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Posts Tagged ‘Great Depression’


I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a “don’t waste food” house, no matter how much we didn’t like something. (I tried telling my grandma that no kid liked spinach and liver and shouldn’t be forced to eat them, especially not every day, but I’m sure her being raised in the Great Depression had something to do with her eating-everything insistence.) I would love when we’d go to a family member or friend’s house and they wouldn’t have this rule, although I’d usually find myself eating something I didn’t like, anyway, my grandma’s voice in my ear. (And it’s still in my ear all these years later!) But it was nice having the choice, the freedom, not to taste – or finish – everything.

Usually, by week’s end, my grandma would throw all the extra, uneaten leftovers into a pot with a chicken carcass and it would be delicious, perhaps because I couldn’t see the spinach and liver that had been blended in with the 101 other things. (Not to mention I also couldn’t look at the chicken carcass – poor guy – while the soup was cooking.)

Now, a couple decades later, what do you suppose I did with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey?

And a week later, the soup’s still delicious (only I removed the carcass this time).

What did you do with your leftovers? Did you make anything creative from them? Freeze them? Give them away?

What childhood food(s) did you hate?

Do you make your kids eat everything?

Now, I suppose I should probably do something with the rest of the cranberry sauce (which are more sweet than sour, with pomegranate seeds and oranges in them) – maybe make soup? Ladle them onto ice cream? Any ideas?

Visiting my grandma’s best friend…

…made me appreciate the simple times. No cell phones (but a phone actually plugged into a jack – complete with an answering machine). No one texting at the dinner table. People actually sitting at the dinner table. The being in-the-moment conversations.

As we sat at F’s kitchen table, which was probably the original Formica one from the 1950s, drinking tea from glasses probably just as vintage, 88-year-old F told me how she misses line dancing, “no one line dances anymore. Your grandmother and I used to have such fun going dancing at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago…” I smiled trying to picture this, as my grandma probably misses this, too, though her arthritis is so bad now, at 89, that she can barely walk 100 feet to the corner mailbox, her bones creaking with every step as her high-heeled shoes probably once did against the linoleum dance floor. I know she hates this lack of mobility… and I hate that she hates it. But at least her hands are in shape and she is still able to write letters to F…

As I mentioned two posts ago, F and my grandma met when they were just eleven years old on F’s family’s farm in Wisconsin (now, they are 88 and 89 years old!). My grandma, a city girl in Chicago, was sent up to the farm to help, suddenly going from getting-milk-at-the-corner-store to milking cows… while also meeting a lifelong friend in F.

About ten years after F and my grandma met, F went out West to Southern California; both women married and started having children. But all the while, and through the Great Depression, F and my grandma always made sure they had stamps and wrote to each other at least once a week. Here is F looking for some of the old letters my grandma sent her:

(I love her crocheted slippers!)

F told me that times were often tough back then on the farm, in the early 1930s, “but we never went hungry,” she said. “We always had milk.”

I think that’s such a simple, wonderful statement for all of us today. No matter how bad things get, we have milk/each other/friends/emotional and/or physical nourishment of some kind. (I am sure the letters F and my grandma have been writing to one another for all these years (nearly eighty!) have provided great sustenance, too!)

A road trip to couch-surf with an 88-year-old!

Today, I am taking a road trip from L.A. down to Vista, CA (about two hours south) to visit my grandma’s best friend, F. The two of them met on F’s family’s farm in Wisconsin when they were eleven and have been the best of pen-pals since, sending good, old-fashioned letters back-and-forth between Chicago and San Diego for over seventy (yes, seventy) years now.

They used to write every few days, my grandmother’s handwriting prettier than any calligraphy pen. When she & F were in their early twenties, they told each other about their then-boyfriends-turned-husbands, the war, which guy was sent where and when he would return (hoping he would return), their sisters and brothers, who was marrying whom, of how much milk the cows produced today, about the Great Depression, how, when at a diner, my grandma’s husband would mix ketchup packets with water to make tomato soup; it would cost him nothing, as the packets were free.

When I was a child, my grandma used to show me these letters, though I preferred when she read them; it was like listening to an old radio show – beautifully written and entertaining, making me long for more. Did their friend Ray come back from the war? Did the cows produce enough milk? Did the Great Depression end?

Now, all these decades later, my grandma and F still write to one another though not as often, the arthritis in their hands often prevailing, making the once-beautiful handwriting look like it has dementia. When I am with my grandma, I offer to pen her letters for her, her increasingly frail voice dictating as I try to be the best secretary possible. I feel I am in a dictation class and hoping I won’t fail. (My grandma worked as a secretary for many years, so it’s more pressure than you think. Plus, I don’t know the shorthand she often suggests I write in.)

When you dictate a personal letter to someone else to handwrite for you, it must be challenging. I often think there must be more my grandma wants to say, though with someone else holding the pen, perhaps some words and sentiments are left unspoken. Can you imagine dictating your every thought to another with no freedom to express it yourself?

Don’t you wish we wrote (and sent) letters more these days? Rereading emails just does not seem to have the same affect…

In any case, I often hear about my grandma and F’s friendship from my grandma’s point-of-view. It should be interesting hearing F’s this time. Perhaps she will have some of my grandma’s old letters standing by to show me.