Depression Era: Memories of Bare Bones Meals

Iowa man recalls how his mother could make delicious meals out of 'bare bones'.

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I have never understood how our neighborhood grocer managed to carry the credit accounts for the many families like ours who were existing for days and sometimes weeks before being able to pay their accounts. Mom was great at making meals out of "bare bones" - almost, anyhow. My favorite noon meal on school days consisted of soup beans flavored with a hambone accompanied with bread or oleo (or butter on rare occasions). Sunday dinners were often built around roast beef tongue or perhaps roast beef heart. Chicken was an occasional delicacy.

When my brother-in-law and sister butchered (usually a hog or two) on their farm, Dad and Mom helped them. They always shared meat with us. Not much of the hog went to waste. The pig's knuckles were pickled. The ears and some of the head meat were made into "souse." Head "cheese" was also made from cooked trimmings from the head of the hog. There was also a mixture of cornmeal and head meat that was cooked like corn meal is, in making mush. After it was chilled and solid, it was sliced and eaten fried just like mush. At home it was called "pawnhaas." I'm not sure of that spelling, but at least that was the way it was pronounced. There were "cracklings" left from pressing the liquid lard out of the cooked fat trimmings of the hog. They were good and rich to the taste, but the tummy could not handle too much of them.

Marvin E. Hanson
Boone, Iowa


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.