We have a New Year’s Day tradition, as most of you do, of fixing a special meal to make sure we have good luck for the year. Our traditional dish is homemade Hoppin’ John’s Black-eyed Peas and Cornbread. We have a side of sauerkraut (for the cabbage part) – just for good measure.
Enjoying simple, inexpensive, yet hearty meals like black-eyed peas always makes me fondly remember my Grandmother, Agnes.
I remember, as a youngster, watching my grandmother carefully flatten out a used piece of aluminum foil, until it was smooth again. Then she folded it neatly and put it in a drawer to use again. When I inquired as to why she did this, she explained that during the Depression, they had to save and reuse everything. The habit never left her. We could use more thinking like this.
Our meal this year made me think about all those simple dishes my grandmother and mother fixed for me as I grew up, and how I fixed them for my family, keeping the traditions alive.
When you study recipes from the Depression Era, it’s easy to see how inventive our ancestors were about finding ways to make meals from whatever they happened to have on hand – which many times wasn’t much. I admire their ingenuity.
We still fix these meals in our family, on special occasions and for comfort food. I thought I would share a few of our family favorites with you and see what ones you may have enjoyed as well. In future posts I’ll include recipes. I’ve also listed the main ingredients, so you can see how basic these are to make and why many people survived on these foods.
Homemade Gravy and Biscuits
•Melted meat fryin’s (or lard) flour & milk. You can add sausage or dried beef (if available)
•Served over homemade biscuits
•Leftover biscuits are eaten the next day, warmed, with butter and maple syrup.
•Cornmeal, salt and water
•We slice the mush, coat with thin layer of flour and fry in bacon grease (lard)
•Serve warm with butter and maple syrup
Homemade Potato Soup
•Potatoes, onion, celery and whole milk (even better with some of the cream left in)
•This was my personal favorite whenever I felt ill as a child
Green Beans, Ham and Potatoes
•Fresh picked green beans, onion, ham hock and quartered potatoes
•Favorite for end of summer harvest, served with sliced tomatoes from the garden
•Leftover cooked beef, onion and potatoes – celery if available
•Eggs and flour
Soup Beans and Ham
•Dried beans (I like the smaller navy pea beans or pinto beans), ham hock, onion
•Served over cornbread
•Left-over cornbread was served the next morning for breakfast. We crumbled it into a glass of milk and sprinkled a little sugar over it. Homemade cereal.
Note: When I fry bacon, I save the fat and store it in a jar in the refrigerator. This is call Meat Drippings or Meat Fryin’s. Lard is fat rendered from pork and is not Crisco Shortening. Tallow is the fat from beef or mutton – great to use for making soap.
I realize that these foods all use ingredients that we’ve been told are bad for us, such as lard, cream, whole milk and butter. But these recipes were made from what people grew in their gardens, or products from the animals they raised on their land. And I can tell you that not one person in my family was overweight eating this food – most likely because we were physically active and outdoors a lot. But I have to say that one look at the condition of the majority of people today tells me the “approved FDA” foods are not what I want to be eating either!
But truthfully, do I eat these types of food often? Only as an occasional special treat. I too spend the majority of my day sitting at a computer these days. But it’s good to know how to fix these simple, hearty foods for emergencies. And they could just save you from going hungry in hard times.
What are some of your family’s traditional dishes from the past?