Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Childhood Comfort Food!

The awful phantom of the hungry poor.
                        Harriet Prescott Spofford

 I was discussing the price of groceries with My Hero the other day. I was telling him about the high prices of every day staples but the low prices of dare I say junk food. You see both of us grew up in poor or should I say financially challenged homes. I was lucky my Dad was a great provider and there was usually some kind of wild game or fish on the table. I remember him coming home with five gallon pails of smelts (a very small fish, think sardine small) scooped out of the lake in season. We cut the heads off fried them up and enjoyed this special treat. My Hero, as it turns out,had this same memory in his house. This was certainly great food but my happiest memories of favourite comfort food came out of a can.

Beans and wieners was my very favourite, with macaroni and tomatoes being a very close second. I remember my Mom opening two large cans of beans, cutting up some wieners that came in a huge box, and cooking them in a big pot on the stove. I would enjoy this so much with a couple of pieces of white bread. My Dad always bought day old white bread; they were ten loaves for a dollar. Thinking back I am pretty sure all the poor kids only had day old white bread, if they had any.

The macaroni and tomatoes with no meat was delicious and I think nutritious, I always put a big spoon of margarine in it. The margarine we had fought over whose turn it was to stir the bag of dye into it. Yes we were adding dye to our margarine to make people know it was not butter. How strange was that, does anyone else remember that? I remember it was taught to us as though it was a law (that may have been only in Ontario, kind of like our bagged milk today). Very strange indeed.

Another great comfort food was Bologna it came in a big roll and you could cut it as thick as you wanted. My Mom would fry/ burn it and we would put lots of ketchup on it, and then ate it up, smiling.
Peanut butter came in huge cans; we would slather it on this white bread and eat it while drinking our powdered skim milk with the lumps.
 I still crave some of these foods occasionally to this day as you can see by the photos. It seems to be a needed comfort to me during times of stress. I do not miss the dye filled margarine, even after all that arguing about whose turn it was to cut open the little bag of dye and squirt then stir into the margarine. Still sounds strange to me.

Well this brings me to the point I was trying to make. White bread which is probably not even good for you (and I no longer buy) is almost two dollars a loaf, peanut butter is very expensive, and the price of bologna is outrageous. A little can of beans runs about a dollar or more a can. Macaroni is almost two dollars a bag. Tomatoes are a dollar a can or more.

The staple reasonably priced comfort food I enjoyed as a poor child now seems to be a luxury food. This food may have not been the greatest nutritional food by today’s standards but it was food that filled our stomachs and our parents could afford it. This same food now seems to be out of reach for today’s poor.

My question is this….. What is on our financially challenged children’s plates today, and what, when they are my age, will they remember comforted them?
 Please let us hope it is not only cheap potato chips, and pop; that would truly be very sad.



  1. Love this post. It's filled with so much love and good memories.

    My ex mother in law used to talk about the dye for margerine...or as she called it...oleo.

    Here in MN. 1 in every 4 children are going without food. It breaks my heart.

  2. Hey B. I think in Arizona the comfort food for kids is fast food...sad. When I think of comfort food when I was a kid it was pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn. Somehow we always had a good supper. I remember pork chops being 39 cents a pound. Groceries are outrageous now. Have you seen the documentarty Food, Inc.? If not let me send it to is an eye opener.

  3. I've also looked at the price of groceries and wondered how "financially challenged" families can afford to feed their families GOOD food?! Why is the junk food less expensive than the good stuff?? We are so blessed, really, to be able to grow so much in our gardens and preserve it for the whole year!!

  4. Mmmmm... beans and franks! Had that too... (still do on the odd occasion)!

  5. funny that we're a generation apart and have the same food memories.
    Loved the wieners and beans and macaroni- fought with my bros about who could squish the marg-

  6. thanks for these memories. i, too, grew up loving fried bologna sandwiches. or mayonnaise sandwiches (just bread, mayo and lettuce).

    powdered milk. yup. grew up on that watery stuff too.

    we often had hot dogs in 'burnt gravy'. no meat to make gravy - just take lard, singe it down in cast iron skillet, add water and thickening. then put in cut up hot dogs and serve over potatoes. YUM! one of my earliest memories is of sitting at the supper table looking into a huge pot of burnt gravy and hot dogs.

  7. Your post sure brought back memories from my financially challenged childhood as well!
    Money was pretty tight when my kidlets were young too. I would go to Buns Master and buy garbage bags full of bread products at the end of the day. (I think we paid $2 for a bag?) My kids developed a taste for bread products with a firmer texture ie. stale. They never could appreciate the soft white blecht that they might be offered at someone elses home!
    As a pensioner, money is tight for me once again. I stock up at the sales so at the end of the month, I often come out of it pretty good.

