Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Lessons in food and life

‘We knew how to be poor’

November 10, 2011

I recently went to the rolling and colorful hills of Vermont. It was a lovely trip replete with fall colors, old friends, new friends, farmstead parties, fabulous food, and a multitude of conversations with activists in the local food-security movement.

It is not for nothing that Hardwick, Vermont, has been called "The Town that Food Saved." The place buzzes with high hopes and hard work. These folks ain’t gentlemen farmers. Nope, there’s dirt under those fingernails, and sun on those necks. These are folks who put their shovel where their mouth is, and I dig it.

There is nothing new to this culture of small-scale farming in Vermont. Or, rather, it has a long history. Vermont once had a thriving dairy industry, but like many small thriving industries, it was replaced by a BIG thriving industry that could not be bothered with all the incidental needs of small farmers. Economies of scale, or rather BIG economies of BIG scale — the type that allow for “good deals” on your grocery shelf — prioritize differently. Social and environmental concerns are not high on the list, if they make it there at all.

I’m not saying anything new. We, as an enlightened consumer class, understand how paying more, or simply what is fair, will support small farmers and producers who likely cannot, will not, cut costs at any point in their system. As a result, producers within small-scale systems will not be able to offer you a good deal as much as a beautiful one. Which is not to dismiss the double bind. No, let’s be honest: Small is not only beautiful (to borrow a phrase from the Schumacher Foundation), it can be expensive.

Marilyn, the newest member of the University of Grandmothers.

This is not a rant about sticker shock at the farmers’ market, nor an investigation into the inherent elitism (if that is the word) of the local and sustainable movement. We are well past such discussions. It is still true, however, that the quest for thriving farms and main streets comes with a cost that those of us holed up in our apartments or homes with two sticks and a prayer can relate to. Talk about small economies — anyone look in their wallet lately?

So while many of us want and do support all the goodness that comes with smallness, we are feeling a certain belt-tightening that makes a five-pound bag of potatoes for $2 look pretty damn good. Which brings me to the very best part of my trip to Vermont and my conversation with Marilyn, the newest member of the University of Grandmothers.

I wrote about the University of Grandmothers in my book. It is a phrase I once heard Vandana Shiva use, and it has stuck in my head and heart ever since.

It suggests a lifetime of knowledge and experience, along with a show-don’t-tell ethic that we, of the blogging world, don’t quite get. I mean, who, after a season or two, cannot write about making jam or pickles, raising chickens, and growing food in meaningful and important prose advocating for the “life”? Not to dismiss the overture, but old-timers who really know what the hell we are talking about we are not. Or at least I am not, which is why when I meet a grandmother, I get humble and listen.

At age 79, Marilyn had a remarkable life story. Besides the six children (five in five years, if you can fathom that), she spoke of living low to the ground in a way that I cannot really imagine. Her family grew, raised, and put up darn near all their food, and had a small dairying operation that served as their cash crop. (Until, that is, the logic of BIG economies of BIG scale discarded their efforts.)

To think there isn’t a clear and radical articulation of the breakdown of America’s farming system out there is to imagine, as we kids will do, that we invented radical thought. But that is not so. Our elders have felt the pressure and consequences of BIG for quite some time, and have responded in ways that seem to elude our sophisticated conversations about “resilience” (today’s favorite word). Which must have been why Marilyn’s simple and obvious expression of stewardship rocked my world.

We had very little, Marilyn said, but “we knew how to be poor.”

OMG if that did not strike a chord.

Walking through her pantries, jotting down her lists of foods put up in a year, talking about the varieties of produce she grows (she had her Fedco catalog close at hand), and learning of her tricks of the trade (each grandmother has a few), I thought about being poor. I thought about what it means, and how many of us are feeling just like that these days. I thought about the skills required to do it well — to be poor with dignity, poor with meals on the table, poor with enough to pay for the rent. These are real concerns for so many, and my own attention goes there on a daily basis. Marilyn thinks about it too, because she’s afraid folks aren’t prepared.

“I don’t know what folks are going to do,” she said “because they don’t know how to be poor.”

Marilyn’s larder.

She went on to tell me stories of the local food pantry set up to help those in need. Evidently people came for everything but that bag of potatoes or big hefty winter squash. They left good food, she said; they wanted things in cans or mixes. One woman wanted instant pudding, but would not take the stuff in the box that you had to mix with milk and cook. That was too much work; she wanted the stuff in cups that was already made.

