Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The International Community of Rational Living (and a Roll Call)

One of the things that thrills me to no end about the Rational Living blog is using the reporting software to see where the readers live.

The majority of readers are locally based in Kansas, but there are several others in the Midwest including regular visitors from Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin and Colorado.

Other regular States-based visitors hail from California, Washington D.C., the Pacific Northwest and several coastal regions.

And then there's the regular international visitors. The wonderful readers from across the pond in the United Kingdom are always a welcome treat, and we have at least one regular reader in Nova Scotia.

Of course, there are those one-time visitors - readers that pop in for a brief glance at a page or two. Sometimes they're following a link from someone else's blog, other times they're following search results for SPAM or WWII rationing. Some of these visitors have hailed from such varied places as Egypt, Germany, Singapore, France, Russia, Somalia, Australia, Thailand, Romania and Iran (just to name a few).

The reporting software can't always decipher exactly where a visitor is from, and not all of our regular visitors officially follow us through the Blogger system.

So, dear reader, can you please be so kind as to de-lurk (if necessary) and leave a little note stating where you are from? It would give us a better understanding of just how big and expansive the Rational Living community has become. You don't have to put anything personal, but if you have an idea, question or suggestion you can throw that in, too.

Thanks a bunch!

--Rational Mama
(Reporting live from Kansas, U.S.A.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Five Minute Environmentalist

This past Sunday I was one of a handful of speakers at our local fellowship's Totally Green Service (always the Sunday closest to Earth Day). While other speakers from older generations spoke about what they've done to help the environment in the past up to the present, my task was to talk more about the present and what I hope the next 40 years of Earth Days will bring. My time limit? Five minutes! It is very challenging to say anything worthwhile in five minutes, but this is what I produced (which, admittedly, is closer to six minutes in length). As always, names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).

What it means to be an environmentalist has changed a lot in the past 35 years that I've been on this planet. When I was in elementary school Earth Day was never mentioned and my only awareness of what it meant to be an “environmentalist” was that you weren't supposed to litter and that you were happy that the air was cleaner because cars now used unleaded gasoline. The monthly trip to the Golden Goat aluminum can crusher was more about getting change in your pocket than how recycling could help the planet.

By the time I was in high school it was cool to be concerned about the threatened existence of cute little tree frogs and read the writings of Al Gore. Being an environmentalist in the 1990s meant, at least in mainstream circles, that you were protecting the Earth for the Earth’s sake. That you should protect that tree frog because of the unique and irreplaceable role that species plays in the interconnected web of life.

While being eco-friendly in the 1990’s was the right thing to do, and celebrating Earth Day was hip, being a “real” environmentalist required the type of forethought, planning and work to which few of us were willing to fully commit. After all, they’re just tree frogs.

After the millennium there was more talk about preserving biodiversity, but now new options and information were available to help the self-proclaimed environmentalist make responsible choices. Did you remember to bring your canvas bags to the grocery store? Have you tried the new organic potato chips? Have you heard about the new hybrid cars that are coming? Did you make your Earth Day resolutions?

Suddenly, two barriers to making environmentally-sound decisions - information and convenience - became less of an issue. I could save the planet just by eating the right yogurt or using a specific brand of toothpaste!

But with personal choices come personal responsibilities. Once you start making serious and sincere decisions based on environmental consideration, it’s challenging to draw an arbitrary line in the sand and stop. You find yourself making increasingly hard, and inconvenient choices. Choices such as using cloth diapers or cloth menstrual pads instead of the disposable alternatives - even if some people will never understand why. Or choosing food limits which make potlucks a minefield and leaves you explaining to your family for the umpteenth time why you prefer to make your own baby food. It means accepting the fact that new coworkers will wonder if the reason you walk to work is because you’re too poor to afford a car or have some disability which prevents you from driving one.

And even with today’s general acceptance of living a “green lifestyle,” being an environmentalist can still make you an outcast. That story about walking to work? That's a true story - my story - and you can bet I haven’t had the cloth diapers and pads conversation with that coworker yet. But the truth is is that sometimes being an environmentalist and making these decisions can make you feel like an outsider, and that can get you thinking about people and why you’re doing all of this in the first place.

Once you start making choices every day about how you’re going to use our planet’s limited resources, you realize that the reason you’re making these decisions isn't so much about a sense of responsibility and obligation to the tree frogs, but out of a sense of responsibility and obligation to other people. Because these resources aren't, or at least, shouldn't be, just mine or ours. They belong to everyone. They are to be used carefully, wisely, and judiciously.

And they should be used to meet the needs of many, not just the wants of a few.

So, each year when Earth Day comes around and I make choices, I make choices because the environment and humanity are tied together in a way that is complex, beautiful, and scary. When I choose to eat less meat (and encourage others to do so), it is in hope that agricultural resources used to grow food for livestock might instead be used to grow food for people who desperately need it. And when I choose to buy a specific brand of tomato sauce, I buy it because that company has a track record of paying it’s workers fair wages. And when I do things like hang my laundry out to dry, or choose to live on WWII rations for a year, it’s so that my resources - my time and money - can be spent on helping others who need it.

Our family has used some of the money we've saved this year from rationing to sponsor a child, a little girl named Amanthi, from Sri Lanka. She is the same age as Sissy (our oldest daughter) and lives in a remote and primarily agricultural area. Why this may seem like more of a social justice (rather than environmental) choice the lines are, in fact, blurred.

If Amanthi does not have clean water because of agricultural run-off she will get sick. If her family plants crops that are not suited to their region she will go hungry. If her village experiences mudslides during the monsoon season because of loose topsoil resulting from deforestation, she suffers. And if she suffers, or is ill, or hungry, she cannot go to school. She cannot learn. And she cannot improve her life and that of her family.

Amanthi’s life is tied so directly to her environment it is a blatant and undeniable relationship. Our lives, in reality, are like that, too. But our dependence is camouflaged by bright shiny toys and plastic packaging. But in the end, we’re all in the same boat…or at least, on the same planet.

And so I hope that the next 40 years will bring about a greater understanding of how environmental issues and those of social justice are inextricably interwoven in such a tight way that if we can improve one then the other will rise as well.

If we respect the environment, then we respect humanity…and vice versa. After all, being an environmentalist in this post-modern world is really just about being a good human.

As Tree Hugger blogger Chris Tackett has said, “Environmentalist has become a useless term because no one seems to know or agree on what it even means. If it means having clean air, water and food, we’re all environmentalists.”

And all of us deserve clean air, water and food.

--Rational Mama

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Tisket! A Tasket! Our First CSA Basket (of the year)!

Friday was the first pick-up day for our CSA subscription through the local natural food co-op. Here's what it contained:
Just in case you can't tell from the photo, that's a half-dozen farm fresh/free-range eggs, a bunch (literally) of carrots, a bag of dried Nameko mushrooms, a bag of salad greens and a bag of spinach. This collection is a little bit smaller than the usual weekly pick-up (the growers had a hard time harvesting with all the rain we've had), so they charged us a bit less than the normal weekly fee.

Yum! All fresh, all local and all un-rationed! One of the best parts, though, is the newsletter that comes with the weekly bag. This week's newsletter explains that, "each week's bag holds gastronomic treasures and culinary mysteries for you to behold." Seriously. Is this not the most awesome food newsletter ever?

With the fresh greens available through our own garden, the farmer's market and our CSA subscription we've eaten a ridiculous amount of salad in the last week. This makes me very happy.

Not tonight, though. Tonight's dinner is very fitting for the cool, rainy day we've had here: chicken pot pie. Eowyn requested it late last week and so I just took my second attempt at making pie crust (you can revisit my first attempt here). I used a different pastry recipe and the results are much more aesthetically pleasing. The contents of the pie also include a homemade white/cream sauce, which replaces the store-bought can of cream of chicken soup I would have used prior to rationing.

And if tonight remains cold and dreary I might just need to make a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies - no cookies from a tube here.

Ah, how some things have changed!

--Rational Mama

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to Lose 1 Pound of Fat Per Month

Greetings, readers! Today's topic is that much-hated scourge of middle age: fat. But I'm not talking about a spare tire or love handles. I'm talking about...well...fat! Cooking fat!

In the 1940's it was not unusual for the dutiful housewife to keep reusing her cooking fats until there was nothing but sludgy grit and granules left. Then, down the drain or out with the trash the remaining gloop went. While this may sound especially reasonable during WWII rationing restrictions this practice actually caused a dilemma during the war: the U.S. government needed those fats to extract the glycerin necessary for making bullets and bombs!

Thus, in the middle of all the rationing hype you find plenty of reminders (such as this one from the March 30, 1943 Topeka Daily Capital) for women to not dispose of their waste fats but instead to set aside an amount for Uncle Sam.

With cooking oils being high-point items on the rationing list and consumers inclined to keep the waste fats for their own use (plenty of WWII recipes include a tablespoon of bacon or meat grease in place of shortening and/or oil), how was this campaign ever going to be successful?

In typical American fashion, the answer was bribery! Yes, for one pound of grease per month you could earn an additional two red ration points. Aha! Now we're talking! Civilians could bring their jars or cans of stored waste fats in to their butcher for the bonus two points.
Just by setting aside one tablespoon of waste fats per day the average household would have their one pound donation by the end of the month.

It takes our household much longer to come up with that much waste fat since we do not fry as much food as was typical in the 1940's. In fact, most of our waste fat has come from the two times I've made fried chicken. As such, we have been able to turn in two one-pound containers of fat so far. I don't see that number increasing dramatically as one of the things that rationing has taught me is that I'm absolutely repulsed by shortening. Ugh.

Oh, and one final thought here: anyone who touts U.S. WWII rationing guidelines as a weight-loss scheme isn't being honest with you. While certain things like fats, cheeses, butter and meats were rationed, most grain-based items were not. So, while you might not be allowed your thick-cut steak you can fill that void with crackers, bread, potatoes and a heaping handful of sweets if you portion out your sugar ration just right. Civilian rations in the U.K., however, were quite Spartan and more than one example exists of that type of system leading to weight loss.

In the meantime, I'm happy to stick to our U.S. civilian rations, especially with the prospect of fresh fruits and vegetables just around the corner. Summer will clearly be the golden age of the rationing year.

--Rational Mama

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Historic Recipe: Cabbage Delmonico (and, a farewell to a good friend)

Friends, throughout the course of this experiment you've read my ruminations about cabbage. Ah, that staple of restricted wartime winter diets; the only source of semi-fresh green leafy things for many months. We've baked it, made various salads out of it and had moments of frustration with it.

Today, I honor cabbage with another historic recipe: Cabbage Delmonico. The recipe comes from Joanne Lamb Hayes' Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked and is described as a "meatless main dish." Here's my version as I made it...

2 lb head of cabbage
2 TB butter
3 TB all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3/4 tsp paprika (Hungarian is best)
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Cut cabbage into 6-7 wedges and cook in boiling water for about 5 minutes (the recipe said to boil for 8 minutes but I didn't want to overcook my cabbage, per grandmum's instructions). Drain the cabbage.

In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Gradually stir in the flour, mustard, paprika and salt until smooth. Gradually stir in the milk, stirring constantly over low heat. Add in the cheese bit by bit and stir until all the cheese is melted.

Place cabbage in 9" x 9" baking dish and top with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and extra paprika over the top and bake for 20 minutes.

This is what it looked like coming out of the oven:

And this is what it looked like on the plate:

Sigh. Can't cabbage ever look attractive? If you have an even half-way decent imagination then you can ascertain how this dish turned out. After all, it's pretty much just cabbage and a mild cheese sauce. I'm not sure if the "meatless main dish" description is historically true, or just one the cookbook's author felt fit well. Either way, there's not enough protein or carbohydrates to make this a satisfying meal.

Cabbage, dear're like the Susan Boyle of rationing. Humble? Yes. Comely? Yes. Underestimated? Yes. And then you get your chance to shine and surprise us all by how tasty you can be in such dishes as baked cabbage and Asian cabbage slaw.

But like Susan Boyle, your moment to shine will fade...and so fade, you must.

Due to the seasonal restrictions on our produce selection, this will be the last time we purchase/prepare cabbage in the house until late summer. The next few months will be filled with fresh spinach and lettuce and many other green vegetables which have waited anxiously to have their moments of recognition.

And so, cabbage, this is farewell. At least, until late August.


--Rational Mama

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Eating Out and Filling Up (with Guilt)

Remember waaaay back at the beginning of the Rational Living year when all the household members predicted that the self-imposed limitations on eating out would be the hardest part? And then in February I blogged this entry:

We are all surprised at how manageable the transition to reduced restaurant visitation has been.

It was like we were some bad-ass non-eating out ninjas who could quickly and silently whip up an easy dinner in the chaos of the day. Only a half-hour to eat between getting home and piano lessons? No problem! Running errands that conflict with lunch time? Just grab some snacks to tide us over until we eat a real meal at home.

Yeah, that was so February.

In the past few weeks we've definitely been experiencing a backslide in this category. An extra dinner out. Grabbing a quick sandwich while out shopping (who can resist the $5 foot-long with that catchy song?). And I was beginning to feel guilty about this slide, because we originally planned to reduce our allotted rationing points on the weeks we went out and because I'm very quick to feel guilt (seriously, it's amazing I'm not more religious with how quickly I can feel at blame even if I'm not).

We had decided to reduce our ration points during eating-out weeks because I had read in several sources general comments about how during WWII rationing consumers had to turn over ration points for meals eaten in restaurants. This made sense, since eating in restaurants would be an easy way to supplement rationing if points weren't involved.

So I did a little more research to see just how justified my guilt was for our recent transgressions. I had a hard time finding any specific information until I found this little gem. It's an article from the May 5, 1943 Wichita Eagle entitled, "Persons Eating Regularly At Cafes, Institutions, Must Pay Ration Points." Finally! Here was a historical source that would accurately admonish our current behavior and set us on a straight and righteous path when it comes to eating out during the rationing year!

The article clearly concludes:

OPA regulations state that all persons who consume eight or more meals a week in a restaurant, hotel dining room, hospital or institution which has registered as an institutional user of processed food, meat, and fats, shall surrender their ration books to the owner or operator of such places of business, and stamps will be removed by the management for the periods which stamps are currently valid. The books in turn will be turned back to their owners at the expiration of the period which the persons are receiving meals in such institutions. [bold added]

What? What? What? Eight or more meals a week? What? Seriously? You don't have to surrender ration points unless your eating eight or more meals out a week? I don't think I've ever eaten eight times out in a one week period, in my whole life!

Oh hell. Let me tell you, dear reader, that that foot-long sandwich is gonna taste a whole lot better without the extra side of guilt.

--Rational Mama

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kinda Historic Recipe: Soybean Hamburger Casserole (or...How to Make Your Nine-Year-Old Leave the Room Crying...)

Actually, I really wanted to use the following title for the post (but Blogger said it was too long):

Kinda Historic Recipe: Soybean Hamburger Casserole (or...How to Make Your Nine-Year-Old Leave the Room Crying and End Up Having a One-Hour Discussion About Expanding Personal Freedoms and Responsibilities)

Friends, we all have things that we started a little too late in life to really master. For me, I learned the basics of crocheting in my early 20's and then pretty much abandoned the craft until my mid-30's. As a result, my crocheting skills are limited to simple flat pieces and an occasional three-dimensional piece that uses only the most basic increasing and decreasing strategies. Need a potholder? I'm your gal. A basic ball? Bingo. Life-size Einstein doll with chemistry set? No, most definitely no (although, how awesome would that be?).

For Sissy, it's the eating of beans.

I blame myself, really. For whatever reason I didn't start my "we need to eat more beans" kick until Sissy was nearly six years old. Always the less adventuresome eater of the two girls, she did not do well with the introduction of legumes into her diet. Diligently she would pluck each individual black bean from her quesadilla and extract the chickpeas from her pasta dish. Due to our one-bite rule and repeated exposure we have now, after three solid years of frequent bean-based meals, gotten to the point where she will politely comply with beans mixed in with most Mexican fare and happily gobble up all the hummus in the house. Anything beyond this, however, is asking for trouble.

And asking for trouble is exactly what I did with Soybean Hamburger Casserole.

A bit of history first. Soybeans where touted as the preferred non-rationed meat replacement in the U.S. during WWII rationing. Soybeans were plentiful, cheap and provided a near-identical protein profile as meat. When rationing began soybean recipes became prominently featured in recipe books, ladies magazines and government publications. Usually, soybeans were used to extend the modest amount of meat used in a casserole or loaf recipe. Many baking recipes were adapted to include varying amounts of soy flour. Occasionally, soybeans were featured in a completely vegetarian main dish.

To experience a bit of this patriotic legume I chose a basic casserole recipe: Soybean Hamburger Casserole. A little meat, a little soybeans, a little cheese: should be a crowd-pleaser. Granted, this recipe is from the More-With-Less Cookbook, not a 1940's publication, but it so closely mimics the 1940's recipes I've seen that it's rationing-friendly at heart. By the way, if your are not familiar with this cookbook I highly recommend you check it out. It is a cookbook that will change your life. Seriously.

Anyhoo, here's my modest adaptation of the very basic recipe (found on page 110):

Saute in a large skillet:
2 TB cooking oil
1/2 cup onion
1.2 cup celery
1/4 cup green pepper (I used frozen since it's not in season)
1/2 lb ground hamburger

When meat is brown ad:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
2 1/2 cups cooked soybeans (I couldn't find canned soybeans and the only place I could find dried soybeans was at the local natural food co-op)
1 1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 cup beef broth
2 cups brown rice

Simmer a few minutes and then place contents into a 9" x 13" baking dish. Cooked uncovered in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Top with:
3/4 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese

Return dish to the oven just long enough to melt the cheese.

With a side of pan-seared cabbage here is how dinner looked:

I will confess that this dish has all the worst possible traits of a casserole: dull color, squishy texture, amorphous composition (there is NO way you can make out what is what in this thing). That being said, it was actually really tasty.

Of course, Sissy had to be convinced of that fact.

TMOTH and I happily gobbled up our servings, and Eowyn (who is a bean-lovers kinda girl) did pretty well with her portion, although the significantly firmer texture of the soybeans threw her off (think boiled peanut, rather than soft black bean).

Sissy poked and prodded her helping of Soybean Hamburger Casserole. She picked at and reorganized the mass. Her eyebrows did that scrunchy thing they do when you ask her to do something painful. She stalled. And stalled. All we asked for was one bite.

Eventually she took that bite and quickly followed it up with a giant swig of milk. But the casserole didn't go down. After a slightly panicked looked crossed her face she managed to swallow the bite. And then she refused to take another.

The rest of dinner was not so pleasant, as Sissy fumed and pouted about the (in her opinion) less-than-acceptable meal placed before her. We calmly explained that dinner was what it was, and it was neither disgusting nor painful and that eating it was her choice. She left the table in tears and headed up to her room.

Over the next hour TMOTH and I tag-teamed parental conversations with Sissy (who had, by this time, buried herself in blankets, eyes swollen red with tears). She expressed her opinion that we are not respectful of the fact that different people have different tastes. We explained that we understood that dinner was not to her liking, but that we did provided a dinner (which we do every night) that was not only nutritious but not inherently revolting. And we pointed out that many children in our own town don't even get that every night. The casserole, despite not being her favorite meal of the week, was something to be grateful about.

I so felt like I was about to channel the late-40's mantra of "There are starving children in China..."

But the conversation morphed and turned and she also talked about how she wants to be able to do more independent things like walk the dog around the block without supervision and other life matters which are critically important to a nine year old girl.

Readers, it's hard to be a nine year old girl. It's even harder when you're rationing.

So after amends were made and Sissy had a stomach full of cottage cheese as a dinner alternative, we settled down and managed to enjoy the rest of the evening.

And in acknowledgment of how hard it is to be a nine year old girl, I promise that next week's beans will be soft and black and encased in a gooey layer of cheese between two tortillas.

I promise.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


On Sunday night we had roast chicken, fresh bread and butter and SALAD!

Real salad!

Salad that included more than just the store-bought iceburg poor-excuse-for-something-green-and-leafy thing.

Salad that included this:
Isn't it beautiful? This is hand-picked red lettuce, green lettuce and mesclun from our garden/pots. (Squeal!)

I was able to pick a decent bowlful for Sunday's dinner, but I did have to supplement it with the iceburg lettuce for volume. Still, around half of it was homegrown!

And even though there were no extras in the salad (tomatoes, cucumbers and such are not yet seasonally available) everyone ate all their salad with just lettuce and dressing.

This is the first time in over three months that non-iceburg lettuce has been in our house. That's over one-quarter of a year, folks!

AND, the farmer's market opens this weekend in our town, and our CSA subscription starts next week. All of this means our produce selections will immediately skyrocket!

Ah, the good life!

--Rational Mama

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu...Or is it?

So, I've been genuinely interested are the readers of Rational Living regarding the weekly menu rundown?

Are you really interested?

Only kinda?

Really just want to hear the stories about historic recipes and epiphanies and the like?

Because, to be honest with you, the blogging of the weekly menu has become a tedious chore for me. I admit it. It's right up there with cleaning out the hermit crab tank (because two cats and a dog aren't enough) and taking out the trash.

BUT if you, the readers, really want to see that weekly listing then that serves as extra encouragement to get it done.

Or, if you're all "Meh," about the weekly menu then I'd be fine letting it fall to the wayside in lieu of more historical discussion, highlighting of recipes and general gripes and concerns (i.e. Egads! No salad oil for three weeks in a row!).


Oh, and the title of this post...the girls have this "cute" game they like to play on Mom and Dad. Here's how it works: we say some ultimate statement of truth, and then they follow it up with "Or is it?" For example:

"Dinner is ready." "Or is it?"

"It's time for bath." "Or is it?"

"That's a really great book." "Or is it?"

You get the idea. They can play this game ad nauseum. Luckily, though, they've managed to stop on their own good will before I actually produced the nauseum part. It's a sort of Cold War/ war of escalation scenario right in our own home. How very historical of us (but it's totally the wrong period of time for the rationing project).

So if you have a minute, leave a thought or two of what you'd like to see more of on this blog, and what you can do with out.

Thanks a bunch!

--Rational Mama

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A New Addition to the Rational Living Family

That's right readers! There's a new addition to the Rational Living household. Don't worry, there's no pitter-patter of little fact, there's no feet at all!

We now have a wormery! Our very own vermicomposting system! They're quite simple to make; ours was made with a plastic tote bin, 2 bricks, an extra screen, a plank of wood, dirt, shredded paper and small amounts of compost-able material. We already had all of these supplies, so our materials cost was zero.

All we had to do was add the right kind of worms. And thanks to a generous gift from Karla (an experienced vermicomposter who found herself with too many worms), around one pound of worms were mixed into our own bin today.
These hardworking little guys and gals...wait, these worms are hermaphrodites...well, then I guess each worm IS a guy and a gal...anyhoo...these little critters will happily decompose the following household waste:
  • Rotting fruits and vegetables
  • Vegetable and fruit peels
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Stale grains (bread, cracker and cereal)
  • Eggshells (rinsed off)
  • Leaves and grass clippings (if needed to neutralize the pH)
In return we get year-round composting and vermicompost (in layman's terms, worm poop) which is an excellent fertilizer for the vegetable garden. And, if we decide to go fishing we have a ready supply of bait.

As you may be able to tell from the photo, we are keeping the wormery in a corner of the basement, where the occupants should be happy with a near-constant temperature. Come summer we may need to redesign the screen cover to keep any flies out, but we will deal with that when the time comes.

In the meantime, we'll be saving our compostable waste in a little jar on the kitchen counter and take it down to the worms a few times a week (the girls are already in heated discussions as to who gets to feed the worms first). Any excess material will be tossed into our regular compost bin outside.

I haven't been able to find any information about the use of worm bins during WWII, but I believe the reuse of kitchen scraps falls within the spirit of "use it up!" And who knows, maybe the results will make our Victory Garden that much more victorious!

--Rational Mama

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Grocery Time!

Goodness, dear readers! It's been less than a week since I posted but it feels like a month! A sudden project fell into my lap this week which resulted in copious amounts of writing in the evenings, and then I spent part of one evening at the clinic getting antibiotics and heavy-duty decongestant for this nasty virus thingy that I've been fighting for over three weeks.

Well, the writing project is done, the meds are working, and I'm back!

I thought I'd share these April 3, 1943 grocery store ads with you (you can click on the ads for a larger image):

They're from the Topeka Daily Capital and they're almost 67 years old to the date! Pretty cool, huh? There's so much I like about these ads. I like that you can see typical spring produce like rhubarb, fresh peas and asparagus becoming available for the first time that year. I like that the Lynde-Falley ad on the left includes the ration points alongside the listing. I like that exotic meats like pickled pigs' feet and oxtails are advertised.

And I like the fact that you have what seem like competing grocery store ads right next to each other. From the research I've done I've found that in the 1940s there were at least three grocery stores within easy walking distance from our house (one block, four blocks and seven blocks). In the 1940s folks typically visited only their neighborhood markets, and usually more than once a week (although gasoline and rubber rationing during the War curbed this practice). So, in a sense, since the two grocery stores highlighted in the ads are over a mile apart they are not necessarily competitors. They can peacefully co-exist, filling their own local niches (you know, just like wildebeests and zebras).

This, of course, is very different from today. Today each store has it's own tri-fold, five-color spectacular insert to entice you to their store - even if it means you drive five miles out of your way to do so. And people today do so.

I have to admit that I have a nostalgic longing for the neighborhood grocery, where the staff would know me by name (and not as that lady that brings in all the cloth bags to use and insists that her glass milk bottles not clink together when bagged). Of course, that's one of the reasons why I shop at the local food co-op; I can get the family-feeling but have to deal with limited variety in return. I'm envious of Jamie's frequent trips to his local green grocer (he's doing an entire month of soups now - check it out). Why don't we have green grocers?

Today the nearest grocery store to our house is four blocks away (in the same building as the Lynde-Falley grocery store in the ad above), but you don't go there unless you want to see if it's reputation is well-earned (expired meats and the like). The next closest stores are well over a mile away. Sigh.

So, readers, I will leave you with these questions:
  • How far do you walk/drive to get your groceries?
  • Do you go to the nearest store, or do you drive out of your way to visit your preferred chain?
As always, thanks for reading and thanks for sharing!

--Rational Mama