Friday, May 13, 2016

Mama was a COD

My mother was a true COD (child of the depression).  She could scrape the mayonnaise jar so clean, it looked like it had already been washed.  And yes, we kept all the mayonnaise jars (and the jelly jars - I wish I still had the marmalade jar collection).  She crocheted rugs from the plastic bread bags she washed and saved.  Even empty Kleenex boxes were saved, so we could come in from shoveling snow, put our feet into the Kleenex box without removing our boots, and make that emergency trip to the bathroom without taking off all the outdoor gear.  (There were, quite likely, bread wrappers on our feet inside the boots, as well.)

I was reminded of this yesterday, as I went through my ancient three ring recipe binder, placing all the old handwritten pieces into sheet protectors.  It's touching to find the recipes mom wrote out for me, often noting which sister gave her the recipe.  (Almost always, Bernice or Rosie, one from Bea.)  Those recipes were, without fail, written on scrap paper.

Often, as in the photo above, recipes were passed to me, written on the back of  outdated invoice paper, or key punch cards, which her brother brought to her from his employer.  Instead of "wasting" the paper, it was brought to our house, and put to good use.  I can't tell you how many recipes are written on the back of yellow cardstock, promoting a display spinner - the Harvard beet recipe is notable, because it's not only on the yellow cardstock paper, one of my kids took a bite out of the edge.

Junk mail was saved and anything printed on one side was turned, clean side up, and placed onto a small clipboard next to mom's place at the kitchen table - to the immediate right of her coffee cup, saucer, and spoon.  (Aside - I never saw her drink coffee from a mug, always cup, saucer, spoon.) She used those pieces to write her grocery lists, or to share a short recipe.  I actually have a three ingredient sauce recipe that was written on the bottom half of a piece of junk mail, and ripped in half, so as not to waste that extra blank space.

Today is garbage day in my neighborhood.  Each house in my neighborhood puts out two large bins on wheels - one for recycling, and one for garbage.  In my youth in Minneapolis, our family of four was allowed one metal lidded can (Oscar the Grouch style) per household, and it was picked up once a week; rarely did we fill ours.  Granted, we each also had a burning barrel in the driveway.

This is how trash was done at our house:  There was a large wastebasket in the kitchen, lined with a paper grocery bag; this was for burnables, like dirty Kleenex, paper towels (which we bought one roll at a time, and used judiciously), labels from the canned vegetables, etc.  There was another bag for the unburnables like the empty vegetable cans, etc.  In a corner of the kitchen sink, there was an open milk carton, inside a bread wrapper (we must have eaten a LOT of bread) and all the wet waste went in there - egg shells, potato peels, orange rinds. All tin cans were rinsed, labels removed, both ends removed, and flattened.  Every week, before trash pick-up, the bag of cans and other unburnables went out to the trash can; the paper stuff went into the burning barrel, a twist tie went around the bread wrapper holding the wet trash, and it too went to the lidded can in the alley.  And that's how a family of four got by with one small can.

I know that these days we are no longer allowed to burn, but I can't help but wonder what is worse for our environment - burying all that waste, or burning it.  Granted, back in the 60s, we didn't get every single thing from the grocery store double wrapped, in moisture proof styrofoam trays.  We didn't get our sandwich in a plastic bag with a zip top - you learned to do the "drug store wrap," and your sandwich was in a piece of waxed paper, as were the celery and carrot sticks.  Ice cream came in cartons, which could be rinsed and flattened, before being put in the burning bag.  And those foil insulated bags that kept your ice cream frozen on the way home?  Saved and re-used, sometimes in your school lunch bag.

Just remembered... there was a man you called when the burning barrel got full and he came and emptied it in the back of his rusty red truck, by hand.  Actually got out of the truck and lifted it up himself....

All this from going through my old recipe folder.


Beth-near Louisville KY! said...

Amazing what things can send us back ..... down memory lane.... Our recycles bin often has more in it than the garbage bin itself. What ever happened to the movement in packaging... that less was more? I wish we had more of it!!!

Shashi Nayagam said...

Such lovely memories for you Sue. Your mum really took recycling to heart. If people did the same now the world would I am sure be a better place to live.

Rachel Murphree said...

My mom was exactly the same, but we didn't have a burning barrel. We had a compost pile in the latest house I remember, and I try to do that here. but here, you need to provide it supplemental water to get it going... sometimes I feel like my mother, more as time goes by it seems....and when I was younger, I of course swore that wouldn't happen to me. LOL

Anonymous said...

I discovered your blog today while looking for fellow dollmakers online and have been immersing myself in your words for the last hour. You are such a lovely, strong, amazing woman and it sounds like your mother was, too! There is something familiar and comforting about your writing, even though we are complete strangers. Thank you for your blog!