I worked in a small-town grocery story throughout high school. It was more like play since I worked with my friends and boyfriend. After we closed for the day, I would get on the loud speaker and sing the Sound of Music soundtrack. After the money was counted, the products were “faced,” and the floors were swept and buffed, we would go hang out in the parking lot to bitch, dream, and listen to Pantera. I think back to those days with surprising clarity: the fluorescent lights, the butcher, the red aprons (and later, the red polos), grimy hands from handling money, freezing hands from facing the dairy case, sore hands from facing the 12-packs of soda. My boss’ brown teeth stubs, and the way he would swagger while holding his styrofoam spit cup. Jealousy when a cute girl would come in to visit my boyfriend. Heartache for the person whose check wouldn’t clear. The inbred family, whose arrival would set off a chain of preventative measures, including locking the bathroom doors. One time they removed jelly jar lids, then stuck their tongues in the jar to sample each flavor. Or so that was a piece of our small-town lore.
I would rarely leave for my lunch break (it was called “lunch” even if it really was supper), so I would just pick something from the store. Lunchables, frozen burritos, pizza rolls, or Dinty Moore chicken and dumplings. I would go through the cool cashier’s line in order to get a substantial discount.
I have no idea what provoked me that first time I tried chicken and dumplings; I had never had them at home. It was probably just plain curiosity—balls of dough in a gelatinous substance. Who wouldn’t be intrigued? Surprisingly I liked them and they became my supper of choice. Along with a Pepsi and York peppermint patty, of course.
Fast forward 10 years and Dinty Moore and chicken and dumplings still are synonymous in my head. Last night I made strides to correct that.
I used this recipe. It’s in my Best Chicken Recipe cookbook, which adds this handy tip: do steps 1–3 on day 1, and finishing up takes only 20 minutes on day 2. Putting the stew together went very well. I was a little nervous the dumplings wouldn’t cook through, but I just followed the instructions and they were fabulous. I can’t wait to eat some leftovers!