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SOURCE: http://www.latimes.com/features/food...0.story?page=1

Today, learning how to cook on a budget is becoming important to more families. In the 1930s, making do was a kitchen art, honed by necessity. Sour grass soup, anyone?



By Mary MacVean
December 10, 2008
When she was a kid, for a treat Pat Box and her seven siblings got "water cocoa," which is pretty much what it sounds like and nothing special today. But that was in the 1930s, when her father's business was reselling bakers' barrels to coopers, and the family would get first crack at them, scraping the wood for any traces of sugar or cocoa left behind.

With luck, they'd also have rye bread and fresh butter they'd buy on Brooklyn Avenue.

"It was wonderful," said Box, 87, one afternoon while she gathered with friends at the Claude Pepper Senior Center on La Cienega Boulevard, just north of the 10 Freeway.

At a time when Americans face frightening and disorienting economic uncertainty, the Great Depression provides valuable lessons. For many people, putting a meal on the table without turning to processed or takeout foods is no longer something just for a weekend dinner party but a skill they must learn. People who remember what it was like to eat during the Depression talk about thrift, growing their own, sharing with neighbors and learning to cope with what they had.

Box grew up in Boyle Heights in a time of desperate need, but no one went hungry at her family's house, though it took work and ingenuity.

Her mother baked bread and made kreplach. Her father turned flour sacks into towels to sell, and her aunt sold chickens. "You'd stick your hand in, feel for fat around the stomach" and make your choice. Her mother made pillows with the feathers.

It was a time when leftovers were planned. A roast chicken -- for Jewish Shabbat or Sunday dinner -- lasted for days, as chicken with rice, chicken and dumplings, pot pie, stew or soup or salad. Women used the wrappers on margarine to butter baking pans. People ate what they could grow or kill or find.

Be honest, now: Can anybody in your house skin a rabbit?

Know what to do with milkweed pods? (Boil them and top with grated cheese.) Get your kids to eat sour grass soup? Those recipes, from "Dining During the Depression," a collection of recipes edited by Karen Thibodeau, are unlikely to find their way into kitchens today, despite the state of the economy.

But in the 1930s, making do was a kitchen art, honed by necessity.

"In the times when the economy is really bad, it becomes an even more important question of how you're going to put food on the table for your family," says Kelly Alexander, co-author of "Hometown Appetites," a biography of the pioneering newspaper food columnist Clementine Paddleford.

"If you want to save money, you're going to have to learn to cook," Alexander says.

She says she recently saw a pot pie recipe that called for precooked pieces of chicken, a premade crust and vegetables from a salad bar -- essentially directions for assembling, not cooking. So by appealing to people who are too busy to cook or unwilling to learn, a modern version of a dish invented to make leftovers appealing becomes a collection of expensive ingredients.

Many Americans never learned to cook as they grew up, and they rely on takeout or packaged food, but dinner was a very different experience during the Depression.

Mix 'n' match soup

"We ate a lot of mashed potatoes, and I'm still hung up on mashed potatoes," says Rosalyn Weinstein, 79, pointing to an uneaten scoop on her plate. Though she does not cook much these days, she says she still makes "mix 'n' match" soup from whatever is on hand.

"Cooking is becoming a lost art," she says. "I've never been a takeout person. And I've never been a fast food person.

Joe Bagley, 81, who moved to Los Angeles during World War II, was born in Texas and raised for a time on a farm. "We were never wanting for food, but you had to raise your own," he says, adding that his family saw plenty of hungry people wandering in search of work. They'd stop at the farm, and Bagley recalls that he'd be sent inside to get whatever was there to feed them.

Though the country is not in a depression today, signs of tough times are all around.

The market is in shreds, food is pricier. A spokesman for Ralphs and Food 4 Less says more people are turning to house brands, and Albertsons has seen more sales of "stretcher" products such as Hamburger Helper, a spokeswoman says...........................
 

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I remember my mother taking saltine crackers, a little baking soda and some tomato sauce or ketchup and making them into patties. She then fried them until golden brown and served them hot. I have NO idea where she got that recipe from; but when you are hungry and have five kids to feed, you fix whatever you can.

I do remember her telling me that her uncle had a very large garden in New Jersey and all the many canned jars of food they'd put up each year and store in their basement, under the house.
 

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SOURCE: http://www.latimes.com/features/food...0.story?page=1

Today, learning how to cook on a budget is becoming important to more families. In the 1930s, making do was a kitchen art, honed by necessity. Sour grass soup, anyone?



By Mary MacVean
December 10, 2008
When she was a kid, for a treat Pat Box and her seven siblings got "water cocoa," which is pretty much what it sounds like and nothing special today. But that was in the 1930s, when her father's business was reselling bakers' barrels to coopers, and the family would get first crack at them, scraping the wood for any traces of sugar or cocoa left behind.

