“Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer” on the Stereo, and Tex-Mex Enchiladas on the Table for Dad and Me!

| August 20, 2010 | 13 Comments
“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”
— Anne Sexton

My father loved food as much as I do. He also loved music, fishing and his family. I asked my two older sisters, who enjoyed much more time with him than I, for their recollections. Marlene, my senior sis, the oldest since we’re all technically “seniors”, wrote: “The things I remember about the food he liked is that there was nothing he would not eat. Remember, this was the Depression era.

“I remember having pickled pigs feet, brains and eggs, which we all liked. He did like catsup on his eggs. Every night before going to bed he had a bowl of cereal. He also liked to cook breakfast in the park, Samuel [Grand Park], that is, which was bacon, eggs, toast, on a camp stove. That’s as close as our family got to camping.”

Marlene did grow up in the Depression; I was spared that experience.

Wanda remembers him loving all food too, especially raw oysters, liver and onions, meatloaf and, ta-da, enchiladas at Brownies Restaurant on East Grand Avenue.

Dad, strutting in his best in downtown Big D

Dad, Father, Daddy, Pops, Papa, Pappy. I wonder which term of endearment I might have selected for Daddy, as I called him, had he remained with us as I grew into adulthood. At 12, I was already beginning to become a little uncomfortable calling him Daddy. My opportunity to choose was snapped away, leaving me confounded with many unresolved issues in our relationship. Life and death never ask your permission, and although impending death sometimes leaves hints and warnings, they are without guarantees. Death does have a sweet side under some circumstances. When our mother was dying, we had the gift of several months to leave our denial behind and lovingly care for her, recall memories with her, laugh with her, cry with her, say goodbyes, and share rich, very rich, quality time with her for the last time. For me, her last breath was a sweet sigh of closure without regrets.

We all have our “issues” or dragons, as I sometimes call them, along with our blessings. I was blessed with a family who loved, and that made all the difference. The issues, well, your choice is to live with them or conquer them. New issue: My father is gone…..for good…..no goodbyes….dead…deal with it! Enter love. Love was the glue that held it all together while we healed. Love is as it is and that is enough. And…it is whatever you think you need at any given time. PS - it often comes to you in disguise too.

My sisters had their own families to keep them occupied during their grieving, but my mother and I came home daily to the same home where Geoffrey Lavoid Price had resided. It was quite a long time before my mother would deal with disposing of his clothing and deciding which personal items would have lingering sentimental value - not an easy task. I remember prizing his “Eisenhower” jacket and cowboy boots that I would have to wait to wear until they fit. The only thing I still have and prize is an unorganized coin collection and a shoeshine box. A Griffin Shinemaster, one with the handle crafted into a tilted platform to hold a shoed foot in place while you shined away.

My father did have a full set of names. I’m guessing that Geoffrey was unusual to the family to the extent that they called him “Jah-free” instead of “Jeff-rey”. Neither my sisters nor I recall where the name “Lavoid” came from.

There were the expected comments from well meaning friends and relatives that now I was the big man and my mother would be depending on me. I already knew that my responsibility would shift but, truth be known, I wasn’t a big man nor ready to be one. My mother had taught me to always open doors for women, so I was already primed to look great when I had to be her diminutive escort. Somehow it all worked out, as difficult situations tend to do. I played the chivalrous role easily once I learned how much pleasure it brought to others. (My, how times have changed.)

“Daddy” is now Dad to me because I’m making it so. My memories of quality time with him are few but rich. I remember climbing up in his lap at the end of his workday, begging him to read the “funny papers” to me. I recall a fleeting moment of being held or carried into the doctor’s office for some kind of treatment. Probably for one of my frequent sore throats. I remember that moment because I was accidentally burned from a cigarette he was holding. Nothing serious.