Marilyn just shook her head. She was worried. Really worried. I thought about it, too. What are we going to do? Clearly the question is topical to the times.

If the Occupy movement is saying nothing else, it is that people are feeling the pain. They are out in the streets speaking of the pain, and sometimes I am there with them. But at the end of the day, I always wonder what to do in the here and now. Yes, ask the masters of the universe (aka the masters of BIG economies of very BIG scale) to give up mammon. Yes, raise a fist at the utter disregard, criminality, and entitlement that went with the greed. Yes, demand regulations and a comeuppance that can only be seen as just. All this must and should be done. But while we are waiting for the audacity of hope to take hold, I wonder if it is not high time that we follow Marilyn’s tactic and learn the elegance and skills involved in being poor.

I am not speaking of the type of poor the makes you want to hide in shame or poverty as a wrong-side-of-the-tracks social condition that we imagine we can fix by stigmatizing and subsidizing it with endless hurdles and disregard. This is not the type of thrift that embarrasses you, or your children, as you walk in your coat of many colors. This is proud poor, low-to-the-ground poor, post-carbon poor. This is radical poor, and we need to respect it, embrace it, and teach it.

Yes, some people are caught in the ugly poverty of classism and racism and social marginalization and, as a result, feel the endless longing for stuff that is beyond their reach. Make no mistake, however: advocates of BIG, BIG scale economies and systems have made book (as they say in Bronx betting parlors) on the longing. They have been betting long and short on the debt that longing has incurred. I’ll not go into the hows and whys, but do not imagine otherwise. BIG has made book on the longing and need of the least of these; it always has. Which is, again, what you are seeing out there in the streets these days. People have been had, and they are just waking up to how badly. If not for themselves, then for their brothers and sisters here and across the world.

Which is also why, along with the protests, I think we need to learn how to live in different economies, small economies, the smallest of economies, the economies of the home. Just so.

Home ec

These days we are beginning to hear the call for home economics to be taught in schools again, and I salute the notion. But what will it look like?

Little is out there that speaks of the skills I am thinking about, if only for good, or rather logical, reasons.

It is my position that the marginalization and demise of home economics as a respected discipline has tracked, and run concurrent to, the marginalization of small-scale farming in America. Just as BIG foisted an ethic of industrial farming into the lives of farmers, so did it offer industrial foods to the farmers’ wives.

Run that forward a century or so, and you discover an ethic that considers homemaking (and thereby home economics) antiquated at best and sexist at worse. We are now citizens of the upwardly mobile class, and have better things to do with our lives. We have bigger horizons, bigger dreams, bigger lives. And, as it can happen, bigger debts. Which is why home economics became a joke of sorts. Who wanted to learn cooking and homemaking skills? Who was ever home? Fair enough. But here we are, fat and broke and calling upon the revival of home economics to save us.

Virginia of ‘Virginia’s Pantry’.

When thinking about what a new home-economics curriculum might look like, I imagine it is more than cooking that must be taught. I think about the University of Grandmothers and what they have taught me over the years. I think about what I have taught others in my back yard, ever aware that I knew a little but not much. I think about how to expand what I know and the future and whether I can get Marilyn and my good friend Virginia (as in Virginia’s Pantry) and Mrs. Hatch (who gave me her green-tomato mincemeat recipe) to teach.

I think about all the other fabulous elders who knew, and know, how to be poor, and I wonder if there is time enough to get their stories, their tips, their teachings. More importantly, I wonder if any of us are willing to live as they do.

Will we be willing to go backwards and unwind the narratives of our culture that suggested upward and out was the best way to live? Can we unwind our perception of ourselves as consumers — local, sustainable, or otherwise? Will we know what to do with ourselves if we are not out shopping or eating or being seen? Will we embrace budgeting and the know-how to distribute our small holdings to the small holders of the land as they, along with us, rub two sticks together attempting to live close to the ground in small economies of scale that will always, only, forever, leave us feeling poor — proud poor, if we can manage it?

Mrs. Hatch, another member of the faculty.

I wonder about the history we all share and think how that, too, must be offered in the new home-ec curriculum. It is the history of an economy we have all participated in. It is a history and economy that will take a minute to unwind. Along with all that jam and pickles and cute chicken coops and eggs, along with the protests and the occupations, we must learn the history of small if we are to undo BIG, or at least BIG’s control over our lives and planet. I believe we must remove ourselves from what BIG likes to offer: “good deals” in lieu of the beautiful ones we are hoping for.

