Archive for Thursday, April 2, 2009

Economy creates longing for simple life

April 2, 2009

Advertisers on television often come up with more entertaining situations and dialogues than the scriptwriters for comedies and drama on the same station. One commercial, which has really caught my attention, features a woman and small boy shopping for groceries. The woman is sawing food items in half as the small boy looks on in consternation and surprise. That commercial must ring a bell with many in our land. When money and jobs go up in smoke, people start looking for ways to cut down on their bills, and the grocery store is one of those places. And for luxurious dining out — well forget about it for those trying to keep a roof over their heads. Many young families are really struggling to feed themselves and their young children. The day the father went to work and came home to a clean house and warm meal is somewhat passé in today’s society because both parents must work at an outside job to make ends meet. Easy credit card money is akin to gambling, and most restaurant food costs too much for a steady diet. The art of cooking simple meals does seem to be coming back. Even with time and energy constraints, a quick meal at home always trumps fast food at a restaurant.

One of the more popular series is called Depression Cooking with Clara. Clara is a ninety-plus senior citizen. This means that she grew up during the Great Depression in a working-class family. She said they had a garden and chickens. They grew and canned vegetables and ate eggs and occasionally the chickens. She says her father brought home large bags of potatoes and flour, which were staples of their diets. She demonstrates a “poor man’s meal” by peeling and cubing potatoes and onions and frying them in a large skillet with oil. She added tomato sauce and sliced-up wieners, while stirring. Then she served large plates filled with the mixture to some of her grandsons and friends. They ate with gusto. She didn’t measure potatoes and onions. She just estimated what was needed to fill the skillet. Other meals she prepares include a sandwich filling of chopped homegrown sweet peppers and eggs, a simple sugar cookie and homemade bread. She demonstrates the way her family made coffee with home-ground beans, an old drip coffee maker and generous quantities of canned milk.

The way she cooks reminds me of home on the farm where my parents grew much of our own food, including the beef, pork and chicken. We always had a large garden, a milk cow and chickens and eggs. My father grew up in a household of 12. His father made a living raising produce, which he sold to people living in the area, something that has come back in fashion with the local food movement. His sons helped out with the farming and hawked and delivered the vegetables to customers.

Clara of the Depression era childhood had to quit going to high school because she didn’t have socks. My father finished high school and went on to get a teaching degree with a scholarship to Emporia State Teachers College, but he paid a price. During lunch hour at high school in Hutchinson, he didn’t go to the cafeteria. He studied in the library because he didn’t have anything to eat for lunch.

I believe that most people adapt to their circumstances, and I have great faith in the upcoming generation — the youngsters just beginning to make life choices. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them turn against the current consumerism — the need to constantly buy new and better stuff even if their credit cards are charged beyond their ability to pay. Sometimes, the simpler things in life are in the end, the best.


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