Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ersatz

Mom and Aunt Grace.
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.
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 . . .
Raised during the Depression years, Mom 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.
She often spoke of 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 practice 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't tell my kids . . .

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8 comments:

  1. Well, when the ketchup is so thick it won't come out of the bottle, you need to add SOMETHING to it :)

    I love the stories about the pepper and the peanut butter!! And finer-mouthed is a wonderful term . . . we know that one here, too . . .

    ReplyDelete
  2. My Grandma used to make that same sandwich filling - ground up roast with pickles and mayo. We just had a family reunion and my aunt made a huge batch of those sandwiches. We were fighting over them, remembering Grandma with each treasured bite. My aunt had to make more the next day.
    I loved this!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Finer-mouthed is a delightful term.
    And yes, I grew up in a household where we used and reused and improvised. Some times sucessfully and other times less so.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've made sandwich spread out of the heal of a roast or a piece of ham....we all thought it was gourmet food.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've had my frugal moments, softening the good brand of peanut butter along with the cheap brand and mixing the two until well disguised for instance, livening up the cheap brand tinned baked beans with a pinch of mustard and sliced frankfurts, but never thought of grinding the cold roast beef to make sandwich spread. I did slice it very thinly though, these days you can buy it like that and it's called shaved beef (or ham).

    ReplyDelete
  6. My grandmother was also incredibly frugal. She grew up during the depression and her family was quite poor. She worked an entire summer to provide food for her family most of which was lost when their house flooded. It was heartbreaking. Weekends In Maine

    ReplyDelete
  7. My mother, one of ten, always loved fresh, crusty bread. When they were little they only had fresh bread on Saturday... the rest of the week it was a day old.
    "Chewy." was the worst thing she could ever say about a sandwich.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh yes, we often put water in the ketchup. My mom, waste not, want not, taught me well. Before squeeze bottles, it was impossible to get that last 1/8 of the ketchup out of the glass container unless a spoonful for water was added.

    ReplyDelete

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