a story from the good old days…

I am currently reading Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. I can’t tell if I like the actual story or not, but I keep reading it anyway because I like anything depressing and sad. The highlight for me, so far, are a couple pages from chapter 9. These few paragraphs are, of course, about food. It’s not all vegan, but I thought I would share anyway : )

In front of the house there was a space of lawn and between the lawn and the sidewalk his father had a lot of room for gardening. People would come from all over town to admire his father’s garden. His father would get up at five or five-thirty in the mornings to go out and irrigate the garden. He would come home from work in the evenings eager to return to it. The garden in a way was his father’s escape from bills and success stories and the job at the store. It was his father’s way of creating something. It was his father’s way of being an artist.

At first they had lettuce and beans and peas and carrots and onions and beets and radishes. Then his father got consent from the man who owned the vacant lot next door to use the lot as gardening space also. The man was glad enough to have his father use it because it would save him the expense of burning the weeds off in the fall. So on the vacant lot his father raised sweet corn and summer squash and cantaloupes and watermelons and cucumbers. He had a great hedge of sunflowers around it. The sunflower hearts were sometimes a foot across. The seeds made fine food for the chickens. In a little patch that had shade half the day his father planted everbearing strawberries so they had fresh berries from spring until late fall.

In back of the house in Shale City they had chickens and rabbits and he had some bantams for pets. Two maybe three times a week they had fried chicken for dinner and it didn’t seem like a luxury. In the winter they had stewing hens with dumplings and potatoes from their own vines. During the season when the chickens laid lots of eggs and eggs were cheap at stores his mother took the extra eggs from the henhouse and put them up in big crocks of waterglass. Then when winter came and eggs were expensive and the hens weren’t laying she just went down into the cellar and got her eggs for nothing. They kept a cow and his mother churned their own butter and they had buttermilk. The milk set in pans on the back porch and in the morning the milk from the night before was covered with yellow cream almost as heavy as leather. On hot summer Sundays they made ice cream using their own cream and their own strawberries and practically everything else their own except the ice.

On the far side of the vacant lot his father had six stands of bees so that every fall they had plenty of honey. His father would go out to the bee stands and pull out the sections and check on the cells and if the stand was weak he would destroy all the queen cells and perhaps even clip the queen’s wings so that she wouldn’t swarm and split the hive.

As soon as the weather got below freezing his father went out to some nearby farmer’s and bought fresh meat. There would be a quarter of beef and maybe half a hog hanging on the back porch frozen through and always fresh. When you wanted a steak you simply took a saw and you sawed the steak off and besides being better it didn’t cost you anything like the butcher shops charged.

In the fall his mother spent weeks canning fruit. By the end of the season the cellar was packed. You would go down there and beside the great crocks of water-glassed eggs there would be mason jars of every kind of fruit you could want. There would be apricot preserves and orange marmalade and raspberry jam and blueberry jam and apple jelly. There would be hard-boiled eggs canned in beet juice and bread and butter pickles and salted cherries and chili sauce. If you went down in October you would find three or four heavy fruit cakes black and moist and filled with citron and nuts. They would be in the coolest corner of the cellar and they would be carefully wrapped with damp cloths against the Christmas season.

By the way, I didn’t leave out any punctuation, that’s really how it’s written. Sometimes I have to reread sentences several times because the lack of commas makes it difficult to figure out what’s being said.
Anyway. Doesn’t this just make you want to put on your apron and play house? I wish I had a cellar and lots of mason jars.

0 thoughts on “a story from the good old days…

  1. Reading this makes me long for the country! I have a gazillion mason jars and plenty of room in the basement. Let me know when you want to play! Canning is a labor of love not to mention there is something deeply gratifying about filling all those jars!

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