When I was a kid, I imagined this can floating in the sulpheric atmosphere of Dante's inferno, circling the drain of sin and despair before landing with a gelatinous thwock in front of the devil himself.
And yet, this very thing was my mother's dinnertime staple. Any time I received an invitation to a slumber party or asked permission to attend the school rollerskating parties there it was. That blue can of potential indigestion mocked me from its stove-side perch next to Mom's favorite T-Fal frying pan. Sometimes Mom would make it extra inedible, served with a side of overboiled cabbage leaves. Sometimes she bought the Mary's Kitchen variety, with suspiciously crunchy potato bits dotting the mystery meat. The presentation often depended on how keen Mom was on my eagerness to escape the house.
My schoolmates were of no help, either. Some actually enjoyed canned corn beef! They had happy stories of how their mothers would prepare a big skillet full of corned beef hash with eggs on top. Others had stories of a family cook making the dish from scratch. None of these mental images made sense to me, with my innards churning and sheer will holding off rapid fire flatulence.
I escaped that dungeon of slimey, Grade D beef product in my late teens, and never consumed canned corned beef - or its hash variety cousin - again. I avoided green cabbage too, for good measure. When I married, my mother-in-law thought it would be nice to bring us a homemade dinner of gołąbki (that's Polish for "cooked beef snuggled up in a cabbage leaf blanket", in case you didn't know). I gagged and made embarrassing pre-projectile vomit noises in between apologies and dodging the bowl in which the offending food was placed. My husband was having none of this. He scooped up a mouthful-sized portion of that gołąbki and simply breathed "Just try it. You will like it. I promise" - and when I paused - "Justeatit!"
Huh. Well. Not bad.
My mother-in-law really is a stellar cook.
But I still can't eat canned corn beef and over-boiled cabbage.
My 15 year old and I were discussing this chain of events the other day. I like to bring up stories about my life to remind my children what a cushy life they live. When I revealed my mother's culinary torture device and it's convenient easy-open lid, she had a confused look on her face. Then she turned to me and said:
"So when Grandma made this for you ... did she write SUFFER in ketchup on your plate?"
I knew I liked that kid.