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Traditional family habits

This morning a doe and her fawn showed up in the yard. That is not unusual up here.What was unusual is that she seemed to be saying to the young one, “This is a safe place to eat. See I am grazing here.”

Animals are nothing but amazing. They teach their young without words. They teach by example. That mother was showing her offspring what she intended. She demonstrated that she was comfortable here and that she was safe.

Maybe the human population should take lessons from the animals. That is what is lacking in so many incidences. Young people do not know how to cook. They do not even know how to buy their groceries. They look for the ready-made things that they just need to heat up.

I know the mothers are working and they need to put together a meal quickly. There are many ways to do that with a little planning. People are spending more for groceries by purchasing the pre-packaged stuff.

A couple weeks ago I purchased a piece of corned beef. It was priced at $3.99 per pound. The piece cost me just over $15. That fed three of us twice, plus two of us two more times. How much is that per serving? I calculate that to be about $1.50 per serving. You cannot do much better than that! Of course, I had some side dishes which cost something too, but it was an economical set of meals.

Soup is also inexpensive. You purchase the meat, then cook it up, and add some vegetables. Add a plate of crackers or bread and you have a meal.

I learned to cook from two ladies who went through the Depression. My grandmother and my mother-in-law made the most of what they had. Nothing was wasted during those Depression years. There was hardly enough food to go around.

We only had one piece of meat each at home. If it was pork chops Grandma cooked four of them. If it was cubed steak once again, she cooked four pieces. When I moved to the farm, I followed the advice of my mother-in-law. I think food was more plentiful on the farm than it was in town. Nothing was ever said about having only one piece of meat. My mother-in-law supplemented her meals with produce from the garden. We had fresh vegetables to eat all summer long. I loved being able to go out to the garden and pick what I wanted. It made cooking meals easy. You ate what was ready in the garden. That was very economical.

When fresh produce was in season, we preserved it for the winter meals. I froze some things, but canned others. I bought a pressure canner so that I did not have to cook my vegetables so long. They did not recommend canning vegetables with a water bath. I did try it once but it did not work out well. At the time I was storing my canned goods in my in-law’s basement. I went downstairs to get some beans one day and found most of them on the floor. The lids popped off I suppose because I did not cook them long enough. All of my hard work went to waste. After that I purchased the pressure canner.

I had never done much gardening when I lived at home either. Grandpa used to grow tomatoes but that was it. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, had been gardening all of her life. I learned a lot from her.

I bought several canning cookbooks to help me learn. At night when the children were in bed and my husband was still out in the barn, I read them so that I knew what to do the next day. Basically, I taught myself to can.

I found that I really enjoyed it. In the fall I canned a lot of tomatoes. Slipping the skins was fun. Stuffing the tomatoes in the jar was also fun. Usually I just canned the tomatoes, then made my sauce when I opened them. There were so many things that could be done with canned tomatoes.

I thank these ladies for sharing their skills with me. I thank them for teaching me how to create tasty meals in a short time as well as at a nominal cost.

When I was working, I planned ahead. On the weekend I cooked on Saturday and Sunday planning leftovers for the rest of the week. I learned to disguise my leftovers to create completely new meals. If I made soup or chili, I simply served it with something different such as homemade bread, breadsticks, or crackers with cheese.

I shopped every two weeks — that was when we got paid. Here I want to say that my freezer really came in handy. In fact, I chose a freezer over a dryer back in the day since I was unable to have both of them because of the electricity source at Hickory Heights. I could purchase in bulk and keep it in the freezer.

Whatever I purchased had to last at least two weeks. At the time I was feeding a family of four plus at least a couple of hayers. I made everything from scratch. My desserts were homemade as well. The cookies, cakes, and pies that I made were a lot cheaper than those I could buy. Flour and sugar were cheap plus we had our own honey to supplement the taste of sweet things.

I learned from the best of that I am certain. Rest in peace dear Grandma Adeline and my mother-in-law, Ethel your skills are still being used!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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