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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lessons from the Great Depression

On Friday, Frugal Veggie Mama posted about an interesting series of YouTube videos on Great Depression cooking. Clara, now 93 years old, shares the foods her family ate during the Depression as well as memories of that time. She has a series of cooking episodes on YouTube, and her own website where you can order a DVD of these if you'd like.

I watched all the videos over the weekend and, while I probably won't make the recipes, I gleaned some great tips. This information will look somewhat familiar because bloggers, including myself, are picking up ways to decrease our food costs and environmental footprints from many sources. The tips I gleaned from her videos are listed below with my additional comments or links in italics.

  • Starches such as potatoes, pasta, and bread are cheap and fill your belly.
    Use whole grain, if possible, for more nutrition and fiber. Wheat berries, for example.

  • Lentils are a cheap and filling source of protein. Meat was very expensive and rare; the cuts were very thin.
    Lentils are the fastest cooking of the legumes, and will therefore use less energy.

  • Cut potatoes in small cubes so they cook faster, using less energy.

  • Finish cooking foods by covering the pan and turning off the heat.
    See Retained Heat Cooking for taking this a step further.

  • Trim the bruised parts off fruits and vegetables rather than throwing out the whole item.
    Anything to avoid food waste is good!

  • One tip I would add is use a rubber spatula to scrape every last bit of food out of the bowl or pot.

  • You can survive with salt and pepper as your only seasonings.
    Grow some herbs for variety.

  • Use lots of olive oil; it's healthy.
    I disagree with this one. While oil was an easy source of calories in hard times, its copious use is not a nutritious part of the diet. (See these two articles.)

  • Grow your own vegetables for more variety in your diet.

  • Save seeds from your food to dry and replant next year.

  • Make sure your neighbors know they can't harvest from your garden without permission.
    Help them develop their own food security to reduce theft issues.

  • Keep chickens for your egg and meat needs.

  • Eat smaller portions.
    Americans today are used to super-sized meals. Huge portions were not available during the Great Depression.

  • If you live in a cold climate, you can bury food in the snow instead of owning a freezer.
    I'm assuming they didn't have a dog...

  • Turn the heat down and bundle up to stay warm.
    See Crunchy Chickens' challenge and read the comments for ideas on how to stay warm.

  • Find cheap sources of entertainment. Read a book aloud to the family, for example.

  • And, most importantly: Don’t use up everything you have; keep some aside, in case conditions get worse.


1 comment:

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