of resin from marijuana like they have in Afghanistan and the Middle East. It's brown and comes in little balls."

It sounds like he's done his homework, too. I sensed a need to scramble together an interrogation to find out how and where they got their education. Jumping back across the Great Divide, however, I stood on my own experience.

HASH. A dish of chopped meat and vegetables, as of leftover corned beef and potatoes, sautéed in a frying pan.

Mama cooked a big juicy rump roast every Sunday, along with potatoes, carrots, and gravy. She left it baking in the oven while we went to Sunday School and church. We ate leftovers the following week, but every random once in a while, Mama made hash with the roast beef left over. I remember those times because the process intrigued me.

She had a metal hand crank meat grinder with interchangeable plates to render the foods different sizes for different dishes. The metal parts clinked and rattled as she put it together and screwed it in place, clamped to the front of the countertop. It had a crank–an arm with a wooden handle at the end for turning and grinding.

We had a circus-like kitchen floor, and I'd sit on the linoleum–beige background with little spots of primary colors–and watch her. She wore an apron over her shirtwaist dress, her hands were in rhythmic and constant motion, and she always talked or sang while she worked. Dad always stood around and watched, too. Anything that involved a tool, he thought he had dominion over.

With one hand, Mama would push meat down in the chalice-like cylinder at the top, one clump after another, and with the other hand, she'd turn the crank around and around, and the instrument ground up the meat and regurgitated it through an opening in the front, forming a big pile of pinkish-brown jumble on the counter.

Then Mama would stick her hands down in the muddle of meat and diced potatoes, scoop up some, form a ball, smack it between her hands to form one patty at a time, then fry them all in Crisco in a cast iron skillet. We'd plop ketchup on top and eat them. It wasn't the best dish Mama made, just the most memorable . . . other than the time she coated chicken parts in sugar instead of flour for frying. Hash probably took the longest to make and had the most items to wash up afterwards.

The parts of the grinder eventually rusted, and Mama gave it to Iva Lou across the street to put in a yard sale. Thus, another piece of my childhood–gone. My own children have never seen an old-fashioned meat grinder, nor do they have a clue what hash is.

Son #1 passed a warning to me, along with his definition. "Mama, if you're gonna write a story, you need to know the definitions of the words you're using."

Amid snickers, his voice skewed sideways, as he told his wife that his mother was writing a story about making hash–cluck, cluck, chuckle.

"Ask her if she knows what it is," I said. "Ask her."

"Do you know what hash is?" he said.

"Yes, corned beef hash, I know exactly what it is," she said.

It's not a generation gap. It's a gender gap.

© Kathy Rhodes
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