By Bill Mead
Columnist Emeritus 

Nothing can get in the way of the next meal

The Overall Picture


June 23, 2018

Today, We Honor The Overall Man Classic Bill Mead

Reprinted with permission from Tehachapi Lifestyle Magazine, April 2014 issue.

I never thought I was fixated on food until my daughter Maggie's husband, Arch, expressed dismay over our family's tendency to discuss the dinner menu while still eating lunch. That's pretty much how everybody was during my growing-up years in the cornbelt. Partly that was because grocery stores didn't sell a lot of ready-to-cook meals back then.

Nearly everything had to be made from scratch. We didn't have access to a lot of frozen foods either. It wasn't until after World War II that the freezer part of home refrigerators offered room for more than a quart of ice cream and a tray of ice cubes. In those days, feeding a family took a lot more planning than it does today. It's no wonder we still talk about dinner over the lunch table.

Today's young people have no way of knowing how primitive grocery shopping was up until the mid-20th century. Even I tend to forget how seasonal many commodities were in the days before refrigeration became so universal. Home freezers were still off in the future. My dad rented a frozen food locker in town in which we stored a quarter of beef, half a hog and whatever catfish we had left over from our summer trips to the lake.

I still remember rushing home to tell my mother that a batch of Great Lakes whitefish had arrived at the A&P, frozen in a block of ice dumped on the front sidewalk by the deliveryman. Since A&P had no frozen food cases, you had to get there quickly before the ice melted and all the fish were gone.

Although my wife and I grew up in homes a couple of thousand miles apart, we share remarkably similar views when it comes to meal-planning. We think and talk a lot about our forthcoming cuisine. Not that we banquet three times a day. Proving we aren't gastronomic snobs, we can put away frozen waffles without a squawk when the occasion demands but we also believe that taking nourishment shouldn't be considered a mere survival strategy.

We don't apologize for considering meal time to be a sensual experience as well. I know there are people who give little or no thought to the kind or the quality of food they eat and I pity them. They are clearly in the minority, however, based on the number of cooking shows on TV.

Napoleon once said an army travels on its stomach. That goes for us, too. When we head out in our Winnebago we don't leave our dining standards at home. As an example, our frequent mini-vacations in San Diego are highlighted by visits to our favorite restaurants and food stores.

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Typically, our first act once the motorhome is hooked up is a mad dash for Trader Joe's in Pacific Beach to lay in what we call "grazing" foods, which are items that don't require cooking, such as specialty breads, cheeses, cooked shrimp, smoked salmon, sausages, exotic salads ... hey, I'm getting hungry again.

For serious repasts, we make a beeline for Mission Valley and the Iowa Meats Farms, an incredible butcher shop straight out of the 1930s that features corn-fed beef and pork shipped in from the heartland. While other San Diego visitors take in Sea World, and Balboa Park Zoo, you'll find us picking out well marbled New York steaks at Iowa Meat Farms.

Cholesterol? Get outta here.

If you don't know Bill: Bill Mead was the longtime publisher of the Tehachapi News, along with Betty Mead, his wife and partner of more than 50 years. Known for his keen wit, which could be gentle or scathing or somewhere in between but was often self-deprecatory, Bill's writing won him a wide following among News readers. His column "The Overall Picture" ran in the News for more than 25 years, and in 1999 he published a collection of his columns in a volume entitled The Napa Valley Outhouse War. His book is currently available for sale at the Tehachapi Museum for $10.

Bill had a remarkable mind and because of his intelligence, humor and appearance he was regarded by many as Tehachapi's Mark Twain. As Betty used to remind him, he was "older than the oldest Model A Ford" and his wealth of life experiences and rural upbringing allowed him to bring a thoroughly American, 20th century perspective to his reflections and musings on the everyday. Bill passed away in 2008 but his writing lives on.


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