Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Eating Poor in the Country

I have noticed from reading a number of blogs that being poor in the country is vastly different from being poor in the city. One of the main differences is with food. I draw on my own experiences growing up for this post.

Venison is probably the main source of protein for poor people in the country. You can always shoot one deer per person but sometimes more depending on the season. One can usually count on a neighbor or relative to give you an unwanted deer. You cut up the deer yourself because it costs money to pay a butcher. Typically you would have venison steaks and maybe venison burger. You can also supplement your protein supply for the year with pheasant, duck, maybe turtle and possibly either bear or moose. If you are a little better off, you might have homegrown chickens but it would cost to feed them so that's a maybe.

Potatoes would likely be your main starch for the entire year. You need to grow enough potatoes for the entire year. You can make mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, baked potatoes and lefse. There is no such thing as too many potatoes.

For vegetables, you need to grow and can your veggies. Green beans, beets, peas, and corn are the main staples. You would also typically have homemade pickles and jellies. Milk can be bought much cheaper from a local dairy farmer.

A cheap meal for the country folk is "cheapy mac". This is the cheapest mac n cheese (usually 4 for a buck) combined with cooked ground venison. You can feed a family of 6 for 50 cents.

It is a bit odd to me that because of these habits growing up, it shapes how I still think about food. I still like venison steaks and can still help butcher a deer with no problem. I could eat potatoes every day. I have gotten back into canning and I really like it. I will not ever go back to eating Cheapy Mac. I do draw the line there. The other side is that I will always love buying food and have slight hoarding tendencies with regard to food. I am constantly aware of this and struggle with it.

Is your relationship with food now shaped by your childhood relationship with food? Can anybody else relate to being poor in the country?

20 comments:

  1. I guess growing up in my early years in the Dakotas I too eat potatoes at every meal every day. We had venison growing up and my husband hunted a lot in the early years of our marriage. I have cut up many deer myself. I don't think that people who live in the city have any resources like we did. We could go to the farmer and people just took care of each other. But in the city it is the food bank or the shelter.

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    1. Hunting is a great source of meat. My grandma always had chickens so we always got eggs from her. People do tend to take care of their own which is hard in places that don't have a sense of community like bigger cities.

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  2. My mother grew up during the Great Depression. She said that they were poor and never noticed they got poorer like city people did. Her father was killed before she was born, so she and her two siblings and mother lived with her mother's mother on the 90 acres of land with the Old Home Place in MS.

    When I was a child, we had a garden. I only remember green beans, tomatoes, and okra. Mama canned tomatoes and green beans, jams, and jellies. There may have been more, but I cannot recall. We had chickens, so there were eggs. She would kill a chicken to eat. Daddy would kill squirrels and rabbits and everyone but me would eat that. There were lots of dried beans, potatoes, meat fried, and gravy EVERY NIGHT.

    As I age (67 now), I find I eat more dried beans, greens, and potatoes. I do not eat the gravy much and nothing fried. I think I have food issues too...lol. Maybe not.

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    1. I've never actually eaten a squirrel or rabbit but I certainly would if I was hungry.

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    2. Daddy threatened to whip me because I did not want to eat rabbit when I was seven- or eight-years-old.. I told him to do it, beat me, he could kill me but I would not eat rabbit. He would not allow me to eat the rest of the meal until I ate a big chunk of rabbit. Of course, I did not. He made me go to bed hungry. Mama sneaked me a glass of milk and some bread. He was very cruel, but he never again pressed the issue of my eating turtle, snake, eel, or turtle. My three younger sibling ate the rabbit happily or maybe out of terror, I did of my own accord eat raccoon.

      My husband wanted to make our children go to bed hungry, but I would not allow it. Mama would have been beaten if she had defied Daddy openly, plus we children would have suffered more.

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  3. I grew up on several acres in the country with a huge garden - we were not poor, so I have a different perspective, but I think there is definitely a difference between country and city living in terms of food in general. We canned/froze/stored a lot. We had a root cellar in the basement with loads of potatoes. Buying a side of beef was not unusual, nor was having a farm fresh source for eggs. I even remember my Mom placing orders for whole fresh chickens from a local farmer that would come plucked - she had to separate and freeze them, but it was a better deal (and tastier) than store bought raw chicken. I don't think I even tasted store bought jam until I was in college.

    I'm getting hungry typing this ...





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    1. We buy a side of beef now and I love having the hormone fee meat. We still buy our chickens from the Mennonites here.

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  4. I wouldn't say we were poor growing up but my Dad was from an older generation (he was born in 1934) and was used to very simple meals. My Mom's family was poorer where they relied on food stamps and banks. They learned to eat whatever they were given and to stockpile food. I've very much rebelled against this, I try to make as many different meals as possible, we only stockpile things like spaghetti sauce or salsa. I love living in a city with such diverse cultures and foods and I try them all. In a month we rarely have the same meal twice. This has also meant that if I get bored or we don't have time, we end up going out to eat too often. In this respect, I would like to get back to my parents ideals.

    Very interesting post!

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    1. I can't imagine not having a bit of a stockpile but we have also been showed in for up to 4 days at a time so we have to have something.

