Have you ever heard of Vienna sausage dumplings? Ketchup soup? Lard sandwiches? No? It’s not surprising if you haven’t as these are some of make-do suppers from the long-ago days of the Great Depression.
My mother was raised during the Great Depression and she taught me many of its lessons. I feel a strong connection to the people and events of that time. The knowledge of how to survive on nearly nothing was knowledge that sadly far too many of us have lost.
There was a motto during the Great Depression that went like this: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Do you know how to do this? Or even how to begin doing this? Some of my readers might but many modern women not only wouldn’t but would look askance upon anyone who suggested to them that they ought to know how to.
I love the recipes from the Great Depression and the eras both before and after, especially in the Deep South. They speak to an understanding of food and mealtime creativity not often found today. Things were hard, sisters, really hard. Folks did what they could with what little they had. The wisdom here is: Learn how to use what you have and how to make it stretch. Then, maybe, stretch it again. Stretch things as far as you can and be glad that you’ve got it to stretch. And reuse things as creatively as you can and be glad that you’ve got it to reuse.
I once read a story of a mother from the Great Depression and how she put a special meal on her table for her family at Thanksgiving. The mother of this particular family was very poor. Her husband had died and things had gotten very bad for her and her children. She had managed to secure some Vienna sausages for her family and she had plans for them for Thanksgiving. Now Vienna sausages might not sound like anything special and you might not like them at all but, to this mother, these Vienna sausages were a promise of a feast to come. She didn’t have the luxury of complaining and she was glad to have some meat, any meat, to put on the table come Thanksgiving.
When Thanksgiving Day came, she fed her children a simple breakfast and everyone did their chores. Then she sent her children out to play. Then this sweet mother took out her Vienna sausages, cut them into small pieces and dropped them into a pot filled with water. While the pot began to boil, she made some simple flour dumplings and dropped them in one by one. If you’ve never made dumplings, they can be fancy or they can be exceedingly plain. Plain is simply a mixture of flour and water which is what she probably used.
Once the Vienna sausage dumplings were done, she placed them in a bowl and set them on the table. She took out her dishes–old and worn–and put her silverware and a tattered but clean cloth napkin at each place. Then, she placed a bowl of apples–a rare treat–in the center of the table. Standing back, she looked over the bounty God had supplied and then she called her family to the Thanksgiving feast.
Her children were surprised and enchanted. They’d not expected such a feast nor had they seen anything so fine in a while. Anticipating their meal, they all washed up and sat down to thank the Lord for His blessings. Their Mama served them and they ate, laughing and rejoicing over their glorious meal. For once, there was enough.
The memory of those Vienna sausage dumplings and fresh apples, their thankfulness for the love and creativity their mother showed in providing a special Thanksgiving meal for them during such difficult times, stayed with those children forever.
We might never get around to making Vienna sausage dumplings for Thanksgiving or for any other day for that matter. But should we have to, may we have the grace–and the know how–that this precious woman had. May we also be willing to go all out even though “all out” might not be what we would hope for.
This Thanksgiving, may we all rejoice in the good gifts, large, small, and unexpected, that the Lord provides for us.
Soli Deo Gloria!