In the end, I believe we must learn how to be poor again. So hail the new proud and beautiful poor. Hail the small things. Hail the University of Grandmothers and a revolutionary guide to home economics.

These days, I am dreaming of inviting the grandmothers to come this summer to teach in grange halls near you. If not them, then tomorrow’s grandmothers today. May we make them proud.

There are 33 comments on this item
Add a comment
1. by Erica / Northwest Edible Life on Nov 10, 2011 at 11:44 AM PST

What strikes me is how often children who sat at grandmas knee through the Depression had no idea they were poor. Poor and self-sustaining is very different than poor and dependent. But those happy poor Depression kids were farm kids, in many cases. Can poor and self-sustaining be achieved cheek to jowl in the deep of urbania?

2. by Tanya @ Lovely Greens on Nov 10, 2011 at 1:01 PM PST

I was speaking to a friend this week whose grand-daughter is taking a home-ec class at the moment. I was shocked to hear that they’re cooking from boxes and mixes 90% of the time.

Being part of the comfortable poor is so reliant on being able to grow your own food. But even more so on knowing how to cook what you grow. How can the mother who won’t even take a free box of pudding mix because she couldn’t be bothered with cooking it know what to do with an uncooked beetroot or a hoard of dirt covered potatoes?

3. by Fasenfest on Nov 11, 2011 at 5:46 AM PST

It is the spirit of poor or proud poor that I speak of. How each of us approach that is different but learning how to live with less is not only good for the environment but for the pocket. I don’t think any of us will be able to live like farm kids during the Depression (though I never mentioned that) but can learn to live closer to the ground in many ways if we wanted to. Though we do not mention it often - sustainability can start with simply not buying stuff. Just say no - is an adage that is applicable. We, of the “stuff” universe have a hard time with that one though.

4. by anonymous on Nov 11, 2011 at 6:59 AM PST

My father told me that his family was not poor during the depression. They had seven acres and 300 Muscovy ducks. How different poverty looks today. To Dad, the definition of poor was: No food, no home, no family, no safety. His family had four healthy boys, all the meat, vegetables, and eggs they could eat, wood to keep the house warm, no mortgage and were safe.

5. by Fasenfest on Nov 11, 2011 at 11:28 AM PST

I was just thinking about a comment someone made - I think it was Anthony Bourdin’s wife actually. They were visiting her family in Corsica (or somewhere) and she mentioned how nobody used to go out to eat. If you did it likely meant you had no family. Yes, times are different today and what we assume is the high life used to mean a lonely one.

6. by anonymous on Nov 11, 2011 at 5:34 PM PST

I like comment #4 it is very true. I have went to a food pantry myself , but do not now , as our finances have changed. Now we help others when we can& see a need.I think that govt. & other services should give out food boxes made up of basics only , then people might want to work. Many don’t care a bit about trying to do for themselves but will take all you give them with no qualms about it. I will be 48 in Dec. & was raised on a farm & know hard work & most people here in USA haven’t seen it.what is really hard to see at food pantries is people smoking $5.50 a pack cigarettes ,talking on a smart phone & mad because the satellite Tv is shut off cause they didn’t pay it & can’t get internet now , but they are considered poor.Lisa

7. by Calamity Jane on Nov 12, 2011 at 11:39 AM PST

oh harriet. you are so awesome. i almost missed this article somehow. can i subscribe just to particular authors here on culinate?
as usual you are right on my wavelength, and all up inside what i’ve been mulling in my mind lately. luxury has become standard, and the green movement has just taken over a new kind of luxury. now you have to be ultra rich to do the right thing?! we need to learn how to let go of that cultural expectation for excess and feel okay, feel good living ‘poor.’
it’s some hard stuff, and i do really see Erica’s point. choosing to live ‘poor’ in a culture of excess is altogether different than being poor just like every other family on the block. i think the grandmothers lived in a time when people were drawn together by frugality. now choosing to live that way completely alienates from our home culture.
thanks for another beauty. when are you going to get around to that next book, instructing our future grandmothers?