With luck, they'd also have rye bread and fresh butter they'd buy on Brooklyn Avenue.

"It was wonderful," said Box, 87, one afternoon while she gathered with friends at the Claude Pepper Senior Center on La Cienega Boulevard, just north of the 10 Freeway.

At a time when Americans face frightening and disorienting economic uncertainty, the Great Depression provides valuable lessons. For many people, putting a meal on the table without turning to processed or takeout foods is no longer something just for a weekend dinner party but a skill they must learn. People who remember what it was like to eat during the Depression talk about thrift, growing their own, sharing with neighbors and learning to cope with what they had.

Box grew up in Boyle Heights in a time of desperate need, but no one went hungry at her family's house, though it took work and ingenuity.

Her mother baked bread and made kreplach. Her father turned flour sacks into towels to sell, and her aunt sold chickens. "You'd stick your hand in, feel for fat around the stomach" and make your choice. Her mother made pillows with the feathers.

It was a time when leftovers were planned. A roast chicken -- for Jewish Shabbat or Sunday dinner -- lasted for days, as chicken with rice, chicken and dumplings, pot pie, stew or soup or salad. Women used the wrappers on margarine to butter baking pans. People ate what they could grow or kill or find.

Be honest, now: Can anybody in your house skin a rabbit?

Know what to do with milkweed pods? (Boil them and top with grated cheese.) Get your kids to eat sour grass soup? Those recipes, from "Dining During the Depression," a collection of recipes edited by Karen Thibodeau, are unlikely to find their way into kitchens today, despite the state of the economy.

But in the 1930s, making do was a kitchen art, honed by necessity.

"In the times when the economy is really bad, it becomes an even more important question of how you're going to put food on the table for your family," says Kelly Alexander, co-author of "Hometown Appetites," a biography of the pioneering newspaper food columnist Clementine Paddleford.

"If you want to save money, you're going to have to learn to cook," Alexander says.

She says she recently saw a pot pie recipe that called for precooked pieces of chicken, a premade crust and vegetables from a salad bar -- essentially directions for assembling, not cooking. So by appealing to people who are too busy to cook or unwilling to learn, a modern version of a dish invented to make leftovers appealing becomes a collection of expensive ingredients.

Many Americans never learned to cook as they grew up, and they rely on takeout or packaged food, but dinner was a very different experience during the Depression.

Mix 'n' match soup

"We ate a lot of mashed potatoes, and I'm still hung up on mashed potatoes," says Rosalyn Weinstein, 79, pointing to an uneaten scoop on her plate. Though she does not cook much these days, she says she still makes "mix 'n' match" soup from whatever is on hand.

"Cooking is becoming a lost art," she says. "I've never been a takeout person. And I've never been a fast food person.

Joe Bagley, 81, who moved to Los Angeles during World War II, was born in Texas and raised for a time on a farm. "We were never wanting for food, but you had to raise your own," he says, adding that his family saw plenty of hungry people wandering in search of work. They'd stop at the farm, and Bagley recalls that he'd be sent inside to get whatever was there to feed them.

Though the country is not in a depression today, signs of tough times are all around.

The market is in shreds, food is pricier. A spokesman for Ralphs and Food 4 Less says more people are turning to house brands, and Albertsons has seen more sales of "stretcher" products such as Hamburger Helper, a spokeswoman says...........................

Being able to hide what you grow will be an art form.


But even if it were legal to hunt for rabbit and squirrel (depending where you live)....would there be enough to go around?




Glad I don't live in a big city, that's for sure.



.
 
G

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Food lessons from the Great Depression

Lear to cook. From scratch.

No mixes, no ready made, not any of that stuff. Start with basic staple foods and go from there.

Master that and if it's edible you'll have some idea of what to do with it once you get it into the kitchen.

Scratch cooking is not learned from a book though they can often be very helpful. It is learned by doing it. Not everything you make is going to come out well, but that's part of paying your dues. Endeavor never to make the same mistake twice and press on. You get better as you go.

.....Alan.
 

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I have a great little cookbook called Depression Era Recipes that has many simple, basic and cheap dishes.

http://www.amazon.com/Depression-Er...bs_sr_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1228933796&sr=8-3

My grandmother used to tell me how she'd have a ketchup sandwich for lunch, or they'd dig a potato out of the garden and eat it raw. My mother remembers the rationing and shortages during WWII.


Be honest, now: Can anybody in your house skin a rabbit?
Yes we can. I think people on this board are a lot more likely to have some built-in skills that will help. The people who live in the suburbs or cities will have a hard time of it.
 

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That is the nice thing about chickens. They will eat your mistakes and then in the process end up feeding you. So you don't end up wasting anything.

Also if none of you have read them in recent years read a few of the Little house books. There is a cookbook out for them also. I know that it is a "children's" series, but the Long Winter will really open your eyes about food fatigue. I know it is not the Great Depression reading, but there were depressions prior to the 1930's and we should learn from those times too. Get a few historical cookbooks. Look at what they ate and the main ingredients. I have Medieval adaptations, Colonial, Civil War, Pioneer, Depression era and books from various ethnic backgrounds. Browse them and see what you find. Sorry I am a historical cookbook/food fanatic and like to pass the obsession on to others. I grew up playing Barbies as many girls of the 70's and 80's did, but instead of pretending to go to the mall or to parties, I would take them outside with a shoebox "wagon" and little tiny sewn bags of flour, oats and so forth and pretend to play "Olden Days". I started a few fires and cooked "deer" (hot dogs or soaked jerky) over the twig fires. I was a nerd from the beginning. Well, at least one thing was learned.. I can build a good fire now. I am the official fire starter in this family. Sorry for the thread drift there. :)

Elsa
 

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Be honest, now: Can anybody in your house skin a rabbit?
Yes.

I think I'll go check out that depression era cookbook.
 

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I think I'll go check out that depression era cookbook.
I have one...I think there are 4 she has written. They are very good. I highly recommend them.
 

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If I might also make a suggestion - learning how to cure, can, and store food in this day and age may be almost as valuable (especially as I'm surmising that most on this forum do more cooking than the average American). We probably won't be "out of food" as in the past, but rather be faced with a "seasonal" food supply and a population that doesn't know how store something without a refrigerator or freezer.
 

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I don't have any Depression-era cookbooks, but I do have How To Cook A Wolf and highly recommend it. It has one chapter "How To Keep Alive" which is about just what it says, during rationing with very little available and little to no money.
 

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Ailsaek, Ooooo I don't have that book... I will have to see if I can find it. By the way before I had my daughters I was a librarian for about 9 years. I have a bit of a book addiction as many of us here do. Thank you for the suggestion.
 

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Food lessons from the Great Depression

Lear to cook. From scratch.

No mixes, no ready made, not any of that stuff. Start with basic staple foods and go from there....
LOL, I always did. And it always amused me how people "save time" by not doing it considering how much time average person spends watching TV. There are so many better ways to save time than cooking and eating crap really fast, aren't there?
 

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I have the Depression Era Cookbook and also all 5 volumes of the Depression Cookbooks by Janet Van Amber Paske, which I'd highly recommend (I got them at various places, but Amazon carries them). I can also skin a rabbit! When I was a kid my brothers used to make me hold the feet while they did the skinning.
 

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I went to a relatives (very young, new bride) home a couple months ago and she asked me to make my homemade banana pudding. When I told her what I needed she had everything but the cornstarch, so borrowed it from a neighbor. The neighbor (retired woman) said just keep it, as she bought it months ago and has not used it since. Said it is not something that anyone would need on a regular basis.
My look must have said it all, because she laughed and said you do though don't you.

When the bride asked why I would keep cornstarch I started to rattle off all the kitchen uses such as pudding, gravy, stew thickener, Chinese food and she just was amazed.

Anyone else an adult before finding out that people made pudding with a MIX?
 

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.

When the bride asked why I would keep cornstarch I started to rattle off all the kitchen uses such as pudding, gravy, stew thickener, Chinese food and she just was amazed.

Anyone else an adult before finding out that people made pudding with a MIX?
Yes, LOL! I was also an adult before I found out that not everyone has a big garden, hunts and fishes, and puts up a year's supply of food!

Kathleen
 

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I went to a relatives (very young, new bride) home a couple months ago and she asked me to make my homemade banana pudding. When I told her what I needed she had everything but the cornstarch, so borrowed it from a neighbor. The neighbor (retired woman) said just keep it, as she bought it months ago and has not used it since. Said it is not something that anyone would need on a regular basis.
My look must have said it all, because she laughed and said you do though don't you.

When the bride asked why I would keep cornstarch I started to rattle off all the kitchen uses such as pudding, gravy, stew thickener, Chinese food and she just was amazed.

Anyone else an adult before finding out that people made pudding with a MIX?
Pretty much. We didn't have any mixes in the cupboards when I was a kid and teaching myself to cook and bake. We DID have "The Joy of Cooking" (early 1950s edition.)
 

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My grandmother tells of having the biggest and best strawberries in town, because her patch was downhill from the outhouse.
 

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I inherited my Mother's 1942 Good Housekeeping Cookbook. What makes it especially interesting is the section titled 'Wartime Supplement' that includes tips on how to stretch coffee, butter and sugar....things that were in short supply or rationed during WWII...as well as canning and pressure cooking instructions. The spine is coming apart as it's been well used over the years. It's my most treasured cookbook not only because it belonged to my Mom, but for it's valuable information and historical significance. :)
 
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