Did you guys see the other day where McCain was, like, “The fundamentals of the economy are strong,” and then it was pointed out to him that they were not, and then a few hours later, he's all, “The fundamentals of the economy are at risk”?
Whatever, dude. As the real future president has been saying, we don't need politicians to tell us times are tough.
But I'm not here to bum you out with schmeconomics. If the salad days are over—the Insalata Tricolore at Arrivaderci salad days—then let the return to iceberg commence!
In May, one of the nation's largest cooking sites, AllRecipes.com, reported that traffic to recipe pages using low-cost ingredients nearly doubled in the first three months of the year and that searches for low-cost foods increased as much 107 percent. In June, I wrote about the recession-led increase in sales of Spam luncheon globs.
And all that was before the economic downturn had turned into an economic smackdown. Imagine how many folks are back on the old college diet of ramen and peanut butter now that unemployment is higher than 6 percent and the market looks like it got looted in a riot.
What precedent do we have to help us figure out how to turn $1.27 in lint-coated couch change into a hearty meal for four?
I mean, other than Taco Jacks, MacNasties and Double Troubles.
We must turn to the likes of my grandmother, to her generation of penny-pinchers and string-savers. That's right, time to learn something more from them than “Wear a sweater” and “I've got your nose.” The Shitty Depression survivors (you call it “Great” if you want) knew how to get by.
My grandmother's mother, as legend has it, operated the “best gin still on the South Side (of Chicago).” And my great grandmother on my mother's side cured some seriously garlicky pickles in jars that lined the shelves of her old brownstone in Skokie. Your grandparents or great-grandparents probably mastered some survival-mode sustenance, too. Someone in your family knew how to transform two turnips, butter, cornflakes and a handful of peas into breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ask around.
How have you been making up for half of your food money going into the gas tank? I've been eating out less, drinking more water so I won't be as hungry and trying to prepare more dishes at home that I can extend through the week. I've also been scouring food blogs and historical websites to learn about how folks avoided going hungry in the 1930s.
Of course, with 26-percent unemployment, lots of them were standing in soup-kitchen lines or eating beans out of cans in hobo camps. You can check out romanticized depictions of the era in movies like Frank Capra's It Happened One Night and John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath, which was also made into a pretty good book, I hear.
This is one of my favorite Depression food reminiscences so far. It was posted by “ocdreamer” on Roadfood.com:
“I remember my Mom talking about the meals her mother made during the Depression. There were 8 kids & the food budget wasn't very big. My mom said that when they had strawberry shortcake for dinner that's all they had. Not that spongy stuff you see today but a biscuit type of shortbread with sliced strawberries & cream poured over top. Corn was cheap, so they'd make a meal of that. Then there was egg noodles topped with onions fried in butter & stewed tomatoes. These were weeknight dinners. The meal with meat would be saved for Sunday.”
The part about strawberry shortcake being an entire dinner makes me simultaneously sad and happy. The part about corn being a meal unto itself makes me hungry. I can easily imagine boiling a big pot of corn on the cob, pulling 'em out of the water all hot and juicy, and making a meal of 'em, couldn't you? Especially if you had butter or margarine, salt and maybe some hot sauce. You can still get a bottle of hot sauce for less than a dollar almost anywhere.
The noodle dish sounds good, too. I'm tempted to make it. I'll hit up my dad's or aunt's garden for the tomatoes. I'd rather have no tomato than eat one of those cheap mutants from the grocery store.
And then there's the thing about meat being just for Sunday. I don't need to worry about that because I never touch the stuff. That's something you might consider in developing your own neo-Depression (or recession-plus, über-recession, Depressionette or whatever you wanna call it) diet. Your money will go further, and your health and environment will benefit, as well. I'm not telling you what to do—I'm just saying.
Here's a tasty-looking recipe posted to the same site by “Leethethebard”:
“Depression era meal from my grandmother's file box… It's called Spinach and Potatoes… and I've heard from other old timers (over 50) who remember it. Heat olive oil and garlic in a pot. Add lots of fresh spinach (frozen in a pinch). Boil down… salt generously. Add a generous amount of peeled potatoes, cut in 1 1/2 inch squares. Cook 'til potatoes are soft to the fork… Enjoy! We ate this as a full stew-like meal.”
Sounds like a good dish to share with your hobo friends while watching the Obama/McCain debate this Friday.