8. by Fasenfest on Nov 12, 2011 at 5:03 PM PST

Ms. Calamity, don’t know if you can subscribe to just one column, I usually double post on FB so you can always catch it there. Yep, the proud poor meme is going round. But what I also know is that “want to” can change to “have to” in the blink of an eye and living like there are endless resources is not the same as there being endless resources (planet or pocket). So those two things to factor into the conversation about intentional frugality. Privilege is real but also fleeting and what you do with what you have is, like Michael Moore was saying, part of the opportunity. But no guilt or shame is important - nobody is sustained by guilt. I do what I do, you do your thing and others the same. When folks want to know how it’s done they ask, they seek, they get together with others of like mind and share. My current awareness is how little food it really takes to eat well and I’m digging the double duty grains - grinding local dent corn on different grinds for flour, for cornbread, pancakes, for grits, polenta, or soaking them whole for hominy. Wheat berries are amazingly versatile. So that’s one way to go but just one. There are lots of great tips and that there are still some grandmothers out there to share their wisdom is awesome. I suggest we seek them out and listen to their stories. But then you got a lot of stories yourself, from your childhood, from your parents, from living with said man in the tepee and I always enjoy reading them. I enjoyed your last post and the image of you hanging out at the neighbors for pie and coffee. So lets make sure that makes it on the list - at least the pie. Oh yeah, proud poor pie. Can I have a little more sir.

9. by Fasenfest on Nov 12, 2011 at 5:04 PM PST

Oh, and the next book?? Working on it. I will let you know. I got some ideas going on in my head about teaching the teachers. Oh yes, I’ll let you know.

10. by Chris K on Nov 13, 2011 at 12:39 PM PST

I’ve been “proud poor” for a while, even blogging about the stuff I do to put food on the table. We still do need some help, since the only land we have to use is the tiny trailer park lot we live on, but I made the $161 we were getting a month in food stamps be enough to feed all 5 of us all month. Now, my husband has lost his job and I’m taking it to a new level as we try to figure out how (or if) we are even going to be able to give our kids any sort of Christmas this year. One thing we have to deal with now as parents that people didn’t have to deal with in the Depression is all the STUFF that is out there. Fine, for the adults that choose not to use it, but kids NOTICE if they are poor now because they aren’t going to have all the cool toys and electronics their friends have.

11. by Fasenfest on Nov 13, 2011 at 4:42 PM PST

Hey Chris, I’m so glad you brought up the kids. While parents understand frugality the kids do not - not always. They will try and be sweet about it but will often feel bad about not having what all the other kids do. I think we need to create a new campaign that suggests it ain’t so cool to have stuff at the expense of the environment and indebtedness. Just how we’re gonna pull that off is the question. But honestly, given the times I think commercials and ads enticing folks to go into debt is just corrupt. They know folks are hurting. Everyone understands that. But do they care? Nope.

Being raised Jewish we never celebrated xmas and I have no emotional pull to buy anything for anyone. Honestly, that’s a kind of blessing. But I can only imagine the pressure and I’m sorry for it. I hope your kids will understand. I know lots of them are having to understand since lots of parents are in the same soup.

Maybe other folks have stories about how they get around this. Anyone? What do you tell the kids?

12. by anonymous on Nov 13, 2011 at 7:00 PM PST

Terrific post. My husband and I bought a house that happened to have a peach and apricot tree in the back. We live in a mid-sized city in the Northeast. My husband canned peaches a couple years in a row, and one year we threw a peach-picking party for the neighborhood kids. He planted 2 apple trees and somehow I neglected to use the apples to make apple butter. I actually felt silly and wasteful about it, even though we belong to a food co-op and can get loads of produce at a local supermarket chain.
Anyway, please keep these great posts coming. They are a pleasure to read and so relevant to our society today.

Paige T.

13. by Fasenfest on Nov 16, 2011 at 7:27 AM PST

Thanks Paige T. You’re sweet. Sorry about those apples. In the future know that you can still use the ones on the ground as long as you plan to cook them. Making cider with dropped apples is considered verboten particularly if the juice is not going to be pasteurized. But I have thrown some scary apples in the pot for sauce or apple butter and no one was the wiser. Which is the second tip - keep the family out of the kitchen when you’re going rouge. They may not have the stomach or heart for the wisdom and/or frugality this life encourages.

14. by vintagejenta on Nov 16, 2011 at 6:46 PM PST

YES. I learned some cooking skills in home ec. in 7th grade, and while my mom cooked quite a bit, I didn’t learn directly from her.

And just because we have calculators and audio books, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep teaching kids to do math and to read. Life skills are useful no matter how much technology advances.

Home Economics (real economics, not just mixing stuff in a pot), including sewing, canning, laundry, budgeting, and gardening, should be standard in all high schools. If we had that, we might have a better-run society.

