The 1950's: my life's foundation

The Butter or margarine Battle

I have taken a lot grief over my preferring real creamery butter over margarine ever since margarine was made available to the masses in the late 1950’s. I was raised on butter—-real butter from a butter churn for crying out loud.

In fact when I was 2 or  3 I was put in my high chair at the perfectly set dining room table waiting for

Mug Shot of the Butter Stealer

everyone to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.  They left me alone for just a second so they tell me but it was time enough to spot the plate of butter on the table about 3 place settings away.   So I just began pulling on the tablecloth to bring the butter to me.  I made it and was into my second bite just as the adults came running in because of all the crashing dishes falling off the table.

Did you know 1831 was the first time they tried to invent a replacement for butter.  Of course it all started because butter spoiled on the war fields so they tried to find a product that did not turn rancid.   That should have been our first clue on how margarine could run and possibly ruin my life.

World War I and World war II had the same needs to replace butter on the fighting fields. By the 1880’s the special interest group in dairy products went on the attack.  They levied a tax against margarine.  They then tried demanding that pink food coloring be added to the margarine to make it look yucky.  The Supreme Court finally overruled those attempts to stop the public from buying margarine instead of butter.

By the start of the 20th century 8 out of 10 Americans could not buy yellow margarine and those that could, got taxed.  There was even bootleg margarine at that time!  What a hoot.   So Margarine simply did not take off until World War II.  Why does it take a war to get what the public wants??

So we were finally able to buy margarine that came in a see-thru bag by the mid-50’s.  This was how they got around the “no food coloring” thing………..they put a blob of yellow food coloring in the center of the bag and you had to break that blob by kneading the bag til it broke open then spread it thru all the

If you need margarine, you gotta knead it.

margarine til it was as yellow as you could get it.  My brother and I used to fight over who got to punch the new margarine bag.   I still kept eating butter whenever I could, and doing without anything if only the tub of chemicals was available.

Then the insanity of low-fat diets came and they madly invented 1000 different types of margarine.  The last one I used in 1993 was a special brand that had no fat; no oils; no salt; no sugar………….in fact I am thinking there may have been no known product in this crap.  I foray into margarine eating ended the day I put some in the microwave to melt for a cooking project and the stuff would NOT melt!  In the microwave?   Helllooo.   If it doesn’t melt there, it ain’t gonna melt in my stomach.

So I went back to real butter and held my head high ever since.   People will still occasionally make remarks about me using the killer called ‘real butter’.  Hinting that I am gonna die with all that butter in me.  I say down-with-fake-food!

The 1950's: my life's foundation

S.O.S and Butter

I just made dinner; S.O.S (stands for shit-on-a-shingle)  From World War II.  They barely invented cans for storing food to feed the troops, so most meals were made right there on the fighting fields if they possibly could.  One cheap meal for the masses of soldiers was SOS………fondly called  Shit-on-a-shingle by the guys fighting for our freedom

.Anyway SOS is a comfort food for me.   So I plopped 8 tbsp. of butter into the pan to let it melt before I added 8 tbsp. of flour to make the thickening paste.

I looked into the pan and realized I have been ROBBED!   There is more water in butter than real butter I think.  That is why things don’t fry like they used to in the old days.  I got the wrappings out to read the ingredients and it said “pasteurized cream, salt” .  Period.  You have to be in your 7th decade to realize they are lying.

This is NOT My grandma by the way

My Grandma had a butter churn in her back yard.  I watched the butter  ingredients that went in and how the butter came out. It was not the yellow we see today even tho they don’t mention any food coloring in today’s butter.  Our butter came out cream-colored; very light.  We scooped it out thick with a spoon like you do ice cream today.

And Grandma had to churn and churn and churn for hours.  That woman had to be strong enough to wring a chicken’s neck from all that work.  Oh wait,  she was strong like that because wringing necks of chickens was how she started Sunday dinners.

My SOS  butter has floating in semi-clear water  when it melted.   I grew up with real butter and it would melt but you could NOT see thru it to the bottom of the pan after it melted. Tonight I could see the bottom of my sauce pan thru the melting butter!

I put the flour in and began stirring it into the thick paste before I poured 4 cups of milk into it.  I mused on the butter.  Then I wondered even about the milk?  Since when does milk have to have a list of ingredients on it???? Well look, it does have a list of ingredients.

I shredded the dried corned beef from the jar into the thick white sauce I put two pieces of bread into the toaster. (the ‘shingle’ part of SOS–you pour the sauce over two pieces of toast)  I don’t even want to read the four inches of ingredients on the bread package.

HELP!  (SOS) There is water in my butter and they are hiding that fact from me.  I don’t like it.

The 1950's: my life's foundation

The food of Life

I was 14 years old in 1954 and on Saturdays in our very small town we went to the movies for 25 cents.  I grew up in a home where money was very tight because my mother was sick all the time.  So my practical parents decided it was a frugal idea to always buy only grey, black or white clothes for the school year.  That way everything would match.  Even shoes and socks.

Unfortunately this was the era of bright pastel angora fuzzy sweaters and matching socks.  Along with plaid print pleated skirts in loud colors too.  I drooled with envy each new school year as I watched my girl friends parade their colors those first weeks of school.

I think that my grey/black/white clothing formed my personality too.  I felt and acted like those colors.  I was never loud.   Didn’t speak up; in fact refused to give an oral book report because of my fear of standing out and standing up in front of class.  My one rebellion in my teen years.

Back to that Saturday movie.  It was “Auntie Mame”  with Rosalind Russel.  The premise of the was this marvelously loud and zany rich woman in the early 1920’s.   She loses her money and becomes poor after the stock market crash, then marries a rich man and has money again.  Sounds trashy doesn’t it?  But the depth of the story is amazing.  Mame shows perseverance of character both being rich and poor.  And what a lavish sense of life and fun she had!

Mame was always changing her home’s decor and whirled through clothing style after outlandish clothing style with the ease of a stripper.

I sat there in the dark theatre transfixed by this til then unimaginable life style.  That it was even going on somewhere was mind-boggling to me.  Was it really possible to change and rearrange and decide to be one personality for a year and another style for maybe just a month?   That life was not all grey/black/white and ………….well staid and stale…………was amazing to me.

The greatest scene in the world of movies came when Auntie Mame stood at the top of her spiral staircase in a fur-lined bright red flowing gown, flung out her arms and shouted, “Life is a great big banquet and most poor suckers are starved!”

When I left home at 17 and went to work at Boeing at age 18 the first thing I bought with my first paycheck was a ankle length bright orange coat.  Then clever me dyed my high heels orange too.  Although in Seattle rain puddles all the orange came off…………I was determined to live like Auntie Mame.  I didn’t have to decide on ONE me and be that forever!

Freedom was understanding that life was a banquet and no real food  banquet served the same foods over and over and over again………else nobody would come eat.