Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Making Do

Even on holidays . . .

A friend told me a story.
A true one.
About his grandfather during the food rationing days of the Second World War.
The friend's grandmother had been to the grocery store and purchased, among other things, a new tin of pepper.
Which she set on the table.
Her husband picked it up and studied it for a moment. He looked at her and said, “This pepper is half peas!”
“Oh, for heaven's sake!” she said. “I thought I looked at it!”
I should explain, here, that, during the war, creative ways of extending food were discovered and explored. They called it ersatz. I'm not sure where the name came from, but it was expressive. Many different readily available foodstuffs were dried and powdered and added to other foods not so easily come by. Corn meal, for example, was widely used.
The use of dried peas, though not as usual, was not unheard of.
Another can of pepper was procured the next day.
Again, the grandfather picked up the little tin.
“Huh,” he said. “This one is half peas, too.”
His wife snorted in disgust. “Well, there's only one kind left,” she said. “I'll try that one tomorrow.”
She did.
She proudly set the third little tin on the table in front of her husband and proceeded to get his dinner.
He picked up the tin and peered at it closely. “Yep,” he said. “Half peas.”
“What?! I looked at it! Where does it say . . .” her voice trailed off.
Her husband was pointing at the 'Pepper' part of the label. “Here,” he said. “See? P-E-P-P-E-R. Half of the letters are p's.”
Oh. P's. Not peas.
She didn't upend the tin over him or anything drastic like that.
But I'm sure they had pepper to last until the turn of the century.
This story reminded me of my Mom.
She was raised during the Depression years and knew very well the days of rationing and going without.
She learned very early to 'make do”.
And to purchase things quickly, when they became available.
Her parents bought a large, twenty-five pound tin of peanut butter, for example. Oil on peanut butter rises. The first two-thirds of the container were edible. The last third had to be run through a meat grinder to make it spreadable.
But they ate it.
Several large cans of cherry jam appeared at the local grocery.
Her Dad quickly snapped one up.
At first, cherry jam was a treat.
Served at every meal, it became a bit tiresome.
Still, it disappeared.
In her own home, Mom tried to practise what she had been taught throughout her life.
Waste not want not, she often told us.
Some of her attempts were successful.
Others . . . not so much.
When there was no milk cow on the place, she tried to extend the life of the milk container in the fridge by added powdered milk to it.
Fooling no one.
She tried purchasing the cheapest brand of peanut butter.
Unfortunately, her children hadn't been raised during the Depression and were finer-mouthed than their parents.
The cheaper peanut butter languished on the shelf.
Finally, in desperation, she bought the favourite kind. Which disappeared in a flash.
Coining the phrase, “I'm going to stop buying that peanut butter. You kids just eat it!”
She made her own roast beef sandwich spread by running cold roast beef through the meat grinder, along with some pickles. Then mixing in some mayonnaise.
That one was a hit. We kids loved sandwiches spread with beef and pickle hash.
I'm sure that, through the years, Mom saved our family a boatload of money with her careful ways.
Unfortunately, my children were even finer-mouthed than we had been.
One day, one of my kids saw her adding water to the ketchup.
I had seen her do that before. It made the ketchup a bit runnier, but still tasted okay.
The child was horrified and told all of his siblings.
And she became, forever, the grandma who put water in the ketchup.
The lesson in frugality and making do was completely lost.
Pity.

9 comments:

  1. BAHAHAHA! I remember the ketchup incident! I think I was the only one who would still use the ketchup after that...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wait till you read my (coming) entry on the milk cow. In the meantime, remember how she took a can of soup and put in about 4 cans of water to make enough for us? And remember the orange juice so pale that it would've failed a urine test?

    Those were the days....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I CAN'T WAIT!!! Oh, I remember the watered soup. And the slightly Tang-flavoured water. And the extra can of water in the OJ. She tried hard, our mother. I think that is the reason that I add less water to everything now. The wave correcting itself!

      Delete
  3. Been there. I'll still add a little water to the salad dressing bottle to get it all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Psst! Don't tell my kids . . . so do I!

      Delete
  4. We are such a wasteful society today, it bothers me when I waste anything but unfortunately I am not as good at it as I would like, I do keep trying;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trying is what separates us from the animals. Well, and some other things. :)

      Delete
  5. Lady, I think we can agree that children today have an innate sense of entitlement. My nana grew up in the Depression. She once told me a story about how her and her children survived one winter eating lima beans. Nana said, "If it hadn't had been for the beans, we would have starved to death." And I believed her. There was a time when all my kids and I ate was soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Would you believe it was the happiest time of our lives? The three cans of peas made me smile! You'd think that the third time would be the charm! hee hee! :)

    ReplyDelete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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