My mother’s birth happened as The Roaring Twenties roared to a halt and ushered in The Great Depression. Her formative years characterized by want, she learned by her parents’ example to make good use of what she had. She didn’t throw much away, and she also didn’t have resources to become a huge consumer. Being raised with very little made me want the things I never had growing up.
I remember going to friends’ homes and opening the cupboards to see overflowing bounty. In the seventies, this meant cans and boxes crammed into bulging cupboards, and I felt these overburdened pantries meant success. That their children could open a cupboard and get out anything they wanted to snack on any time they wanted amazed me.
We were poor folks; I mean dirt poor.
While my father lived, we had bounty, but only because he worked so hard to grow the things we would need, and then my mother would can it all to last through the winter. He raised pigs and chickens, and then we had slaughter day and processed the meat ourselves, stuffing huge deep freezers to feed our family of ten for the winter. I do remember having a pantry, but it was mostly filled with canning jars, rarely a box of mac and cheese, and honestly, I don’t remember ever having a pizza until after he passed away.
Before his death, I remember only one time ever going out to a restaurant as a family. It was such a big deal that I thought we were going to a fancy restaurant. Decades later, I revisited the spot. Y’all… it was a truck stop.
After he passed, the challenges grew. My mother’s salary topped $10K a year for the very first time during my sophomore year in college. We were eating those canned goods from our time on the farm for nearly ten years, and we were thankful for them. I don’t know how we managed to dodge food poisoning since I’m sure no government agency would have approved.
Sooo… my culinary journey snaked through grocery stores in the center aisles–the ones with all the preservatives and cheap prices–for many years. Sometimes, after I had my own children I had to ask the sweet door greeter if I could leave a cart with her while I filled another for my family full of growing kiddos. In my mind, not to have a massive store of goods at their disposal was unthinkable.
I had gone without enough, and I determined they never would.
Today, my cart route takes me down very few middle aisles. The perimeter, filled with fresh produce, dairy, and proteins may cost more, but I no longer feel the need to fill cupboards with boxed and canned goods that will last the duration of anyone’s adolescence. We’re eating healthier and trying to be more active, and we’re certainly glad to be learning that less is indeed more.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.