15. by Pat on Nov 17, 2011 at 12:39 PM PST

Thank you for highlighting the wisdom of grandmothers! I spent 2 years researching and cooking with Asian grandmothers for my cookbook “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook” and what I learned from them far surpassed any books I’ve read or classes I’ve taken. One of my takeaways is how back then, you didn’t waste anything. You used every part of the animal, the bounty from the garden (bruised or not) was preserved for months to come, leftovers were transformed into a new dish the next day, meat was a secondary ingredient not the main star. We have many lessons to learn from them. Sign me up for the University of Grandmothers!

16. by Fasenfest on Nov 17, 2011 at 3:13 PM PST

Hey Pat, I look forward to seeing that. Our grandmothers had a fluidity in the kitchen that defied our dependence on recipes. That you were able to track and translate their work and spirit is mighty special.

17. by Sandra Levy on Nov 19, 2011 at 7:55 AM PST

It’s a shame that most young people don’t appreciate homemade food. Their diets are so poor & instant everything is not the way to a healthy lifestyle.

18. by Milkweed on Nov 19, 2011 at 9:07 AM PST

This is a wonderful piece - I too love the notion of the University of the Grandmothers, and love your musings on frugality and home economics. I’ll be sharing this post around - thought I’d alert you to a typo that made me stumble in the 2nd paragraph: I think you meant “put their shovel WHERE their mouth is” ... thanks again for this post!

19. by Fasenfest on Nov 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM PST

Thanks, Milkweed (by the way I used to regularly eat young milkweed pods as a young gal in Vt. during the glory days), for the typo alert. Funny how you can miss words even after reading them over and over.

Yep Sandra - instant as in instant gratification. Stuff all kids (and adults) have a hard time fighting. Marketers put stuff at eye level at the check out stand for just that reason. Seems like cooking a meal just takes too much time but not sure what folks are doing instead. Likely watching t.v. or going shopping for more stuff. But let me not preach (too much) its all a sticky wicket.

20. by Cassandra on Nov 24, 2011 at 1:11 PM PST

Thank you. As a child I took so much for granted. I thought everyone had fresh vegetables out of the garden and fresh eggs from their own chickens. My grandparents were share croppers in Arkansas. When they moved to California they brought their values with them, and their shovels and rakes and seeds. I am eternally grateful for all they taught me.

21. by connie sartain on Nov 25, 2011 at 5:28 PM PST

Oh I just found you Harriet, you and all you readers and commentors. I feel like I just stumbled into home and family. What a treat! I’m so traveling down the same road. Could we hold hands?

22. by Fasenfest on Nov 26, 2011 at 5:40 AM PST

Dear Connie - Perhaps you have stumbled into another home and family since I’m assuming you have a nice one going were you live. But I get what you mean. When we find people who embrace similar values we feel known and familiar in a way the members of our immediate family cannot alway offer. Lordy, lordy don’t I know that. So welcome aboard - we can lock elbows with all the other folks working on ways to downsize and re-evaluate during the oh-so-strange years to come. Even though you could not tell it during these mad days of holiday shopping - they are sure out there in mass. Peace.

23. by Elena Gustavson on Nov 30, 2011 at 6:56 PM PST

Great article Harriet! It is wonderful to revisit, through your post, our conversation and so much of what you shared when you visited Hardwick. I just posted to our facebook page to share with our followers. Good luck in your adventures.

Elena (the Center for an Agricultural Economy over there on Main St., Hardwick, VT)

24. by Fasenfest on Dec 1, 2011 at 7:08 AM PST

Hey Elena,

So glad you liked this article. And glad you remembered our conversation. I know you were wondering (if only for a minute) who the nut was asking for charts and wandering around. Thanks for being so gracious and giving up a little time to talk about your programs. I really enjoyed my time in Hardwick and imagined a return but then woke up to snow in September and thought.....well, you guys got heart. I did grow up back east and spent summers there (actually 1969 summers in Hardwick) during one of the early waves of hippie onslaughts and still have friends from the Bronx that live in your parts. So the pilgrimage was about many things. Which is to say,though our visit was unexpected it was one of the highlights and I thank you.