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  5. This is interesting reading as a "city girl". My Nana had a garden on most of her property, living in a small town, and I remember helping her to make pickles, but finding it to be such an "old-fashioned" thing to do (since no one else I knew did it, I assumed it was a grandmother thing, not a county thing-but my Nana grew up on a farm, so it makes sense). I never even tasted game until I lived way up North for grad school, where it was more common. I think it's great to be as self-sufficient as possible, though I admit I don't practice what I preach. I have a black thumb, and have killed more herb and tomato plants than I care to admit. I do my best, trying to cook from scratch almost always (my mom always did this too, so I think I learned from early on that this was a worthwhile thing to do) and limit the processed foods and take-out we ingest. This is both for health and budgetary reasons.

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    1. I'm with you on limiting the processed food. It has so much sodium. Cooking from scratch is so much healthier and cheaper.

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  6. We were dirt poor when I was a kid, all the time. Rarely any food in the house, definitely not enough to feed 3 kids. So for myself, we ALWAYS have plenty of food in the house. Always enough for "extra kids" as well. It's a must that my kids always have lots to eat... growing up hungry most days, I never want my kids to go hungry.

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    1. As a mom, it would break my heart to have my kids go to bed hungry. I'm with you on keeping extra food.

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  7. Mr PoP's mom still talks about their days eating venison and I finally had to explain to her that to someone who grew up in the city that doesn't sound poor, that sounds like it's probably gourmet since it sure wasn't in our cheap-o grocery stores. Growing up poor in the city meant my dad was an "extreme couponer" before that was a trend, and we would eat whatever he could get by stacking sales and triple coupons.

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    1. Sometimes when I watch Chopped on The Food Network, they make it seem like venison is gourmet. This is very ironic to me. I think Extreme Couponing is a smart way to shop.

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  8. Coming from an Italian background, we always ate well. Even if we didn't have that much money, my Mom always made sure we had enough delicious and nutritious food. We always had pasta twice a week, with meatballs and spareribs. On other nights we would have hamburger or pork. We never ate venison.

    Something about venison rubs me the wrong way. Blame it on Disney and the movie Bambi, but I won't eat it. My son-in-law hunts and LOVES venison.

    I could eat potatoes too. They are delicious!

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  9. Fascinating post! City girl here, would not know what to do with a dead deer other than call the critter ridder to haul it away or give it a decent burial myself if absolutely necessary. My DH loves venison, but around here (northern California) you have to special order it from a meat shop. But we do stockpile and just placed our first beef and chicken order with a local ranch. The proprietor just laughed when I asked him if these things came cut up and wrapped in plastic. I had visions of dead animals hanging in my backyard and DH carefully taking them apart, so I'm thankful it comes cut and ready to cook or freeze. Our hippy-dippy neighbors across the street would probably accuse us of poaching in the greenbelt or killing off some of the local horde of wild turkeys roaming around all the time.

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  10. I've never eaten venison or turtle. I live north of Chicago and I guess I would be considered a city girl. But we do have a dairy farm 15 minutes from here. LOL
    I guess city poor is different from country poor. We ate a lot of cans of chicken noodle soup, boxed mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and french toast as a kid. I guess that is why I was so in awe of my husband that he could cook and make something wonderful from not that much. He was a chef in a French restaurant for a while. We spend about $115/week for 3 people on groceries and I think that we eat very well.

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  11. I don't really cook or eat in any way like my mom/dad cooked for us when I was living at home. Then we had meat at every meal (boiled or roasted to a dry crisp!) Potatoes at every meal and eggs constantly as we raised chickens. My dad hunted rabbits in the winter which I did enjoy eating. I will be moving to PEI in another year so will be "living poor in the country". We eat mostly vegetarian so a big vegetable garden will be a must. We have several apple trees on our property so will make the most of those. There are NO animals to hunt but there is a constant source of fresh seafood which I prefer. I predict eating lots of potatoes again as we have potato farmers across the road who have told us to help ourselves to as many potatoes as we want. Luckily I remember all the myriad ways my mother cooked them :)

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  12. I never had venison until I was a teenager, which is good because I don't care for it. We raised a few cattle so we ate a lot of beef. I guess maybe I'm one of the few people around who don't care much for steak. My mother can bake very well, but she isn't a very good cook so that probably has something to do with it. We ate a lot of cheap box dinners like Hamburger Helper, Rice A Roni with cube steak, mashed potatoes with hamburger gravy, biscuits and gravy, and lentil soup. I love homemade biscuits and gravy, but I hate lentil soup. Also, lots of Top Ramen and mac and cheese for lunches.

    My mother-in-law was pretty much disgusted with my simple taste buds and picky eating when DH and I were dating. To DH's credit, I have come a long ways and am a much more well-rounded and adventurous eater than before thanks to his influence over the years. He has never criticized me and in fact loves when I don't eat something because he considers it "more for him". I have never been rude about it either, and I think that makes a big difference. With years of reading along with trial and error, I have become a pretty darn good cook. I have finally gotten over my m-i-l's negativity and my own insecurities and now very much enjoy cooking for other people, and apparently they enjoy eating, as they keep coming back! My favorite cookbook is Joy of Cooking, and of course, AllRecipes.com.

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