Recently, I read (think it was in that new cookbook) that in the early 1900’s most women spent some 44 hours a week preparing dinner (or was it meals?) And that today, many folks spend as little as 15 minutes a day (so, 1 hr 45 minutes). I don’t think I fall into the 15 minute category, I try and aim for 45 minutes or less. I usually spend about 15 minutes in the morning, making lunches, and on the weekends sometimes spend another 30 minutes getting breakfast.
But when you think what women in the early 1900’s had to do to get ready for lunches (or meals in general)…Most made their own bread (often each day or every other day), some would have churned their own butter, even made their own cheese! J.L Kraft (the son of Ontario dairy farmers) opened his wholesale cheese business in 1903, and then in 1914 opened the first cheese factory, supplying the US Government with processed cheese in tins for soldiers fighting in World War I. He obtained the patent for processed cheese in 1916. Velveeta was born in 1928 and KD in 1939. But it wasn’t until 1950 that Kraft Deluxe Processed Cheese slices appeared as the first commercially packaged sliced cheese product.
My father has often told us about how much my grandmother (who was born in 1910 in Montreal to German immigrants) loved cheese slices! That and sliced bread (the kind that came from the dear old POM bakery in Montreal: POM stands for Pride of Montreal, in case you were wondering). And you know, I am not surprised! I am sure most women her age, who grew up during WWI, married during the Great Depression and then raised children during WWII and into the 50’s, felt the same way. They had helped their mothers make bread for lunches, had learned all the chores and tools and tricks to running a kitchen, and then the innovations and new consumerism of the 1920’s happened, hardships of the 1930’s and 40’s and then the boom of the 1950’s. Toasters, and electric ovens, electric mixers and even self-serve grocery store chains (her favourite was Steinberg’s), and, of course, cheese slices! Making lunches would never be the same!
Have a look in the fridge or the cupboard. Pick one thing out of there and imagine how different your day to day life would be if you had to make that item from scratch, every time you wanted to use it. Take soup for example. Yes, today we know that canned soup is a villain because of the amount of sodium it contains (but there are ways to fix that!), but imagine if it wasn’t there at all? Or, canned tomatoes? Wow, I can just imagine (heck, I’ve done it!), a hot humid, August Saturday and what are we doing? Canning tomatoes! Yippee! But I would rather go to the beach or the movies or anything! But you can’t, because the tomatoes are ready (whether you bought them at the market or picked them in your own garden). So, you spend all day washing, blanching and canning. Why? So that in January, you can make spaghetti sauce!
In the last few years, many of us have returned to some of that, to enable our families to eat more locally. My freezer still has blueberries and some tomatoes from last summer. My pantry has jams and pickles and some peaches that we put up as well. I bought some smoked salmon from a girlfriend whose husband did a lot of fishing last year, but that is all gone (big surprise!). But I didn’t do enough of any of that for the entire year! And I am very glad that I don’t have to!
Why? Because I work full time (45 hours a week actually!), and when you factor in all the running around that gets done in a week, plus when husbands and wives have differing schedules, or in single parent homes. There is a very good reason we no longer spend 6 hours a day getting supper ready! And, in our house, we do have the odd time when one spends about 20 minutes getting supper ready…Take tomorrow night for example…Dance, skating and then skating, and oh, just for fun, we will throw a school board meeting in there as well! Good thing that there are plenty of leftovers in the fridge! Chicken curry and rice from Saturday, and beef bourguignon and quinoa from tonight, and plenty of fixings for salad.
For tomorrow’s lunches? I thought I would make ham and cheese roll-ups, with some Kraft Cheese slices for old times sake! (the only one cheering for that in our house is my son…Looks like the girls will be having tuna, chick pea and quinoa salad with tomato dressing…Rob is taking leftover chicken curry.
See us tomorrow for my re-invented version of Aunt Mabel’s oatmeal cookies! I have finally managed to get rid of the shortening all together and end up with something with Rob saying “those are pretty good” (the recipe is from his Great Aunt Mabel). I promise to share the recipe!