Me and Dad, c. 1953

Probably the most special were the outings I took with him on his days off or on Saturdays. These would often include a stop at a local café where he would enjoy a cold beer at the bar. The café was always cold in the summer from “Refrigerated Air,” as air conditioning was advertised in those days. I would climb up on the bar stool next to him and wait patiently for a server to come take our order. He always asked for the same thing: a cold beer, a glass, and a pickled pig’s foot. I could have whatever soft drink I wanted, usually a Coke or root beer. After pouring some beer into his glass, he would sprinkle some salt into the palm of his hand and then carefully drop a few grains onto the beer. I was mesmerized at how they slowly descended to the bottom of the glass while leaving a steady trail of bubbles going back to the top. Those little grains of salt kept sending bubbles up for a long time. (It doesn’t take much of a show to amuse a 6- to 7-year-old.) I could have had a pig’s foot if I wanted one, but knowing what it was and how scary it looked, I always passed. Boy, my dad sure liked them; they grabbed his attention something fierce. Turns out it takes concentration to get to the good parts around the bones.

Sammy's Café and Lounge on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas, Texas

It was at this café that I had my first taste of beer. I got only one taste on each visit. My dad said something about beer not being good for children. I liked it and fully recalled those early tastes when I was old enough (or old enough by my judgment) to drink a whole beer. If my mother knew about those outings, we both would have been in deep trouble. I’m guessing age would have taken the heaviest hit of anger.

Our family attended the local Southern Baptist Church. My mother taught Sunday School and my father served as one of the deacons who helped run the service and collect the offering. He would then disappear to help count the money while my mother and I endured the ever-crescendoing provincial pontifications of our preacher, who went on and on. Every once in a while he would interject the word Gaw…….Duh with such an emphasis on the “Duh” that it shook me back to reality. I’ll bet he could outlast the Energizer Bunny any day. It was here that I worked diligently on my daydreaming abilities.

By strict standards, Dad wasn’t a very good Baptist. He would have been a perfect Episcopalian, a church that believes in a proper happy hour. I do value him more as a man than did our minister, who actually stood in front of our family and cruelly judged him at his funeral.

“Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer” is a song made famous by Bessie Smith in the 1930s and didn’t become part of my awareness until sometime in the 1970s, after I heard a recording by Cleo Laine. The very first time I heard it, I thought of my early sneak-outs with Dad. Including it in the title of this blog article seemed like the perfectly natural thing to do. My dad loved music and probably tapped his toe to this song. He loved watching Lawrence Welk, especially when Pete Fountain or Jo Ann Castle performed. Nothing got his toes tapping more than some lively Dixieland jazz or ragtime piano. I often wonder if he had any inkling about my proclivity toward music.

When I was about 6 or 7, I asked if he would teach me how to drive a car. He asked me how I would push the pedals, shift the gears, turn the wheel and see the road all at the same time. Already being highly resourceful, I suggested teamwork: He would man all the pedal work and shifting, while I took command of the steering wheel. That was my first driving lesson. Much later, when I was tall enough to reach the pedals and see (barely) at the same time, he would actually let me drive on isolated country roads. By the time I was ready for a driver’s license, I was already an accomplished driver. My friends were envious and impressed at the same time.

There were fishing outings from time to time where I learned a great deal about patience. Fishing in the lakes around Dallas, Texas didn’t provide us with any prize winners, but we often came home with enough perch or sunfish to make a tasty dinner.

Marlene married before I even started school. She wed her long-time school sweetheart, Bill Butts, who became my brother-in-law on May 31, 1952, exactly 24 hours after her high school graduation. He promptly whisked my sister off to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he was attending Centenary College. Shreveport is about a 4-hour drive from Dallas, and we frequently spent Saturdays and Sundays visiting them. Bill loved fishing too and there was plenty of that. He frequently took us to Lake Bistineau, just east of Shreveport. This was a peaceful, shallow lake with moss-laden cypress trees, much like the lakes and swamps in Pogo. We invariably came home with a string of fish fit for a sumptuous repast.

On one occasion, we were maneuvering from one spot to another and a fish hook became lodged in the crook of my left arm. I stared at the worm-threaded hook with horror. My dad soon brandished what looked like the largest Bowie knife I have ever seen (horror x 2) and commented that since the hook was just a little bit below the surface of the skin, a little nick would release it. I’ll never know how serious he was, but I screamed, “Not if I can help it!” and scampered up the nearest tall tree to safety. Only when I felt reassured that we would place the removal of the hook in the hands of a professional did I come down. We drove to the nearest place for medical help and all was righted. You would have thought I had earned a Purple Heart – I milked that injury all the way back to school the next week and beyond.

Bill and Marlene often took care of me in the absence of my parents, even before they married. In a way, they were surrogate parents, never afraid to give advice and discipline along with warm familial loving. I adore them for that to this day.

No less worthy of my love and affection is my sister Wanda, six years my senior. As a matter of fact, a six-year gap separates each from the next. Wanda and I were just close enough in age for me to be a thorn in her side, and we spent much of our early years as each other’s nemesis. I think it’s called sibling rivalry. Our shared love and appreciation blossomed while we were both caring for our mother in her last months. We developed a closeness that will last the rest of our lives.

It was obvious to me at an early age that I wouldn’t be the next Mickey Mantle or any other hurly-burly male role model. I took it as perfectly natural. It was when peer pressure to join with sports began that I felt much discomfort. One night I gave in and joined a neighborhood softball game, shaking in fear that I would be laughed out of the yard with my ineptness. Who would have thought that when I came to bat I would stare down that ball and hit it clear over Mrs. Darby’s roof on the other side of the alley? Jaws dropped, but none farther than my own. Now I’ve done it, I’ve set a bar that I’ll never be able to live up to again, or so my mind said. It was years before I got it that I had created my own metaphor for success.

My own emotional security was still shaky. Something wasn’t right or the way I wanted between me and my dad. I was acting out ways to get his approval, but something in my mind told me I was letting him down and he was ashamed of me. I didn’t know what “gay” meant, but I did sense that I wasn’t growing into the son he wanted, and I felt ashamed.

One day soon after that neighborhood ballgame, I took a shovel and some loose bricks out of our garage and made a small, primitive, baseball diamond in our backyard and asked him if he would play some ball with me. I realize now that I didn’t want to play ball as much as I wanted more of him. I can’t remember much about his abilities, but I was far from average and the thrill of baseball never set in. We did, however, enjoy watching the sport.

Flash forward to 1989, more that 30 years after my father passed on. I’m enjoying the movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster and Amy Madigan. In one of the final scenes, when Ray Kinsella’s father appears on the field, I could feel air moving through my body, a lightness that I couldn’t control and, as the tears came, I was trying hard to just cry softly, but my body wanted to let go and sob, just weep and let go with the feelings. Soon the credits are finished rolling and in the middle of the screen small letters appeared: For Our Parents. “They made this movie just for me!” I thought while recalling my juvenile field I had built for my father decades earlier.

Geoffrey Lavoid Price

Around my birthday in 1985, I signed on for a two-weekend personal development course called More To Life, then called The Life Training. The first issue that came up for me was my father. I was riddled with resentment for all sorts of things, including his dying. Believe me, you can resent someone for innocently leaving you by way of death. I worked and worked on this and refused to give up. It would be another twelve years of work before I experienced a complete breakthrough, and the weight of all that ill will dissolved in a split second. On that fall day in 1997, the photo of him I always recall in my mind appeared, only this time with a caption — I deserve a loving place in your heart. And so, Dad, you have it.

What would I prepare for my dad to eat if I could have that opportunity? I think he would love some Tex-Mex Cheese and Onion Enchiladas and a cold cerveza.

