Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Suppertime, Westbrook MN--1950

Dad would come home from work for supper at 6:00. We always knew when it was 6:00 because the whistle on the town water tower would blow. It also blew at noon and for fires, but the supper whistle was the one that really mattered.
    (I was tickled to find the actual water tower on Google.)
Mom wanted to have supper on the table when Dad came in the door, so the sibling responsible for setting it would have to have everything ready. Mom would be at the stove frying supper--and it was always fried food--usually fried in Crisco or Spry shortening, bacon grease or lard (never oil). We would have boiled potatoes one night and fried potatoes the next night with fried meat--hamburger or pork chops, liver, sausage or ham steak.

Vegetables choices alternated between canned corn, green beans and pork and beans. I never tasted broccoli until I was an adult. The only salad we had was chopped iceberg lettuce with sliced bananas and a dressing consisting of Miracle Whip mixed with a little sugar and milk. We loved it.

On those occasions when we were treated to dessert, it was either canned fruit (called sauce) or cooked pudding with milk. During peach season, however, we had peaches and cream every night because it was my dad's favorite.
(Apparently nobody serves simple peaches and cream any more. I had a hard time finding an illustration!)

When supper was done, it was time to do dishes. One night it would be my two brothers and the next, my sister Karen and I. This would sometimes result in arguments over whose turn it was and who left the crusty pan soaking in the oven.

Years later when my own four kids would fight over doing the dishes, I posted this poem by the kitchen sink for them. (Of course, it didn't do much good.)

Thank God for dirty dishes, 
For they have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry,
We're eating very well.

With home and health and happiness,
We shouldn't want to fuss
For by this stack of evidence,
God's been very good to us.

18 comments:

Joanne Noragon said...

We often had peaches for dessert. Mom canned them. When there was a child small enough to sit on the counter and slip the peach halves in by hand, there were no fork holes in the halves. Children, and later grandchildren had the job.

Felicity Parsons said...

The memories which food can evoke! One childhood treat which I remember so well was liver and onions fried in lard, the best bit being to be given a thick slice of home made bread to wipe out the frying pan. We children loved that more than the liver, of course. Sunday teatime treats included tinned peaches with evaporated milk - or on special occasions tinned fruit cocktail with evap and a fight to see who got the most cherry halves.

Ms Sparrow said...

Joanne, I remember helping my mom can peaches. It was always a miserable hot day and the kitchen would get so steamy. I swore that I would never do it when I grew up!

Fliss, I loved fried liver too, and I still do although I'm now more partial to chicken livers. My dad would fry sliced summer sausage and then fry a slice of bread in the grease. I tried it and it was very tasty! We would often have light cream on canned fruit and other desserts like bread pudding.

Rian said...

Mama cooked liver and onions too... and I loved it. We also had canned peaches and evaporated milk! And we had mostly canned veggies, very little fresh (now I eat nothing but fresh - taste is totally different). However, we always had fresh seafood. One of mama's rules was that you never ate seafood unless it was fresh. Since we lived in New Orleans, it was an easy rule to follow.

Ms Sparrow said...

Rian, being "inlanders" we never had seafood of any kind--unless you include canned tuna. I was an adult before I sampled shrimp, lobster and crabcakes. I've never acquired a taste for it. I can eat shrimp with lots of cocktail sauce and batter-fried fish with lots of tartar sauce, but that's all. I agree that fresh vegs are way better than the canned stuff. I just remembered that sometimes the only meat on the table would be a jar of pickled herring and I still enjoy eating that. We'd also have jars of pickled pork hocks--great with fried potatoes and pork & beans. I gave them up because of the fat and salt content.

Meggie said...

Enjoyed your post...I do remember Crisco...when I first married, it would show up on my grocery shopping list. In those days, frying was just part of meal planning. Cholesterol was never the topic of conversation.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Our vegetables were canned peas, corn, and green beans, in regular rotation. And iceberg lettuce "salad" with French dressing. My mother did cook many varieties of meat and potatoes, although if beef or pork was involved it was usually cooked until very, very dry and stringy. Sigh.

Ms Sparrow said...

Meggie--We also ate lots of margarine back then because it was cheaper than butter.
(When I got married in 1958, one wedding gift consisted of a set of salt & pepper shakers and a covered can for bacon grease to be reused.) Small wonder that both of my parents died of heart problems. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

Nancy--I remember having a hard time eating fried beef and pork chops when I was a kid. I think maybe it was considered safer to overcook it like that, or maybe they were cheaper cuts of meat that were just tougher. I hated canned peas and never ate them so I forgot to mention them.

Mitchell is Moving said...

These are sweet memories. Just the thought of the 6:00 whistle on the water tower...

I grew up in a very different house. My father expected dinner on the table promptly after he arrived home around 7. My mother almost never fried anything. Roasted, grilled, boiled, but rarely fried. A wide variety of vegetables on the table -- unfortunately, usually overcooked and slightly gray. And, except for ice cream, or my mother's wonderful baking, a typical dessert was fruit. I'm grateful now because I developed healthy eating habits. But I can sure binge!

Kittie Howard said...

We also ate at 5:00 and had rotating sibling clean-up duties. Once in a while we'd have fried chicken (Crisco) or fried ham (redeye gravy, which I still love on rice once in a while). Chicken stew was a favorite. But, mostly, we ate a lot of seafood and beans (red beans and rice being a LA favorite) and lots of veggies, but only fresh and pretty easy to get/inexpensive in South Louisiana. In winter, we'd have home-canned veggies, like green beans and beets and so on my grandmother put up. To this day, I can't handle the taste of store-bought canned veggies, want to gag is they're slipped into a stew or whatever. Once in a while my mother'd bake a chocolate cake, but since none of us had a sweet tooth, some of the cake would just sit there. When in season, we'd pig-out on peaches and figs and pears and blackberries and so on. I'm thankful for those early eating habits and still pile on the salad (no dressing) and veggies. My hub thinks I'm a rabbit! :)))))))))))

Ms Sparrow said...

Mitchell--I wonder if the water tower whistle wasn't a small town thing. My dad was a carpenter so they would "knock off" at noon for lunch at 6:00 for supper. Coffee breaks were called "a little lunch" and might include sandwiches and bakery items as well as coffee. Where did your dad work?

Ms Sparrow said...

Kittie--I'm going to have to google red-eye gravy to see how it's made. My dad would insist on having gravy with mashed potatoes so my mom just added some cornstarch to the ham broth but it made some salty, wimpy gravy. I always make baked potatoes with ham which avoids that problem! Dad also had a sweet tooth which I inherited so desserts were pretty regular. I was baking cakes from scratch before I was 10 and they never, ever went uneaten!

Mitchell is Moving said...

We lived in the suburbs and my father worked in the city. I remember the noon bell going off at the fire station, though, now that I think about it. Then we moved to Brooklyn and my father worked in Downtown Brooklyn. The water tanks sat on top of our building. No whistle!

troutbirder said...

How sweet & very familiar to my own growing up in the forties & fifties....:)

Ms Sparrow said...

Troutbirder--I imagine that small town living was pretty much the same for us native Minnesotans. We listened to The Lone Ranger on the radio and listened to 78's on the phonograph player. Mom cooked with "bottle gas" and sometimes we'd run out and have to use the hot plate to get by till they came to replace it. We never locked our doors and never worried about playing outside after dark. I learned that my cousin had married a man in Florida who was divorced and thought that only people from Florida got divorces. I had never heard of anyone else getting a divorce except movie stars.

Kittie Howard said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Ms Sparrow, to you and your lovely family.

Susan Springmire said...

Was excited to see you have returned to your blog. I was thinking about you because as Frankie and I walked this morning a flock of sparrows flew up from a hedge and that made me think Sparrowtree, which in turn made me think Janice. I thought warm fuzzy thoughts of you and that made me look at your blog. I retired June of 2014. Spent a year being quite--turned out I had a major vitamin deficiency (D) that was making me completely listless. One of the meds I take depletes vit D, so I was taking 100% of necessary vit D daily but it was translating to my body as almost no vit D. Luckily no serious repercussions. Am beginning to be human. Hope your Christmas was good.

Linda said...

I wanted to send you a message to let you know I am thinking of you and that I miss you. Hugs.