Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Monday, November 10, 2014

Make Do

Mom and Aunt Grace. 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.
Back to my friend's story . . .
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.
I know I would have been tempted.
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.

P.S. I've been known to put water in the ketchup, too. Don' tell my kids . . .

9 comments:

  1. This is the reason children should never be allowed to watch while dinner/lunch is being prepared.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I make that meat spread myself with beef or pork or chicken...it's all good. The hubs and daughter think it's gourmet cooking. Shhh.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Finer-mouthed" - An excellent term! My family just called it picky/fussy. Which gave me a bit of a complex. Oops, I've said too much! And then I was blessed with an even finer-mouthed child. Karma.

    My mouth is watering just reading about the roast beef sandwich spread. Mmm ...

    ReplyDelete
  4. How about watering down the salad dressing? Or the 8 or 9 cans of water added to the frozen OJ to give it that flat urine specimen appearance and flavor of just a hint of orange. Or, even better, I stopped in to visit Mom and Dad at lunchtime. Mom put another can of water in the soup and rationed out the (2) slices of bologna into (4) sandwiches. I bought myself a hamburger on the way home.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mom loved the powdered milk and we kids hated it but that was what we got. I didn't know milk came from a cow until I was about 7, I just assumed it came from a box! I have a whole email list to catch up on! I see your brother's comment about the flat urine specimen and yes I remember that too!

    ReplyDelete
  6. See, your mum's tricks actually sound kind of appetizing. I'll have to write a full post to describe our mother's version of "cooking." :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Waste not - want not was a phrase I often heard as well! And now I hear it coming out of my own mouth...

    ReplyDelete
  8. My mum used to open up the big jar of peanut butter, we called it peanut paste then, and stir it up from top to bottom with the biggest kitchen spoon, every single time, that way the bottom was never too dry to spread. We had big seven pound tins of jam and vegemite too. Flour was bought by the sackful, I think they were five or ten pound sacks and each time we used any we had to strain it through a sieve in case there were weevils.
    A large pot of soup was stretched to last a week by the daily addition of water and either cabbage or potato, by the end of the week it really was awful.
    In later years mum economised by keeping all leftovers in the fridge even to the point of uneaten meat in sandwiches. We always refused lunch when we visited, because most of the leftovers weren't fit to be eaten, yet she'd cooked them up into what she called "savoury mince".

    ReplyDelete
  9. My mom grew up during the Depression so she's always been quite frugal. She will never open a new box of cereal, for instance, if there are others open, whether it's a different kind or not.

    The pepper story really cracked me up! (No pun intended!)

    ReplyDelete

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