Archive for Make it Do

Self-Service

Things have a way of coming around again. By that I mean, grocery delivery as an example. Prior to World War II housewives called in their grocery order to their grocer, who they most certainly knew on a first name basis. The friendly neighborhood grocer would put the order together and have their delivery boys deliver it to the home. Mr. Grocer would likely send a bill at the end of the month.

 

Surely, this type of shopping made the world a lot smaller. Smaller orders, more frequently. And having a personal shopper meant someone knew you and your household very intimately. Imagine having a personal grocer today doing your shopping – they’d know when a baby joined the house, when you adopted a new dog, when you tried the newest diet fad and then went on to the next.

 

An IGA announcement in the April 1943 hometown paper made it clear how grocery shopping during WWII would be forever changed:
“Dear Patron,

 

In order to comply with the recommendations of our government, for the conservation of Manpower, Gasoline and Rubber, we announce the following change in our policy:

 

Beginning Monday, April 19, 1943, we will be on a strict carry-out basis. While this is a direct contribution to our national war effort, it will also permit us to pass along many savings so made. We are sure the change will work no undue hardship and ask your cooperation at this time.

 

We welcome the opportunity of serving you in our new self-service and carry-out plan. For your convenience, we will arrange to prepare orders on a “will call” or by payment of a small delivery charge. Delivery charges will be made according to the size of the order and paid the City Delivery upon leaving the store.

 

We wish to thank you for your valued patronage.

 

Yours for Victory,

Ramsey’s IGA Store

Ray R. Hildebrandt, Manager

 

The advertisement goes on to state the New Policy:

  1. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Display.
  2. Shopping made easier – with open shelf displays and self-service push carts.
  • No Delay! Shop quickly or leisurely as you like.
  1. Clerks to help you.
  2. All items plainly marked with prices and points.
  3. Everyday low prices!

 

Store Delivery Rules

What the advertising is describing is the birth of modern grocery shopping. Bulk shopping would come later, to the mind-boggling astonishment of my grandparents’ generation.

 

Were the changes to grocery shopping for the good?  How was manpower, gasoline and rubber saved if instead of a grocer making deliveries switched to all his customers coming to the store individually? What long-term effect did the change have on customer service? Is it convenience that is bringing some people to grocery delivery services like Peadpod and Door-To-Door Organics (two I have used myself)? At a time when homemaking was desperate for convenience, was this an example of contrary change?

 

As I think about the advertisement, I can’t help but think about how the new policy led to modern patterns of consumerism and self-indulgence that leads to obesity. For such a small advertisement in the paper, the results were huge.

Grocery Store - Self Serve

Waste Not.

Stop WasteAn overriding value of the WWII project is about avoiding waste. Whether the value was learned through the years of The Great Depression, or through government facilitation, it has always been clear to me that people alive during WWII were conscious about waste. Their efforts made them selfless in our minds and to them each following generation seems indulgent and living with a growing sense of entitlement.

 

About waste in general, I turned to a valuable timeline found on the Association of Science – Technology Centers site.

 

1927: John M. Hammes, an architect in Racine, Wisconsin invents the InSinkErator® food disposer in his basement. It is patented in 1935, a year when only 52 models sold.

 

Why is that important, you may ask. Well…think about it. 52 garbage disposals installed; do you know of any modern homes without a disposal these days?

 

There was a real problem at the company ten years later, as their salesforce was still trying to figure out how to sell disposers. They just weren’t necessary for the small amount of kitchen waste produced.

 

After WWII though, 18 competitors of InSinkErator arrived on the scene. Times were changing.

 

In the early 1900s, Americans were estimated to waste 80-100 pounds of food per year, per person. Can you believe we are now tossing 20 pounds per person, per month? That’s 100 pounds in 1900, 240 pounds in 2015.

What has made this change? Availability. Convenience.

Convenience came in the form of several inventions:

1914 – Wax Paper

1928 – Cellophane

1929 – Aluminum Foil

1930 – Plastic (polyvinyl chloride) and polystyrene

1937 – Nylon, the world’s first synthetic fiber

Waste Fat

Before such inventions, we were only able to take what we could eat. We weren’t able to store food easily so we better judged what we really needed. I can give an example. Today I reluctantly tossed out a half full clamshell of grape tomatoes to the compost that had gone beyond their safe ripeness. I don’t do this absent-mindedly. I think about what I did that led to such waste. I realized it’s about size and portions (the American way!). The clamshell held about a 1 ½ pounds of grape tomatoes — roughly 60 of them. Realistically, there’s no way we would have eaten that many grape tomatoes. We have learned to buy for size, without thinking if it’s really what we need…value is in the bigger package, right Sam’s Club and Costco?

