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My head s stuck in the past

Unpacking all the worlds groceries, I began to think how many more sorts of things there were, even than when I was a kid. The food stores have gotten a lot bigger too. The A and P that I thought so big in 1975, is bodega sized now.

And my mind went to Archie and Horatio, and William. i thought of that lovely scene in the book where Horatio has a hissy-fit over the bad eggs and the jam. I thought, 'If I had M'man Kennedy here he could put away my groceries. He would not know what half the stuff was.(Brillo? Fruit Loops? ) Some things he would know-- eggs, butter, milk, onions. Probably oatmeal. Beer.  The amount of garlic would scare a British sailor, and he would not know what to put in the fridge or what to shelve. Some things he would know, but would have been costly or exotic-- 5 lbs of sugar, coconut oil, avocados, aluminum foil...
Then I pushed my mind further back, and tried it with Marlowe. I decided hummus might actually make sense to him. (Pease porrige cold, so to speak,) i think they had something like bagels too, which seems weird.

White bread and soft bread were luxury items, for longer than we think. (My grandfather was born in 1889. He was the youngest of 9 boys, in a family of Connecticut dirt farmers. His mom made underwear out of canvas feed sacks, and he grew up hunting with a brown bess which they happened to have, not as an antique, but just because it had been handed on that long. He trapped and boiled up skunks to extract and sell the musk. I'm talking poor. Anyway, one day my mother asked him why he did not eat wheat bread, as it was better for him. He shook his head "Had enough of that" He said. "Ma's bread scratched all the way down.")

BTW, all the nine boys got scholarships to college. One became an epidemiologist. My grandfather was a metal chemist. Another one helped develop vacuum tubes. He actually has a wiki entry.

There was a girl too. She died young of TB. She probably stayed in the house too much. She would have been safer out with the guns and skunks.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 28th, 2013 06:38 pm (UTC)
Heh, I have just been unpacking shopping too. Things have changed so much, but are still the same all over the world. I think we really take a varied diet for granted now. Mind you, I always joke that my daughter has regressed to a typical Hebridean diet of one hundred years ago. She is a picky eater, but the things she will eat are fish, potatoes, oatcakes, cheese, eggs and vegetables, which is pretty much what my grandparents would have eaten.

Your grandfather's family sound very resourceful. I wonder what scratched more, the bread or the feed sack underwear?
Jun. 28th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
As far as scratchy goes-- he must have had a high tolerance. (Not that I want to picture my grandfather's underside.)

R's diet sounds very healthy. I have a hard time finding fish here that I am willing to eat. It is all sort of dull and sunken eyed, and I fear it has been sitting too long. Tried expalining to husband that fish should not smell like fish. It should not smell like anything. If it smells of fish it has been sitting too long. He is a suburban boy-- he does not quite get it.
Jun. 28th, 2013 07:45 pm (UTC)
And you are right about fish! We had a cottage on a lake and ate fish that my brother caught. He'd catch it in the afternoon and we'd have it that night at supper. It tastes sweet when it's fresh.
Jun. 28th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
I hate scratchy clothes. Your grandfather must have been a man of great fortitude!

You are quite right about fish. I remember once going out for dinner with work colleagues in Milton Keynes and commenting that I didn't fancy eating fish there was it was too far from the coast. My US and Australian colleagues thought this was hilarious because "everywhere in Britain is near the coast."
Jun. 29th, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
Yes, spot on about the fish. I think the seasonal nature of the diet of the past would strike us (who have strawberries all year long) as odd. But then the glories of blackberry harvest...

Thanks for sharing the family story - these things make us sit back and think, don't they?
Jun. 29th, 2013 02:26 pm (UTC)
When my grandfather was little his grandmother lived with them. She remembered her parents talking about how they had had to endure Thomas Jefferson's mistreatment of the New England fishing industry.

I remember my grandfather fairly well. I was about 10 when he died. BTW, he was in France for some reason on Nov 11 1918. (He had not gone to war, he was in an essential industry as a metal chemist.) He wrote about hearing the joy in the street, but not going out, just sitting with his thoughts. We only lost one of our family, (got off so light compared to much of the rest of the world,) my grandmother's brother, this man's young brother in law, died at Belleau Wood.

So, long ramble there. But again, thinking how close the past is. Sometimes I am glad that my parents had me so late in their lives. I got a longer reach back that way.
Jun. 29th, 2013 03:28 pm (UTC)
*nods* Same here. My grannie was 18 when Queen Victoria died!
Jun. 28th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
Not many different vegetables, though; and probably some barley.
Jun. 28th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
Daughter likes potatoes, carrots, peas, brocoli and cauliflower. My granddad grew potatoes, turnips, cabbage, kale and onions. Carrots never seemed to grow well up there at all :}
Jun. 28th, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
Oh. I love those veggies too. Kale soup! And onion play nicely with just about anything.
Jun. 28th, 2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
Love this post, as I have just come back from shopping, too!!(Great minds think alike!!)

I remember getting oranges or tangerines in our stockings at Xmas, as Dad worked near the wharves and would pick some up as a 'treat' that wasn't available at that time of year in regular stores.

