Sunday, February 16, 2014

Like Grandma Used To Make

A common theme in our day, especially among conservatives, is how we should get back to the way our grandparents did things.  The cliche is pulled out for education, for neighborhoods, for just about anything, really.  One can almost hear the sighing.  If only...

It is nearly always completely wrongheaded, by the way. 

I have heard it a lot over the years about food.  Those wonderful, healthy, natural foods that our grandparents used to eat were much better for us than all those unexplained chemicals we eat today.  Sure, they were higher in fat, but they worked much harder, burning more calories, so that was an offset. Good, wholesome, real food.

Like lard, for example.  Let's have more lard.  And organ meats.  We need more liver, tongue, and tripe in our diets.  Blood sausage.  Don't forget the coagulated cream before refrigeration was much good.  Cweam Dwied Beef was my mother's favorite as a little girl, and you can still get those salt strips which reportedly have a bovine provenance at the supermarket.  Maybe I should have that on toast again soon. Soup stock made from the even more unattractive parts of animals - fishheads, pig's feet.  Even the better cuts of meat were often heavily smoked and salted. Let's rekindle our desire for five or six versions of herring at a shot - that is the center of the romantic and elegant sounding Swedish Smörgåsbord. (Though jellied veal was also big.)

I read in the History of Bedford a sermon at the Presbyterian church by an old Scot-Irish minister who was invited back for some anniversary in the late 1800's.  He deplored how far the youth of his era had fallen in industriousness, piety, and learning.  He attributed it to the bread.  If only the mothers would make that black bread that he had grown up on as a lad, he was sure things would start to come around again. What the Swedish pastors might have recommended we eat worries me even more.

Don't forget the beer and the cheap hooch that was given even to many children.  At lunchrooms outside the mills here in Manchester before Prohibition you could get a millworker's lunch - nine beers and a hot dog - once you were old enough to have a mill job.  The beers were only six or eight ounces and only about 4% alcohol, but still - that's a fair bit of ETOH for midday.

Just for the record, one grandfather was an accountant, another the egg man. Neither of those were particularly aerobic, calorie-burning activities, though they worked a lot of hours.


james said...

"Cream Dried Beef"

Is that related to
"a blend of ground meats and tasty gravies appetizingly poured over a shingle?"

FWIW, my grandmother was a very good and efficient cook (worked at it professionally for years), making plenty of things from scratch and preserving others (I never did care for head cheese, though), and my mother also is a good cook. But with the variety and quality of ingredients easily available I eat better now than ever before, and not just because my wife cooks well. She does, but there are more fresh vegetables than before for her to use, a wider variety of meats, and spices that I only used to hear about. Turnips and almonds I once rarely saw; now they're my work snacks.

Donna B. said...

I'm tickled pink that I don't have to do things the way my grandmother did.

Unknown said...

I'm trying to think of anything bad about lard. Nope. Can't do it. I say more lard. More bacon grease.

Who Struck John said...

I agree with Class Factorum. When it comes to baking, use lard. Leave the shortening for the also-rans.

Retriever said...

My mother was the world's worst cook. My grandmother was a fantastic cook. Taught me to grow vegetables, and (when that not possible) to buy locally, eat seasonally, buy organic produce, eat humanely raised animal meat, milk and eggs because she said God made us stewards, not torturers of animals. She was a stingy Yankee who may have bought SOME pricy food but never wasted any. Taught me how to make delicious soups and stews and use up leftovers in interesting ways. She loved guests as it gave her an excuse to splurge on treats and cook all day preparing. I'm just like her. She spent part of her youth in Europe so always enjoyed cooking w spices and new ingredients.

She was socially traditional but quite determined to support the local farmers around her, and militantly against factory farming. She also knitted dozens and dozens of mittens a year for her church fair every year for local poor kids (of whom, sadly, there were all too many in desperate need of them). She felt that giving your time and effort was more loving than the two bucks apiece she cd have given instead for the mittens.

She basically served us a Mediterranean diet w periodic nods to the meat and potatoes tastes of the men. She made bread, minimized sugar, and bought no processed foods that I can remember. At her funeral the priest read Proverbs 31 and nobody snickered. It described her to a T. And to the extent that I ever follow her example (I'm lazy and wrathful and not half the woman she was) my family are happier. Corny, but she is my role model. absolutely. jerks like me need saintly grandmothers to inspire us...

Redneck said...

The old diet was better than how MOST people eat today. If you eat better than most people (it isn't hard), great.