 

Speaking of packaging, I’m having trouble with the local grocers. They have a real problem with me not allowing them to wrap household items in plastic before putting in my bags with my other items. Never mind the fact that most of what we buy is wrapped in heavy plastic, slid inside a cardboard box. In the case of most household items (shampoo, soap, moisturizer, cleaning supplies), that are put on our bodies or countertops where we serve food, what is the problem if it comes near my food on its way home from the store?

Waste Paper

Anyway…back to waste. In 1947, J. Gordon Lippincott, an Industrial Designer of the time, made a comment on an observation he had made: “Our willingness to part with something before it is completely worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society in history. It is soundly based on our economy of abundance. It must be further nurtured even though it runs contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity – the law of thrift.”  That said in 1947, long, long before Apple phones are replaced every two years for the newer version with cooler features! Mr. Lippincott was actually referring to inventions such as disposable Bic pens and disposable Gillette razors. This type of waste just didn’t make sense.

 

Sadly, things only became worse as Americans became increasingly focused on consumerism.

 

1953: The American economy’s “ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods”. – Chairman of President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors.

 

“It is our job to make women unhappy with what they have.” – B. Earl Puckett, Allied Stores Corp.

 

1991: “Our economy is such that we cannot “afford” to take care of things: labor is expensive, time is expensive, money is expensive, but materials — the stuff of creation — are so cheap that we cannot afford to take care of them.” – Wendell Berry

 

1993: “We’re reminded a hundred times a day to buy things, but we’re not reminded to take care of them, repair them, reuse them, or give them away.” – Michael Jacobson, Center for the Study of Commercialism

 

By latest claims, Americans throw out 230,000,000 tons of trash (4.6 pounds per day) per person annually. Less than ¼ of that amount is recycled.

 

And back to food waste — it’s too much. 20 pounds per person, each month of food. Roughly 15% – 20% of what we buy we throw out.

 

Think about the additional waste of resources involved. According to author and food waste expert Jonathan Bloom, food waste is not just a moral issue, but also an environmental issue. “A tremendous amount of resources go into growing our food, processing, shipping, cooling and cooking it,” said Bloom. “Our food waste could represent as much as six percent of U.S. energy consumption.”

 

It comes down to winning the modern war against overabundance and consumerism.

 

Stores overstock. If the shelves or produce displays look empty we think there is something wrong with what’s left. No one wants to take the last head of broccoli.

 

Any produce slightly subpar is tossed before it even goes to market. The USDA standards of grading produce puts a farmer at loss. If something is a Grade 2, two-thirds of its market value is lost, even though taste and freshness is identical to a Grade 1. It’s all about aesthetics.

 

91% of consumers have tossed food for the reason it is past its ‘sell date’. There are no USDA health or safety standards on food expiration (except in the case of baby formula). The dates you see on food in a store is determined by manufacturer — someone who would have an interest in you tossing to buy again.

 

So, here we are in 2015…70 years since WWII and the food rules. ‘Living Green’ is popular…reduce, reuse, recycle feels like a hip concept to us. Don’t be fooled. The trend was a way of life, not a trend, until the end of WWII and we’re not even close to mastering it the way our grandparents did. This is one of those lessons we must hold on to.

 

Don’t buy more than you need. Use what you buy. Reuse or recycle what’s left of packaging, if you can’t avoid packaging completely. Or, as they use to say – Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without!

Food Waste

Ain’t That the Pits?

Summer is in full swing and with it comes excess of everything we’ll wish we had in the winter — fresh strawberries, raspberries, apricots, and cherries for now.

This morning’s task was pitting the cherries and I was excited to use a tool found at a recent estate sale: the Cherry Pitter or Cherry Stoner. It will answer to either name. Even with a fun new (old) tool, the project did still turn out to be a chore. And a messy one at that (Note to self: Post about aprons!)

I spent the time pitting the cherries thinking about how the tool must have changed over the years and did a little research.

So, here is my tool (note the cherry-stained fingers): IMG_20150719_153327814[1]IMG_20150719_153406378_HDR[1]

 

Another version I did not buy at an estate sale (*sigh*): Cherry PittererAnd one more that I would love to have to close out my cherry pitter collection (*sigh*): Cherry Pitter

I’m thinking about the people and brains over the years working on the problem of pits in cherries (or olives). It’s not one of our most pressing dilemmas; probably never was, but I bet more than once in many kitchens over the years it was a problem that some people took to solving. I think that’s pretty notable.

IMG_20150719_131044781_HDR

 

The Six Month Mark of the Project

Today marks the halfway point for the WWII Food Rationing Project year. The starting day was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, which was the event that sent the United States into the war and rationing.

So, how’s it going?

IMG_20150607_125024429_HDRIn the first month of the project, I was able to manage the weekly meal prep according to the Meal Planning booklets from 1943/1944.  It would take an entire day to prep the food, which is okay since I like that kind of mindful working. The recipes were good, though notably scaled back from what we were eating prior to the project. One problem though was keeping sandwich bread fresh and soft through the week, especially if I made lunches ahead of time for the week, wrapped in wax paper. By Friday, we felt like we were eating celery/egg sandwiches on toast. Preparing lunches for the day during the morning rush proved too complicated in my routine without losing an hour’s worth of sleep that made me functional for the day. I say it over and over – I don’t know how they did it!

I enjoyed making bread every week. But, I am currently trying to find a recipe for Potato Bread instead of the typical wheat flour recipes I had been using. I’ve been buying instead of making for two months’ time. IMG_20150607_125238013_HDR

I haven’t purchased sugar in over three months’ time. In the beginning of the project I wasworried about supply and running on fumes by the end of the week. That was also at the time I was following the meal planning booklets closely. We’re not eating desserts at the end of each meal. The worst craving was for Oreo cookies and with their invention in 1912, they actually were on the allowed list.

We have a huge (to our standards) “Victory” Garden. It’s a pain to keep up. During WWII people were encouraged to useIMG_20150607_130141634 every inch of lawn space for a Victory Garden. We’re only using about 1/8th of our yard for it and I can’t keep the weeds down.

Plastic containers have left our kitchen for good. It didn’t take long to switch over to glass. I’m still using freezer bags in the freezer since I IMG_20150607_125310473_HDRcouldn’t come up with a better solution. Utensils were a challenge to replace and I have scrounged around antique shops and estate sales to repurchase non-plastic measuring spoons, cups, and such. One recipe booklet told me to use a rubber spatula to scoop something out of a jar. I was elated! I would easily nominate rubber spatulas as the greatest kitchen invention of modern time. Something so simple, right?

IMG_20150607_125521396It is rare for food to be thrown out. My mother is a master of leftovers and it’s taking me practice to get there, but I’ve greatly improved on food waste. The solution is to not buy things special for a recipe that I’ll only use once and don’t buy anything I don’t need, period. There is always a suitable substitute for ingredients, or you can omit (Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without).

I haven’t purchased cleaning supplies in six months. Yes, I still clean the house! Vinegar, Borax, baking soda, lemon juice/oil all do the job. For everything. When a t-shirt is beyond its wearable lifespan, it is cut up into four rags. Which can be rewashed.

We are eating a lot of chicken. Chickens weren’t plentiful during WWII, they were needed for eggs, but when we started following the recipes we were eating way too much red meat, even under the monthly rationing standards. I categorize this change as “When You Know Better”. It just didn’t feel healthy to be eating that way.

So, what do we eat?

Eggs. Chicken. Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Salads. Fruits. Vegetables – lots of potatoes. Ham. And, nobody is going hungry.

When I bake and cook I listen to the radio or music from the era. This point IMG_20150607_130519694made me realize I had been forgetting that every single kitchen I spent time in as a kid had a radio centered in the kitchen.

Back in December when people asked me why I was going to start the project I told them it was a study in contentment, resourcefulness, and mindful eating. I have to say, it’s been all of that. In very good ways. The next six months will march on; starting today I will make a commitment to shore up some of the edges that have become frayed as far as the rules go and see what else comes along. To Victory!

A D-Day Anniversary

D Day

Today marks the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France that took the lives of (or wounded) approximately 425,000 Allied and German troops. Back home, the news of the operation would have traveled via radio and newspaper slowly compared to today. When word reached home many Americans were stunned by the staggering numbers reported. 4,000 ships and 11,000 planes supported the attack. For anyone with a loved one in the European theater, they had to wonder and worry; startle at every knock on the door.