  8. Lol. I also come from a avery similar background and shard the same comfort foods. It you are creative, you can stretch your dollar very far by adding health options like beans and hotdogs.

  9. I grew up with wieners and beans too. We also ate white bread with margarine and a sprinkle of sugar. Fond memories...

  10. Spam was the order of the day for me, growing up in Houston, Texas. I would eat it on a sandwich with white bread and mayo. Also loved a stalk of celery filled with peanut butter (I've always been weird).

    Spam in those days was considered a poor person's food because it was cheap and full of fat. Those were the days no one worried much about true nutrition or "health foods". Today, spam is expensive and comes in different "flavors" and such.

    Tomato sandwiches were good---and still are. But tomatoes back in the day were very flavorful and cheap. Today the experts have managed to take the flavor out of them and make them too costly to buy.

    Great post.

  11. Thank you so much for your comment and encouragement on my poetry blog. That particular poem was all about a tugging on my heart as well. I'm glad you felt it. :)

  12. My mom grew up the same as you-- she talks fondly of macaroni and tomatoes and beans and franks. As a matter of fact, she spent Christmas with her sister and they cooked up a big pot of beans a franks, enough to last a few meals, just like their mom used to do.

    Money is tight for us, and I have 4 children to feed, but we manage alright with our garden and using coupons and buying on sale. Prices seem a little higher where you are-- a loaf of bread is $1 here. I make a lot of casseroles, like shepard's pie and taco lasagna, which the kids love and it's a good way for me to sneak in some of those vegetables.

  13. LOVE the post! For me comfort foods would be my Grandma's mashed potatoes and gravy ( I can't make gravy to save my life); macaroni in milk with salt and pepper; and cubed potatoes and peas in a white sauce. MMMmmmmm..... I went grocery shopping this afternoon and spent $116 - that would have filled our trunk when we were first married. Today the container of peanut butter that Scott loves so dearly and will shriek.... "AH... WE'RE OUT OF PEANUT BUTTER!" Has gone up to $6.65. I told him soon we will start loosing weight as we won't be able to afford food. Growing up on a farm I was lucky in a lot of ways - no convenience foods but loads of GOOD wholesome meals and fresh baked treats.

  14. Good healthy food is getting scarily expensive these days, you are right when you say the junk type food is always cheaper. No wonder people are so unhealthy now.
    What happened to plain wholesome food - didn't do us any harm.

  15. The price of groceries is crazy! We have our own beef this year and that does help, some. But our teenage son seems to clean out the cabinets on a regular basis :)

  16. It's now called Ramen Noodles. Isn't bread outrageous!

  17. Michaele is right when I ask the students what they had for dinner. They tell me Ramen Noodles. Every student in our pod gets free lunch. Just totally amazes me so sad.

  18. you sure know how to bring back the memories! i was just tells my hubs the other day that i was craving smelt. he's never had it, but i'm not even sure how to find any these days.

    another thing mom made was shit on a shingle (and that's what she called it too!) it was chipped beef in a milk gravy. i think it's something dad ate in the service. i loved it! ooow...and pickle and wiener sandwiches!! ha! (i'm gonna stop now.)

  19. Sadly here healthy food is really expensive too. It is cheaper to buy fizzy drinks than it is to buy milk! We do try and eat fairly healthy, but also have a fairly limited budget!

  20. Thankfully food prices are not too bad here!

  21. Beanie weinies and macaroni with tomatoes. Two favorite meals for me too.

    I started baking my own bread quite awhile ago -- but the hubby still picks up bread from the day-old store once and a while.

  22. add liver sausage or cream cheese on that bread to your list and it looks like we grew up in the same are right - the foods that they make today have more then twice the processed foods that we ate as children...and when you factor in the technical aspect (tv, xbox, computer etc.) they dont run it off like we did either... :(

  23. Yup.... We had Oleo margarine in B. C. too.... we used to love to go next door to help the lady there squish the colour into the margarine...Mom didn't buy it... but, we loved the feel of the squishy bag..........we had no money at all..but, Mom insisted on buying a tiny pat of real butter...which disappeared in no time with 4 of us kids......and then we had dry bread....we didn't eat much at all it seems...and sometimes when we did it was not healthy at all.
    I'm sure our Mom didn't know beans about anything healthy, or really about food at all...after 5 years of living in England during the war..when there just wasn't much food around. She was very young... no food and then..all of a sudden.. kids.. after the war food coupons..and well... she just didn't learn ..ever...
    Sometimes we had bread and butter with sugar sprinkled on it...that was our lunch. It's a wonder any of us survived I guess.

  24. Similar memories here too, Buttons. Beans and franks every Saturday night... and we looked forward to it. :)

    But I lived close to the Atlantic Ocean so ate lots of fresh fish too. Nowadays fish is mighty expensive!


The mind grows by what it feeds on. J.G. Holland

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