A Bowl of Stew

By Marc Dion

March 13, 2017 4 min read

I had a bowl of stew for dinner tonight. It was the old-fashioned kind of stew. Meat. Potatoes. Carrots. Onions. Mushrooms. My wife made it in the crockpot.

My mother never used mushrooms in her stew. She did, however, throw in a handful of frozen green peas at the end of the cooking.

"Makes it more colorful," she would say.

My Scots-Irish grandmother made it with neither mushrooms nor peas, and she used a much cheaper stew meat than my mother bought or than my wife buys today.

My French grandmother didn't use mushrooms or peas, but she'd use beef heart and lung as the meat if they were available and cheaper than stew beef.

I know how to make stew like that, though no one taught me. I just kind of absorbed how to make stew, sucked it in with the meat juices.

Back in the '70s, when I was a kid, I couldn't understood the flap over women working. The women in my family always worked. Both my grandmothers worked in cotton mills. The women in the mills sucked tuberculosis into their lungs and died young.

My mother worked in a bank. My wife is a reporter.

My French grandmother was illiterate. My Scots-Irish grandmother finished grade school. My mother got one year of teachers college. My wife has a four-year degree.

My French grandmother was a socialist. She lived in America for 67 years and never learned to speak English. Four of her boys served in World War II, two of them in combat.

My mother was sexually harassed on a job she had, back in the '50s. She drove one of her spiked heels into his instep.

"He screamed," she said when she told me. "Like a little kid."

My French grandmother once hit a mill boss with a metal dipper because she went to get a drink and found dead cockroaches floating in the water. She was fired on the spot. She ended up on a blacklist of intractable women, but she could always get a job.

"You just gave a different name at the next job," he said to me in French. "We were all the same to them."

She told me that, when she worked under a false name, some of the other women in the mill might know her real name, but not one of them ever ratted her out to a boss.

Yes. The women in my family always worked, mostly for men, most often for less than the other men in the building. The newspaper where my wife and I work is union, and we receive the same amount of pay because we both do the same work.

My wife's name is Deborah. Her work nickname is "Lady MacDeath" because she has covered so many murders. She sometimes wears wardrobe items involving sequins, and enjoys looking at pictures of cats on the internet.

All four of these women made stew for me, something I wear like a medal. Four women. Four pairs of hands slicing potatoes. Four kinds of perfume, two languages, heart and lung and beef and good, rich broth.

All of them worked, all of them strove and argued and just plain talked back.

What did I do to celebrate Women's Day?

I ate a bowl of stew made by four strong women, each of them adding an ingredient over more than 100 years.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's book, "King of the World on $15 an Hour" is a collection of his columns. It is available for Nook and Kindle.

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