I think a lot about food. Recently I was reflecting about the transformation of food in my life. Growing up on a dairy farm and with a mother that was a fabulous cook, good fresh food was always available. In addition to our endless supply of raw milk, we had a huge vegetable garden and occasionally we would butcher a cow to fill our freezer. Everything was homemade.
As kids watching the ads on TV, we longed for Chef Boy R Dee Ravioli instead of Mom’s Goulash, French’s Au Gratin Potatoes instead of Mom’s Scalloped Potatoes and more then anything else, we wanted the famous Swanson TV dinners! We thought the nifty tray’s they were packaged in were super cool, and you could eat them while watching TV, which was not allowed in our home.
Our Grandparents lived in a small town 30 miles away. We would visit at least once a week, where a candy dish awaited our arrival. After receiving our treat, we were immediately sent outside to play. Although they were strict, they loved us and often filled our wishes as a sign of their affection. One week-end, we had a sleep-over at their home, a huge treat in itself. At dinner time we were instructed to wash-up, get our pajamas on and then come down for dinner. This was not the usual protocol, but you never questioned. When we came down for dinner there were our TV trays with our TV dinners set atop! All this, complete with the “Lawerence Welk Show”! We were elated!
The next time we visited our grandparents and many times thereafter, we were treated to TV Dinners! This was not in keeping with our grandparents frugal beliefs. Gradually the shinny silver trays faded and their sturdiness lessened. It took awhile before we caught on to fact that – Grandma was washing the trays. She would then make one of her many delicious dishes, complete with all the trimmings and fill each individual compartment, cover with foil and freeze. Pretty smart grandma.
Packaged foods have come along way since I was a kid. There actually was nutritional food value in some of the earlier packaged products. Today the food value is printed on the outside of the box with; “Daily supply of Vitamin C”, ” Extra Vitamin D”, leaving the food ingredients as an unpronounceable filler. This is evident in the price too, a chicken pot pie for $0.99 – really? In 1960 Americans spent 18% of their income on food and 5% on health care. Today we spend 9% on food and 17% on health care. Hmmmm.
My mother and grandmother new better, and although they were frugal they knew where to put their money. I am so grateful for the importance they taught me on using fresh ingredients, the real taste of homemade, and the irreplaceable value of the family meal, individually compartmentalized or otherwise.