Making a Virtue Out of Necessity

1 Jul

This morning, I made one of my favorite breakfasts–biscuits and gravy. I made vegan substitutions (tempeh and sage instead of sausage), but it turned out pretty good. But it made me realize that that dish was really an example of making something yummy out of limited resources.

If you go back a hundred years, food was a third to half of your family budget. So you had to stretch out the food you had to cover more than one person. What I made for dinner last night would have qualified: vegetable and lentil soup and “buttermilk” biscuits (soy milk curdled with lemon juice). In 1922, flour was cheap, and most people had a garden. Some people even had a greenhouse to have vegetables into the winter and spring. Even then, you still need to pickle or can your harvested veggies to ensure that you had a supply year-round. So dried beans were cheap (and still are), throw in some of your limited veg, and then add a lot of water. Wheat flour was cheap (still is), so some sort of bread carbs everyone up to feel full and well-fed.

However, due to a series of unexpected events, no one ate my dinner last night, so I had all these biscuits left over. Perfect, I thought, and I made some gravy. What is gravy made from? MORE flour, water, and a fractional amount of sausage. You salt and pepper it and you’re able to stretch a limited amount of food into a yummy breakfast. Coffee falls under dried beans–they last forever, they’re not that expensive, and you can cook them at the time you need them.

So here was a dish that was incredibly easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and yet it’s something I find rare and special. I have made a virtue out of necessity. It’s similar to my theory that all delicacies are “something you ate when you were starving.” It’s only when you’re able to afford steak for dinner or a fish fry on Fridays that you think, “Gee, wasn’t it nice to have biscuits and gravy?”

I love quoting Samuel Johnson (the guy who invented the dictionary) every time I eat oatmeal. “Oats – in England, a food for horses; in Scotland, a food for men.” I do it because oatmeal is very yummy… and I’m at least half or more Scottish. Dr. Sam was making fun of the Scots because they were backward, but really, they were poor. But it grows well in wet ground and/or sandy soil, and it’s high in calorie content, so it keep you’re wee bonny bairns alive. But notice the picture–there’s blueberries in it. Why? Because that was free. You literally went outside, collected berries, and threw them in with what you eating already. Since berries still didn’t stay around forever, it was a neat treat. When you have oatmeal again, and you CAN afford bacon and eggs, you throw some berries in it.

So many recipes can date back to the simple need of, “How do I stretch my cupboard to feed my family?” Can you think of better examples? Let me know in the comments below!

One Response to “Making a Virtue Out of Necessity”

  1. Amorina Rose July 4, 2022 at 4:08 am #

    The simple things are the best. Very entertaining.

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