I suspect I may be the only person on earth that was happy to get a books on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl for Christmas. Yep, I asked for them on my list. My grandfather was born in 1919 and lived through both of those and, as we sat in lawn chairs in the garage and drank sun tea out of mason jars, he would tell stories that amazed me. Our house always had plenty of food in it, so I couldn't imagine not having a crumb in the kitchen.
One of the books that J. got me off my reading list is "The Great Depression", which is a collection of eyewitness accounts put together by David A. Shannon. When I unwrapped the book, it wasn't a slick cover reprint; rather it's an old library book that still bears the stamps of all the people that have checked it out and read it. That only makes it all the more charming.
|Men sometimes waited hours in line for a bowl or soup and a hard roll at the local soup kitchen.|
Toast, rice, grits or cornbread in hot milk
Toast with milk gravy
One eyed Sam – piece of bread with an easy over egg in the center
Oatmeal mixed with lard
Corn meal mush
Popcorn with milk and sugar – they ate it like cereal!
Banana slices with powdered sugar and milk
Chipped beef on toast (my grandfather said they called this "sh*t on a shingle" in the Army)
Gopher, turtle, squirrel and rabbit - including roadkill
Potato soup – water base, not milk
Tomato gravy on rice or biscuits
Gravy and bread
Toast with mashed potatoes on top with gravy
Fried corn mush
Hamburger mixed with oatmeal
Chicken feet in broth
Warm canned tomatoes with bread
Fried potato and bread cubes
Salted tumbleweed (*during the Dust Bowl)
Sliced boiled pork liver on buttered toast (slice the liver with a potato peeler)
Spaghetti with tomato juice and navy beans
Anything with eggs, since most folks had chickens
Spam and noodles with cream of mushroom soup
Rag soup: spinach, broth and lots of macaroni
Garbanzo beans fried in chicken fat or lard, salted, and eaten cold
Or how about these sandwiches?
"Jam" sandwiches - jam two pieces of bread together
Cucumber and mustard sandwiches
Lard or bacon grease sandwiches
Fried potato peel sandwiches
Butter and sugar sandwiches
My grandfather also had a favorite dish of stewed tomatoes in shell macaroni that he would make once a week. When I asked him why he liked it so much, he told me that they ate it all the time when he was growing up because they didn't have much else.
Wheat is pretty central to lots of these dishes and, ironically, it was very abundant and sustained many families through the Depression. In a later post, I'll talk more about the Dust Bowl and why it was ironic that wheat was abundant. Now that our grain mill has arrived (yeah!), we are working to stock up on wheat berries and other grains and continue to learn how to make different kinds of bread.
Having chickens for eggs and meat, pigs and maybe a dairy cow or goat, as well as homegrown and canned veggies also helped to sustain families through these hard times. And they didn't waste anything - did you see the chicken feet soup on the list?
What do you think? Could you live comfortably on this diet? I suspect I would be missing my chocolate in less than 24 hours. And, thinking about our society and most of the people I know, they wouldn't last very long. Heck, I know people that won't eat anything out of a home garden or that's been made from scratch. I think that's even stranger than a bacon grease sandwich.