Tex-Mex Enchiladas in Baking Dish

Tex-Mex Cheese and Onion Enchiladas

Inspired and adapted from a recipe clipped from Saveur Magazine

For the chile sauce:

  1. 1 quart (1 lt.) vegetable or chicken stock
  2. 4 large ancho chiles
  3. 1-2 small chipotle chiles (optional - leave out for milder sauce)
  4. ⅔ of a large yellow onion, chopped
  5. 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  6. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) all-purpose flour
  7. 4 teaspoons (20 ml.) cumin, ground
  8. 1½ teaspoons (7.5 ml.) dried Mexican oregano
  9. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  10. Vegetable or corn oil
  • Roast the chiles on a comal or in a dry frying pan for just a few minutes. (Too long and they become bitter.) Here’s a short video from www.chow.com on roasting chiles.
  • Remove stems and seeds and tear chiles into smaller pieces.
  • Place the chiles and stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chiles are soft and tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Heat 2-3 tablespoons (30-45 ml.) of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onions and sauté while stirring often until they soften, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender or food processor along with the chiles, 1 cup (240 ml.) of the stock and garlic, and blend/process to a smooth paste.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
  • Add the chile paste, cumin and oregano and the remaining cooking liquid.
  • Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
  • Keep warm.

Tex-Mex Cheese and Onion Enchiladas served over Spanish Rice and Avocado

For the enchiladas and assembly:

  1. 12 corn tortillas
  2. ¾ pound (340 gr.) Monterey jack or cheddar cheese, grated
  3. 1 cups (360 ml.) corn or vegetable oil
  4. 1½ large yellow onions, chopped
  • Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
  • Heat the oil in a deep skillet until hot but not smoking.
  • Fry the tortillas quickly for about 2-3 seconds, holding them down in the oil with the aid of two tongs.
  • Dip them into the chile sauce until coated and place on a large plate.
  • Sprinkle about ¼ cup (60 ml.) of the cheese on the bottom third of the tortilla, along with a generous scattering of onions.
  • Roll up the tortilla and place, seam side down, in a baking dish large enough to hold 12 enchiladas.
  • Spoon the remaining chile sauce over enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cheese and onions.
  • Bake until cheese melts, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Enjoy with a nice cold beer of your choice, or iced tea if you’re a teetotaler.

Bon appétit

— Charles

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Category: Tex-Mex Cheese and Onion Enchiladas, Vegetarian

About the Author (Author Profile)

Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities

Comments (13)

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  1. Marlene says:

    Charles, You are a tribute to our family. I love you very much and thoroughly enjoyed your blog about our father. It was eloquently written. Thank you for it.

  2. Jill says:

    Charles, Rosi passed this article along to me. I felt a kinship while reading this as I lost my father and his love of food is legendary. He would have loved your enchiladas. Thank you for your story. It touched my heart.

  3. Karen Stafford says:

    Charles, what a pleasure it was to read your thoughts and perceptions about your father and your relationship with him. Never having the opportunity to meet him is one of the few regrets of my life, as my mother was pregnant with me when he died. My only possessions of him are a print of the portrait you include in this blog and a 1958 ashtray (the year of his death and the year of my birth), given to me by Mema. Apparently it was part of a stop-smoking campaign, or at least that was the story I was told. Thank you for this glimpse of him. And congratulations for your hard work to move past some of those old barriers to a more peace-filled mind.

    Throughout the years, I have always enjoyed your visits to whereever we lived. I wish we could see you more often!

    Love, Karen

  4. Gail says:

    So beautifully written, Charles. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Well, my dearest friend, I’m in tears after reading your beautifully-written and very candid remembrance of your father, your childhood and your loving family! Thank you for being willing to share those memories, painful and joyous, with so many of us who love you dearly!


  6. Tina Martin says:

    You are a wonderful writer, my friend. Your childhood memories flickered like a movie in my mind. And I love, LOVE, the pictures. They are priceless treasures.

  7. Byron James says:

    Thanks for the good words about your father… my grandfather. I was three years old when he died. I have no concrete memories of him, but I do feel like I knew him and that memory is like waking up from a dream and not being able to remember what it was about, but also wanting to remember because it was good. That has been frustrating for me. Your words made me think about the special bond between father and son, and how it is sometimes difficult to get past all the generational differences and the hard work it takes to understand your father as a person, and sometimes more importantly, as he was as a boy. My father broke a lot of negative patterns and passed on a generous legacy for me and my sisters. I also treasure my relationship with you as my only uncle, and sometimes our relationship has been more like brothers than uncle and nephew. I wish I could see you more as the years advance.

  8. Mika Webb says:

    You knew I would take a few days to read this…I had the opportunity to grow up with my father, yet still lost him too soon. They are precious in ways we do not always appreciate, until too late, or we wish we had let them know even more when we had the chance, only as we all know, we are not always warned when a loved one will be taken from us. I still feel robbed in a way, I am sure it is beacuse it is still so fresh. I strongly believe, having been allowed the opportunity to work with and get to know you, that you Daddy is looking down on you proudly. You are one of the kindest and most gracious people I know.I know that he can see beyond what we can here. I am sure he knows that you have grown into a wonderful man. Lord, I swear i can hear that southern preachers drawl like he was speaking in my living room while reading this, haahaa. Thank you for sharing…

  9. Marilyn Ellis says:


    So very well written. The way you tied it to food was quite unique and refreshing. You should write a book about your life. I, of course, would be one of the most central figures, but I digress. Family relationships are sometimes hard, but such an integral part of who we are. It’s been a pleasure to have you as part of my family unit, and I agree with my siblings, we don’t see nearly enough of you.

  10. John Coats says:

    What a beautifully written, moving essay and tribute-a gift to your father, yourself, and to all of us with sweet memories of our fathers. My own dad grew up in Dallas; I wonder if he and your father crossed paths. My dad was also a fallen Baptist. At his funeral, however, the preacher did just the opposite, going on about how “Brother Coats” had been such a fine Christian man, loved church…..” Which might have been tolerable had it been just a family thing, but so many of his old miscreant pals were in attendance. So when I got up to speak for the family, I opened with something like “As I listened, I kept asking myself, ‘Who the hell is he talking about?'” His buddies laughed out loud. One of them told me later, “I thought about shootin’ that sumbitch (the preacher).”
    Thanks for helping me to remember being in my dad’s lap holding the steering wheel as he worked the pedals and gears of the pickup. And I remember going fishing with him and playing catch. I, too, wept, lost it really, at the same moment in Field of Dreams (as did most of the men in the theater). Dad was still alive and I went to see him right away.
    Thanks for this.

  11. Suzi White says:

    Charles, what a wonderful tribute to your father. While reading it, I felt I was reliving the memories with you. By the end, I too, was in tears. Not only thinking of my own losses, but of yours and how it must have felt to grow up without your Daddy. The writing was very vivid and emotional. Keep writing and I will definately be back to read more.
    Thank you..

  12. Glen Lavoid McILvain says:

    Well Charles I have very much injoyed learning more about my Grandfather, it seems as though we realy do have a lot of the same likes in life as he did,and I can understand more now why I was named after him. I hope I have made him poud of me, and have carried his name well.As the years go by I also can see my taste in food differant,and cultures I can appriciate my Uncle Charles more.
    I wish Charles you my mother,could make a trip with me to China, if I can make this Happen I will. Think about it . Love Ya Uncle Charles Glen Good Story about Grandad and you Frather, im sure he proud of you.

  13. Wanda Jones says:

    I too missed this , why I do not know. You wrote it so very well. I remember Daddy so fondly. I was his Tomboy. I too remember so many fun things about him. I reflect on those memories often. I could not have written it quite as well as you did. We had such a good childhood due to our parents. Wish we truly could be closer so as to enjoy more time together.

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