If the home front was weary of the rations and shortages, D-Day brought people back to reality. No matter how hard it was to sacrifice and make do, the effort was far worse in Europe and troops needed support without complaint.

Renewed commitment to the effort was found.

In my hometown paper from Ripon, Wisconsin an editorial around the time read, “It is time somebody spoke sharply to those disgruntled citizens who “can’t get along” under wartime restrictions.

The woman who scurries about trying to buy every pair of sheer hose she can get her hands on because she “just won’t wear those heavy stocking” is in the same class as the housewife who chases from store to store, hoping to get still another pound of coffee to add to her hoarded pile.

The woman who “can’t get along” on her sugar ration belongs with the man who feels that something “must be done about” getting him a third pork chop. And all these persons are in the same class with those who are “about ready to give up” because of gas rationing, fuel oil rationing, the shortage of chocolate, the impossibility of getting a new vacuum cleaner, etc. etc.

Is a pork chop, then, a matter of vital concern to a free and ingenious people? Is it really important whether or not we have a second cup of coffee? We have had these things as a matter of course. We have grown used to them, but is it fair to expect them when a whole world is upside down, when there is a battle to the death to see whether democracy shall survive or be wiped out? Is it fair to “beef”about our “hardships” when the issue of victory or defeat is still undecided?

Even if there has been “lack of proper planning” and “unparconable mistakes in Washington” and a “woeful absence of vision”, is it fair, or practical, or helpful to the war effort to grouse and grumble about “condition”?

All over the world today, in dozens of outposts, the soldiers of democracy, though they may have the coffee and beef and the chocolate we find it difficult to get, are living under conditions we cannot even imagine — and dying to keep from us the fate of a permanent loss of good things of life.

Men are dying at sea trying to bring us the coffee we crave, getting some through despite the dangers just so that we may have that cheering drink at breakfast if at no other time.

And we, sitting in our easy chairs with the radio playing, soft music in the background and with the room temperature still comfortable, express our displeasure that our coffee is neither so good nor so plentiful as in the past!

Wake up, complainers! A million Japs are at the throats of our brothers and sons, who are fighting for us in Asia’s heat and Europe’s cold. What have we to complain about, except that we care so little to help them, except that we are not doing all the little we can?”

Normandy Beach

Cemetery at Normandy Beach

Frosted Meatloaf: Why Not?

The American Meat Institute was founded in 1906 in Chicago as the American Meat Packers Association. The organization was created shortly after the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and spent much its early years helping meat packers adjust to new inspection requirements.

During WWII the Institute became instrumental in advertising to consumers to drive interest and demand of meat. With the rationing restrictions and shortages, many homemakers were learning to make do without meat altogether.  Interestingly, in 1944 the American Meat Institute Foundation, was created with the sole purpose of allowing AMI to conduct scientific research designed to help meat and poultry companies improve their plants and their products.

One of the premises of my project was to discover and describe how WWII brought on the emergence of food science. When it came to food, the US Army was most interested in delivering light-weight, non-perishable, and tasty food to soldiers. Eggs, milk, and many other dairy products turned to powder. Chemical preservatives and salt could extend shelf lives of products, allowing transportation overseas.

What came first: corporations noticing the trend and applying it to the home front early in the war (who wouldn’t want to buy a little meal convenience), or corporations developing products and seeing a near end to the war and their new profits? I’m inclined to answer the latter.

Returning soldiers found work and settled off farms. Once homemakers were off the farm, supply of dairy and other food was found in grocery aisles, not gardens.

So, back to Frosted Meatloaf – I almost forgot! Through advertisements disguised as recipe frosted meatloafpamphlets, The American Meat Institute introduced a new, creative, and meat-extending version of meatloaf in 1943. Frosted Meatloaf. It was a regular meatloaf with mashed potatoes “frosting”.

I’ve never been a food mixer. I’d rather use one of those compartmentalized plates at Thanksgiving to keep my cold salads away from the warm sides. I don’t want my stuffing and gravy to touch.

Frosted Meatloaf took me out of my comfort food zone. And I didn’t like leaving my zone. Hubby enjoyed the effort, presentation, and flavor. I, on the other hand, ended up deconstructing the thing when it got to my plate.

Some things just shouldn’t be messed with, no matter how boring the original becomes.