Sunday, January 11, 2009

Depression Style Cooking

As we've been experiencing cold weather here in Colorado this month, my thoughts have gone back to some of the soups and hot meals my mom fixed when I was young. The dishes we grew up with seem to always remain favorites, don't they.

You know growing up in the Depression was a stressful experience. There was a shortage of jobs, money, food, and clothes. A shortage of everything! There was no recreation except what we could devise ourselves. Everyone had to make do with what they had. My Dad worked for the WPA so we got clothes and food from the Welfare.

I remember they brought us grapefruit. Hmmmm? We had never seen a grapefruit. It was like a big orange but tasted bitter. We thought "Yuk, who would want to eat that"? Cauliflower and broccoli were another two items I first saw with welfare food. We'd look at them and say again "Yuk, do people eat that?"

We were growing up on MEAT and POTATOES. Milk, syrup, bread and noodles! You could add a few cherries for a glaze, and add cream to the dumplings. Good old country CREAM!

My mom made Schnitz Soup---we ate it a LOT! It was a staple. I'm borrowing this recipe from the internet rather than looking it up in some of my cookbooks:
SCHNITZ SOUP by Rachel Steinke
1 cup dried prunes
1 cup dried peaches
1 cup dried pears
1 cup dried raisins
Wash and soak the dried fruits overnight. Cook until tender in the same water it was soaked in. Add sugar and salt to taste.
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup sweet cream
Combine flour and cream, add to fruit and bring all to a boil. Serve.

On the farm, people ate what we raised or grew. Spuds (potatoes), milk, cream, butter, canned fruit and vegetables, sandhill plums for jelly or plum butter. Canned corn and string beans. We did buy concord grapes and Mom made grape jelly. Our staple meat was fried down pork from home or neighbor butchering. Many families would boil down watermelons and make watermelon syrup. When we ran out of syrup Mom would put sugar and water in the skillet and heat it to make syrup. We always had some cottage cheese hanging on the clothesline.

We also had a cheese that was prepared in a skillet that was sort of hard and was a grey translucent color. I don't know how they made that. It was sort of rubbery and chewy.

Well, that's not a very appetizing note to close on, but it's time to turn on the TV for the news.


GrannyPam said...

This is very interesting to me. In Michigan, we also ate foods that we could grow. I had never heard of Schnitz or Watermelon soup. Staples here were potatoes, corn, winter squash, green beans, turnips, rutabagas. A kitchen garden might also have spring onions, onions, tomatoes, rhubarb and other treats. The winter vegies were kept in a cellar, and the summer ones like green beans and corn were canned. Asparagus, cabbage, rhubarb, broccoli, peas and cauliflower also grow well here. The main fruit in northwestern lower Michigan was and is apples. Every old homestead had an apple orchard, and many people still have apple trees in their yards. Peaches, pears, plums and some others could be grown in some areas. My father-in-law said that they saw a lot of lean times when potatoes would have been a huge treat. They ate turnips every day, that's what they had. They also fed the cattle turnips during those lean times.

In our small kitchen garden here in the Detroit suburbs we grow tomatoes, green peppers, cabbage, rhubarb, hot peppers, peas, green beans, carrots, cabbage, lettuce and sometimes parsnips, radishes and onions. Our daughter started a raspberry patch last year, and we sure did enjoy that! Now I'm wishing for spring.

wildflowermary said...

Enjoy all your comments as I am a WaKeeney Kansas native and though I came after the depression, I remember my folks talking about. I make the watermelon bread like my grandmother did. There are so few people who know how (even around here) that I knew if I didn't learn how I wouldn't get to eat it. Still live in WaKeeney, have a bed & breakfast ( just north of the Court House Square and we just put a little coffee shop/cafe on the main floor. We are incorporating some of those long ago comfort foods so people won't forget. Thanks for all your memories. Mary