Mom was born a few years before the Great Depression. Grandma, a widow, raised nine kids on a farm by herself. She didn’t have food stamps or a welfare check or earned income credit. She did have fresh food, good water and a zest for life. Real milk, fresh eggs, nuts and berries from the forest, wild foods and home grown vegetables were their fare. There was not much else, but who needed it?
I remember fried chicken for Sunday dinner at Grandma’s. It was about the only time meat was on the table but Grandma never ate it. She said she didn’t like chicken and I could never understand why. It was much later I learned the reason she wouldn’t eat it.
She would bring baby chicks into the house and feed them cornmeal and water. When they were old enough to go back out with the flock, she put them in a little cage so the older hens wouldn’t peck at them. She chased snakes out of the henhouse. She went out in the middle of rain, wind and ice storms to shut the henhouse against the weather. She called them out every morning with grain and kitchen scraps and when one went missing, she knew it.
Grandma had other good food, too, but not the kind of “food” we often associate with treats now. Potato chips? Just fry some potatoes. Soft, doughy sweet rolls, dripping with sugar frosting? How about a whole wheat biscuit with honey instead? Ice cream? Sure, get out the freezer and the salt, then run to town and buy a block of ice.
A little different from our way of life, isn’t it?
But maybe not so much… and not so unattainable as you might think. It may not be easy to up and buy a small farm that had everything Grandma’s had (icy cold spring, second small stream, grassy meadow, thick forest with wild blackberries, walnuts, pecans and hickories, etc), but growing most of your own vegetables is possible for most of us and so is gathering wild food. Put up that food for winter and you can eat well year ’round.
Real milk is available; so are fresh eggs. If you can’t “grow your own” there are farmers who are happy to sell you theirs.
Patiently cracking and picking out nutmeats to bake a treat, or being scratched, mosquito bitten and sunburned from picking berries, gives one an appreciation for food that can’t come any other way. Like planting and watering and harvesting a garden, or making butter or gathering eggs, making your own food from the beginning to the plate is an exercise in thanksgiving and appreciation.
As to the rest?
Leave the potato chips at the store. Ditto the sweet rolls and the ice cream. Do it the old fashioned way: Make your own. You’ll be healthier and richer for it.