Friday, May 16, 2008

When thrifty wasn't just trendy

Open the newspaper any day, and you'll likely find an article or two on how we're cutting corners more and more to make ends meet due to soaring energy and food prices. The reality is, we've all gotten lazy over the generations.

It used to be that we wouldn't just liberally trash what wasn't perfect. Leftovers were tomorrow's casserole. Socks were darned. Clothes were handed down, child to child, patches in tow.

Suddenly, though, it's en vogue to return to these old arts. And more and more often, I'm reading and watching in the mainstream media about how people are doing old, once everyday things, in the name of making it by.

My grandmother's generation, admittedly Depression-era, knew how to repurpose things better than anyone since. Growing up, I remember how even the simplest things like coffee cans were reused. A small one underneath the kitchen sink held pennies, waiting to be gambled in a few rounds of Sheepshead. Larger ones were packed with sugar cookies and stored in the freezer, waiting to accompany her guests on the long drive home from Wisconsin.

Things were repurposed in such a way I don't think we're even ready to fathom today, even with the financial scars of $4 gas and $3.50 milk that result in many lower-income families struggling to make ends meet. Take, for instance, this one recipe of my Grandma Johnson's. Leaving nothing to waste, it made use of cracklings - yes, the grease from your pan - to make cookies. (I asked my father once, when I stumbled across this recipe, what that was actually like. He said he wasn't impressed. I'll leave for the brave souls to decide!)

Crackling Cookies
4 cups fresh cracklings
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cup flour
2 eggs
Mix in order given. Roll in balls and press down thin with a fork, or roll
out thin and cut out. Bake in a 400-degree oven until golden brown.


CorieCommunications said...

You have a good point, Robbie! I remember the hand-me-down clothes all too well, and while I always hoped I'd be in a place where it wouldn't be necessary to do such "horrible" things to my own children, we definitely reuse whatever we possibly can these days...even passing down from my son to my daughter when possible. It's tough, though, since my daughter probably wouldn't appreciate the Spider-Man t-shirts and holey-kneed jeans (even if we took the time to patch each one). There it is - you're right. I guess I'm just too lazy to patch! Or, I suppose I prefer to think of it as "too busy."

Going Green Mama said...

If it makes you feel better, I've given my daughter's hand-me-downs to my son!! I figure he's too young to feel bad about having scalloped edges on his white baby socks. : )

Kari said...

Do you know how much bacon I would have to cook to get 4 cups of cracklings?! 4-5lbs! No, thank you.

If just thinking about eating all that bacon didn’t clog my arteries, I’d be dead on the ground if I made cookies from cracklings in addition to eating all that bacon.

The era of cooking for large families and stretching the family food budget through “all parts” utilization is long gone! We may have become lazy, but we have also become smarter. Some recycled food items aren’t worth the cost to our health. When it comes to recycling food, I believe in turning the leftover roasted chicken into chicken sandwiches, chicken casserole, and boiling the chicken bones to create broth for soups or gravy, but I firmly believe in cooking bacon and draining all the grease into a trash can!