Yes, our A&P, and it's rival First National were huge, in our eyes, but only 4 aisles and one upright cooler for milk and butter and eggs! Now all the milk is in one cooler, another for yogurts, another for butter and cheese,etc.

My mother was one of eight and they lived in "the country" (which is now an annexed suburb of Boston). They survived the depression and war rationing by keeping a large vegetable garden and a chicken coop. My mother used to tell us of Grandma putting chicks in a box and putting them under the cast iron kitchen stove on cold nights so they could be raised for meat and eggs. A neighbor had a cow and swapped milk for eggs and produce.

Both my grandmothers were held up to us girls as example, because they both graduated from college!!Very unusual in their day!! One was born in 1886 and the other in 1887. One grandfather was an executive in the Telephone Co.(Ma Bell) and the other, an engraver who did 'calling cards' and wedding invitations for the rich on Beacon Hill and diplomas for Harvard and MIT, etc.
Jun. 28th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
Most interesting post of the day! I love hearing about that generation of America.

There's some diet program that uses the logic you noticed: You're not supposed to eat anything your grandparents wouldn't recognize.

What's skunk musk used for? Do you know? I'd think that would be the part you'd want to toss out!
Jun. 28th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
I am ridiculously flattered that you liked my post.

My parents were children of the depression. It made an impact on them, all their lives. (Use it up. wear it out, make it do, do without...)

I think skunk musk is now used as a basis for perfumes, believe it or not! I kind of like the smell of skunk when it is really distant on the wind. I think back then it was bought up by pharmacies as a basis for patent medicines.

The skunk oil smells important, if not pleasant.
Jun. 29th, 2013 03:11 am (UTC)
Huh, interesting to know about skunk oil! That makes sense.

My father was as well. He went in the hoarding direction -- all my childhood, we had a basement full of canned food. Hundreds of cans, even of things we didn't really want. Probably from that, I picked up a more mild (and useful) form of it -- I want just one or two extras of things. I don't want to run out of toothpaste and not have a new tube on hand. An extra pack of toilet paper in the closet makes me feel more secure.
Jun. 29th, 2013 12:15 pm (UTC)
My parents, too! My mother (and I) would scrape every last possible bit from a jar of peanut butter. When I did my student teaching in an 'affluent' suburb, I was horrified to see kids toss out uneaten sandwiches and fruit every day!!

I'm also a thrift store kind of gal, finding good clothing for less money gives me a great feeling. When I'm done with it, I pass it on to charity.

We had a large family and clothes were passed down and exchanged between cousins.
Jun. 29th, 2013 02:16 pm (UTC)
I love thrift shops. Hardly ever buy clothes new. There is something exciting about never knowing what you will find, and the prices, even in Brooklyn, are much better.

Jun. 29th, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
fridge - what fridge! if he was lucky there may have been an ice-house nearby! ;)

I love thrift shops if I can find them - they are few and far between in France unfortunately.
I remember when the store where a man (or woman) in a pristine white apron cut the cheese/meat in front of you and patted the amount of butter you wanted was replaced by a 'self-service' (horrors of horrors). Now I'm spoiled by the excellent mix of markets and producers' stores and excellent supermarkets where they cut the cheese and the meat and clean and gut the fish and.....but I only buy what I need - sometimes i go in for 1 item!
My mom always wants to buy a replacement for things before they have run out - I'm capable of driving carefully to the gas pump with the 'last 5 litres' red light flashing!
I saw somewhere that in Britian they are starting a campaign to explain to people that once they've removed the white meat from a chicken it shouldn't go into the trash can!!!

My mother grew up during WW2 and watched the Battle of Britain over her head. they had eggs from a neighbour and veg from the garden.

My big bugbear is people who throw food out because of the 'sell-by' date....even things that can't go 'off' like dry pasta. I eat yogurts that are a week beyond the date - and I'm still alive. we live in a throw away society where wastage is taken as normal. Kit and co would have fits!

Oh and talking of old grannies....my great grandmother died at 106 when I was about 12, which means she must have been born around 1867.

Edited at 2013-06-29 08:46 pm (UTC)
Jun. 29th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
My folks grew up during the depression and WWII, so I've inherited a bit of the frugal ways common of those eras. I'm not a fanatic about it, but I do see so much waste. I especially notice the effects of a throw-away society at work. I often find nearly full bottles of sports drinks or bottle water tossed in the trash, and wonder why they just don't take it home.
Jun. 29th, 2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
"...The food stores have gotten a lot bigger too..."

Remember when they used to be called *super*markets?
Jun. 29th, 2013 11:50 pm (UTC)
Oh yes.

Have you ever been to a piggly wiggly? They are mostly in the SE I think.
Jun. 30th, 2013 12:15 am (UTC)
I grew up in Quebec, which had its own various supermarkets (I wonder if Dominion still exists), but I've heard of Piggly Wiggly.
Jun. 30th, 2013 03:57 pm (UTC)
I remember a Piggly Wiggly in Puyallup, near Tacoma and Seattle. Only one I ever saw or heard of until I had a chance to be in the South.
Jun. 30th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
I just love the idea of anything named Piggly Wiggly. It is like getting your groceries in a children's story.

Did you spend some time in Norfolk?
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )