Furnace Food in the Forties
A look back at food in Furnace Village
Ever tried sour milk pancakes? We thought they were the very best.
Mom would put a container of Gracie Farm raw milk in the full sun on top of the well cover just outside the back entry. Once curdled the milk was put in the fridge for use the next morn. My siblings and I were raised on nothing but raw milk. If mom forgot to do the aforementioned task, she just added a little vinegar to fresh milk and put all the ingredients together “from scratch”. She used only King Arthur unbleached flour, I recall.
Blueberries, canned fruit or other fruit in season was added to the pancake when she cooked it.
The cakes were fried in the ubiquitous bacon fat or oleo margarine. At that time the dairy industry’s political pull was strong and oleo came in a clear plastic bag in a lard white shade and lard-like consistency. Each bag contained an orange coloring agent whose little sack was broken and the bag kneaded until the glop had a butter-like shade. Kneading those dratted bags was the chore of us kids. We did not eat the margarine for health reasons, to say the least. It was simply a cheaper alternative to butter.
The flock of laying hens gave us eggs. Dad worked at the duck farm and brought home duck eggs on the cheap. He would eat a raw duck egg now and then and swore it had great health benefits. The rest of the family condescended to allow a duck egg to be mixed in with six or eight hens’ eggs to make a batch of scrambled. Mom used duck eggs in her baking quite frequently and we never noticed any difference.
In the fall we dried and roasted pumpkin and Blue Hubbard squash seeds. Just salt them heavily and put on a cookie sheet in the oven. We popped corn in the iron skillet with bacon fat or margarine as the necessary ingredient to prevent burning of the corn and to impart that “down home” flavor. Plenty of salt was applied – it’s a miracle we did not cause an epidemic of high blood pressure! Corn was popped and strung at Christmas time as a tree decoration. A sewing needle and thread were used for this task.
The favorite (and most economically priced) beverage at our house was home made root beer. Hires extract was readily available at any super market. Add plenty of sugar and a yeast cake that had been dissolved in warm water at 100 degree F. and you were set to go. We saved our Simpson Spring bottles and forewent the five cent deposit return money, so we could use and reuse those bottles for root beer. The filled bottles were then capped by hand with a capping device and allowed to set up for a couple weeks. Occasionally one of the bottles would explode and make a mess in the cellar, but the very fizzy drink was a big favorite.
When working at Gracie Farm, Frank Gracie gave his help a mixture of one half cold raw milk and one half Simpson Spring Golden Ginger Ale. This was a great combo. My mom made sun tea regularly in the warm months. She just put a large clear glass jar filled with well water in the sun with a few tea bags inside. After a few hours it was ready to be iced and drunk.
We raised a good portion of the meat we ate. If we slaughtered a hog, we might share it with another family. This would frequently be the Raymond Webber family on Bay Road. We raised about fifty sheep at the Webber place one year and wound up eating a lot of lamb for a while. We sold the excess, but always seemed to lose money on what ever animal we raised. Ducks, geese and turkeys were regular fare.
I recall the year we slaughtered a hog that must have weighed 300 pounds. Ted Harlow stunned the animal with his twenty two rifle and my dad and another guy slit the critter’s throat. Most back yards at that time had a chain falls with which to pull car engines and this implement was used to haul the huge carcass up so it could be eviscerated.
Once that task was completed the tedious job of removing the pig’s bristles was undertaken. Boiling water was poured over the body and the hair scraped off with an axe head or a scrapper used ordinarily to remove paint. The animal had a big percentage of fat to lean, but not to worry. There was a good demand for salt pork and bacon. Folks had no fear of high cholesterol at that time. After all, how did one make a decent batch of baked beans without a good supply of salt pork on hand?
What we did not raise ourselves, we had to go to Brockton to shop at C F Anderson, the Mohican Market or the Brockton Public Market (now Shaws). The A & P store was a favorite of my dad’s. He bought cases of veggies that were in dented cans. The price was about half the usual retail. We bought pasta by the 25 pound box.
Friday nights were the designated night for shopping. Once when driving down Belmont Street at George’s Café in Brockton I spied a sign that spelled p-i-z-z-a. At about eight years of age I had never heard of pizza. Mom explained what it was, but my folks never sprung for its purchase. I must have been sixteen years of age before I had a piece of today’s most popular food. Today I doubt if there lives a youngster in the USA who has not ingested pizza by three years old!
That’s how I remember it.