Editorial submitted by
My grandparents’ house sat right in front of the shop on our family farm years ago. As a young child, I would often have to stay with grandma when my dad, uncle and grandpa were doing something that I was too little to be tagging along on.
Grandma primarily operated in one of two modes during the day — cooking or cleaning. After lunch was cleaned up and the men returned to the fields, you could usually sneak in several rounds of Uno with her, though.
When it came to the cooking, the meals mostly came from farm raised meat and garden fresh or canned (depending on the time of year) sides. The closest thing to prepackaged or processed food in her house was the box of frozen, breaded cod filets she kept on hand, especially during Lent.
One of the things that has stuck with me the most over the years about grandma in the kitchen is her with a jar of Miracle Whip that would appear to be empty in most people’s minds. Not in her kitchen, though. She would pull out a spatula, and the dance would begin, going round and round the jar until there was hardly a speck left behind. She would eat whatever she was able to salvage right off the spatula, then stick the jar in the sink to be washed. Being that everything came in glass or metal back then, the jar would be reused as well, but more on that later.
There wasn’t a container or jar that didn’t get this treatment. If it was large enough to put her hand in it, she would run her finger around the sides until it was licked clean, otherwise she would grab her trusty spatula and go to work.
If there was one rule to her kitchen, it was this — you didn’t waste anything, even if it meant spending five minutes to salvage a minuscule amount of peanut butter from the walls of an empty jar of Jiff that would do good to cover a cracker.
She would not only clean the glass jars, but would keep her cracker boxes and old newspapers. It wasn’t because she was a hoarder — her house was always immaculate with the smell of bleach often hanging in the air. She would take a jar, fill it with tea or Kool-aid with a little ice, stick it in a cracker box stuffed full of newspaper, and send it out to the fields, usually with an apple or crackers with cheese stuffed in the makeshift cooler as a snack. She would die if she was alive and saw the money spent on Yeti’s today.
This past Sunday, my son and I were making a pot of chili. As I dumped cans of crushed tomatoes and beans in the pot, he went to throw the cans away. I told him to hold on as I reached for my spatula. He gave me a confused looked as he peered into what he thought were empty cans. They may have been empty in his eyes but not by grandma’s standards.
Grandma grew up during the Great Depression, and like a large portion of Americans who lived through that time period, she never forgot what it was like to be hungry and have little to nothing eat.
I have retold the story of grandma and the Miracle Whip jar many times over the years, but never have I told it where someone didn’t say, “Gross!”
I guess that just shows how blessed almost all of us are today. I hear so many people whining about pay gaps and privilege anymore. Maybe instead of worrying about how much more some appear to have, we should focus more on how much we have compared to most of the world and even our ancestors just a few generations removed. If you’d rather throw away a Miracle Whip jar than take a spatula and lick it clean, do you really have it that bad?