Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We need Mom and Grandma's advice.....

Lately I've been thinking about Mom and Grandma. My grandparents raised four children through the Depression and Dust Bowl years. Grandpa helped, of course, but worked 12 and 16 hour days to support his family so most of the feeding and caretaking fell to Grandma. She learned to be a creative cook, to fix nourishing meals that would stretch and stretch to feed a hungry husband and children. The Depression was a struggle, but I wonder if it wasn't easier to survive then compared to now. They lived in town but raised a few chickens for meat and eggs. There were no laws then forbidding citizens from raising chickens inside the city limits, and the neighbors didn't complain because they were busy raising their own chickens or geese or ducks.
Grandma bought her flour and cornmeal from the local mill, a few pennies a pound. Since flour was cheap, she made her own bread and sliced it thick.

Beef steak, hot dogs, hamburgers, pork chops, veal and other luxuries were not on their menu. Digestible protein came in the form of navy beans and corn bread or chicken and home made noodles, or eggs fixed in ways most of us today have never eaten. Grandma and Grandpa dug dandelion greens for salad, sliced onion over that, then poured a tasty mixture of sugar, vinegar, and hot bacon grease over it.

Mom raised four kids mostly on her own after divorcing our dad in the early fifties. Even for several years before that she had to rob a few coins from his pocket at night to feed their children. She followed in her mother's frugal footsteps. Have you ever had creamed eggs on toast made from scratch?? Food for the gods. Her home made egg noodles or dumplings were the best I've ever eaten. Like her mother before her, she could stretch one fat hen and the broth forever, or so it seemed back then. Our protein was derived from the cheapest sources back then -- chickens raised in our own yard, eggs, navy beans, corn bread -- and our greens were from dandelions, onion tops, stinging nettles and leaf lettuce grown in the garden in season.

So I was thinking we should do that now, and we would, if eggs were not nearly three dollars a dozen and milk four dollars a gallon and corn meal and flour double what they cost a year ago. Thank God we don't have young children to feed. We can tighten and tighten and tighten our belts without harming anyone. Our cutting back on spending at the grocery store won't cause bankruptcy for the grocers and distributors who control the ever rising prices. But multiply us by a million, ten million, and grocers and distributors will begin to share the pinch started by gasoline prices.

Mom and her parents didn't whine. They just did what they could to keep their children fed. They sacrificed, back in the day when few people were rich, including politicians. We need their wise advice on cutting corners. If they were still alive, maybe President Bush or whoever follows him could appoint them to advise the struggling low income families who can't afford groceries at today's prices. They could teach people how to plant a garden, how to raise healthy chickens, how to harvest dandelion greens.


AstonWest said...

But the trick would also be for getting people who can't afford to pay for things like groceries to give up the "necessities" like cable television, cell phones, internet, etc...

Laurel Johnson said...

Yes, you are right. The reason frugality worked for Mom and Grandma was because they had no luxuries. They made clothes for themselves and their kids out of feed sacks, wore the same shoes for years and years and years and had them resoled instead of buying new ones. Had one good dress they wore on Sunday, to funerals, or weddings. They didn't smoke, drink, go out to eat. And of course, there was no such thing as the internet, TV, or cell phones. It was easier to be poor then than it is now.

tom said...

Loved your thoughts and often wonder about trying to live the way my parents did. We were raised on beans and I still love to eat them--pinto beans, not those nasty navy beans (you heard me)--but beans are not my friend. Besides the usual evening singalong that follows beanery, there are other, less desirable endings, thanks to bad guts. Too bad, because beans are cheap, wholesome and delicious, especially when served with green chiles or salsa.
The dandelions and natural greens I'll leave to you. In fact, looking out at our yard I see a great many dandelions growing, even flowering. Come on over and pick all you want.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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