25. by anonymous on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:11 AM PST

Beautiful read you lovely ladies! I am thrilled that finally we are having this dialogue about the wisdom of women; not to say we are ignoring the wisdom of our men too! Please note that in these less than traditional times with a bluring of all our gender bound roles, women of ‘their time’ that still knew the cooking skills of putting up and other life honed skills, we still ALL need to relearn these for our future and present survival. What mother would not want to equally see both a daughter and son learn to care for themselves and families? We have the amazing gift of sharing our heartfelt love of family and tradition in this country and it is high time that we are teaching REAL education in schools; how else, truly, will we survive as a species on this planet?? I trust,hope and pray that we are paying attention to our elders and the gifts I hope they will continue to share. We could all be so blessed...

26. by Sally Killian on Dec 1, 2011 at 3:16 PM PST

I think it’s interesting that local and sustainable is elitist here and normal in many (most?) other parts of the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this article and the others I’ve read (so far) and find them useful in the direction my life is taking. Please keep them coming! I’ll be getting your book as soon as I can.

27. by Fasenfest on Dec 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM PST

Hey Anonymous and Sally,

I have always said that householding is not gender specific so I’m with you there.

We seem to make the right to good food elitist here but mostly because it has gotten so expensive to buy fresh and local. We are trying to unwind it all and make good food not only affordable but accessible to all. Can be a challenge but we are all trying.

28. by anonymous on Dec 7, 2011 at 1:53 PM PST

I was so happy to find this article as a good friend of mine and I had been having a similar conversation right around the time this article was published...I’ll be sharing this with her. I love the idea of a University of Grandmothers. THANK YOU, Harriet - I look forward to reading more of your articles!

29. by anonymous on Dec 9, 2011 at 9:31 AM PST

Twelve years ago my husband and I were scraping up and saving to sell our suburban 1/3 acre and move to 5 acres where we could keep our horses at home and grow some of our own food. We had to really come up with a lot because a place like this in California meant you needed a “jumbo” loan (500k and above). Listening to this, my nearly 80 year old Father shook his head and remarked that in his day, success in life meant you moved OFF the farm to the suburbs or city where life wasn’t so hard. He thought it so dismaying that now it was a sign of financial success when one could chuck the suburbs and purposefully take on a lifestyle where you have to get up to feed the animals day in and day out and where schedules are built around when the fruit is ripe and must be picked without regard to what else there might be to do that day. You take on a life where you might not go on vacation for years at a time because there are so few people you can get who have both the knowledge and the time to come take care of your farm so that you can go on a vacation. You gain and you lose. But at the end of the day, sitting on the patio listening to the Great Horned Owls call to each other at dusk, I think this is a great lifestyle.
Jacqui in California

30. by Fasenfest on Dec 9, 2011 at 10:23 AM PST

I always worry that my nostalgia for the “life” outpaces the reality of living the life. But were I either a) a younger woman or b) had a partner who was really into it, I would give it a go in a hot minute. But alas I am urban bound making as much out of it as I can. Good for you and the Great Horned Owls. May you enjoy your vacations together. I gotta say, the notion of a porch in the country is a real attraction to me. Sitting out on my city house porch is not nearly as pretty.

31. by zegg on Jan 25, 2012 at 1:29 PM PST

I’m a bit late on this thread, but I wanted to mention that our local food pantry tells us that many of their recipients live in accommodation which does not include a proper kitchen; that’s the reason they can’t cook things like potatoes. All donations have to be things than can be eaten without cooking or simply heated in a microwave. So I don’t think we should be judging the food pantry customers until we know their home situation.

On another note, I’m glad to say my kids’ middle school has a compulsory “life skills” program which includes cooking and mending/sewing, and in high school will cover personal finance.

Also, in teaching my kids to cook, I notice that most kids cookbooks have recipes for what I consider “useless” food (i.e. cookies). Similarly in summer camp cooking classes - there seems to be an idea that kids can’t be trusted with knives or hot stoves I think. So in our weekend cooking lessons we do “real” food (i.e. the stuff you can sustain yourself on) like omelets, pasta, rice, learning how to chop onions, etc.

32. by paginas web economicas on Oct 10, 2012 at 11:14 PM PDT

excelente articulo...siempre he admirado la gente con experiencia

33. by ms on Oct 8, 2013 at 7:49 AM PDT

Still a classic post. Much to learn from what you’ve said (and from the grandmas).

My grandparents lived in a small town in Wisconsin and were very hard-working folks. I remember grandpa had a meticulous garden into his ‘90s and grandma would put up a wall of canned food to get them through the winter. I wish now I’d asked grandma to teach me how to can. But, thank goodness for books like yours (and others) to help give me a clue.


Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [ "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer

Our Table

Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer


Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice