Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Childhood Food

This meme, which has been making its way around FaceBook recently, made me recall food from my childhood from the late 40s through the 50s in Roanoke, Virginia:

How many of these do I remember?

Pasta: I don't recall the word "pasta" being used when I was a kid. The only kinds I knew were macaroni and the little letters of the alphabet in soup. Never had spaghetti or lasagna until I was in college, even though Chef Boyardee had been advertising on TV in the 50s.

Curry: Never ate anything curied until I was an adult. Don't particularly care for it now.

Take-away: Yeah, it was math! We said "take away" instead of "minus" in elementary school. Is "take-away" the same as "take-out"? "Take-out" food didn't exist when I was a kid—at least I never heard of it then. But then, we didn't eat out, except for an occasional hot dog at a dimestore lunch counter downtown. I suppose my first experience with "take-out" was getting a Kenny Burger at the stand on Williamson Road as I walked home from William Fleming High School when I was in the 8th grade, or maybe it was the 9th grade. Anyhow, the price was right.

Pizza: Another food I never ate until college. Some folks called it "pizza pie." I can remember getting my mother to buy a frozen pizza from Mick-or-Mack in 66 or 67 when I was home on break. I don't remember what brand it was, but I do remember that it wasn't too many years until pizza ads appeared on TV.  I remember eating pizza at Pizza Hut on Hershberger Road in the early 70s when I was back in Roanoke. Soon there were other pizza places or restaurants that served pizza.

Bananas and oranges: We had these year round. Fresh oranges were the source for orange juice, which Mama squeezed herself using this juicer. (I mentioned it on my post "Old Things" a few years ago.)

We also sometimes sucked on oranges that had a hole cut in the top. After we'd sucked out the juice, we peeled apart the skin and ate the remaining pulp. A little messy, but good. I saw fresh pineapple in the grocery store, but usually we had the rings that came in a can. Mama made good pineapple upside down cake with those rings.

Chips: Yep, they were plain. The best ones I remember from my childhood were fresh off the conveyor belt at the Lay's Potato Chip Company on Williamson Road. I'd gone there with my daddy when I was about five. The man grabbed a paper bag, scooped up a bagful of still hot chips, and handed them to me. I ate them on the way home. When I was in junior high and high school, a handful of chips wrapped in wax paper was in my lunchbag every day.

Oil and fat: Mama fried food in Crisco, which was supposed to be an improvement on lard. I don't remember oil until "vegetable oil" came along later. I never used olive oil until 10 or 15 years ago. Now it's a staple in my kitchen.

Other stuff: Mama made tea from Lipton tea-bags, we never had sugar cubes (way too posh for us!), and I'd never heard of yogurt until I was an adult. I'd heard of  people eating "shish-kebobs" on TV shows, but we never had any.

I never heard of broccoli, brussel sprouts, or cauliflower until I was in college—where I also discovered blueberry pie and tuna casserole. I ate my first zucchini in 1971 and my first eggplant a few years later. I don't think I ate a bagel until the 80s. Food we ate was limited to what grew in our garden or what was easily obtainable. Mama and Grandma always had gardens and canned their surplus. Here's a 1932 picture of Grandma in her garden on Watts Avenue in 1932:

Our main vegetables in the 40s and 50s were potatoes, corn, green beans, tomatoes, peas, lima beans, cabbage, and yellow squash. Potatoes were rarely baked, most often sliced into round slices and fried. Squash was sliced and fried, too. Sometimes we had fried okra. Most lunches and suppers year round featured at least two—and sometimes all three—of the following veggies: potatoes, corn, and green beans.

Besides canning tomatoes, corn, and green beans, Mama canned chow-chow, pickles, sauerkraut, and pickled beets, but I didn't like those as a kid. Consequently, I didn't have much variety in my meals.

For meat, we had chicken (always fried, never baked), beef-steak (which was pounded with a hammer-like tool to tenderize it) and then dipped in flour before it was fried, salmon cakes (always fried), hot dogs (always boiled) with a piece of bread wrapped around it for a bun, ham (slices were fried; a whole ham was baked), and—at Thanksgiving or Christmas—a turkey, which was baked. The turkey was never stuffed; dressing (never called "stuffing") made from white bread was served as a separate dish. Once in a while, we might have fried fish. Sometimes we ate canned Spam (fried, of course) or bologna (pronounce "baloney" sandwiches. We never ate lamb or duck or lobster or shrimp. We might have oysters—dipped in cornmeal and fried—once or twice during the winter.

Most food was made from scratch, the exception being canned soup which was just re-heated.

Bread was white sandwich bread—usually Merita. No one ate brown bread or bread with "whole grain" in it. Sometimes there were biscuits at breakfast or rolls at dinner—especially after "brown and serve" rolls becme available. Once in a while, there'd be homemade "light rolls" which were crusty on top and bottom but soft inside. They were wonderful. I blogged about Grandma's light bread recipe a decade ago on this blog post.

We didn't eat a big variety of foods in the 50s, but we didn't go hungry.

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