There were many times during our childhood when we were very low on food and money. I think we lived on welfare more than a paycheck. It seemed my dad would move from job to job as often as you would move through grade levels in school.
So you can imagine, there were those instances when creativity in the kitchen was an art form. Dad was very good at making something out of nothing. It was amazing how he could put together a meal from what we thought was “a lot of not much”.
If all you have is potatoes, cheese, bread and baked beans you can actually have a pretty decent meal. He fried the potatoes, heated the baked beans and made very interesting cheese sandwiches. He would take one piece of cheese and place it on a piece of bread. Then he would roll the bread over corner to corner and hold it together with a toothpick, then placed a tray of them in the oven until they were brown, crispy and the cheese was melted. Not bad!!! Although today the cholesterol police would be knocking at our door.
Years ago, before Food Stamps, there was “free food”. If you were on welfare you went to a distribution center and picked up a month’s supply of government surplus food. The amount of food was determined by the number of people in your family. I can tell you that they usually gave you enough to feed your family for 3 months. (Well, maybe not that long, but sometimes I thought I was going to die if I had to eat one more piece of peanut butter bread or cheese.
We did have interesting, fun meals too. In order for us to eat the rice (that they seemed to give an overabundance to everyone) was to color the rice. One morning we would find a bowl of red rice or a bowl of blue rice. How exciting for a kid!
We liked to eat cold rice with milk and sugar, just like breakfast cereal. We never knew what color the rice would be the next morning. My mother wasn’t too excited about it. In fact she told us she was going to puke if she had to look at another bowl of green rice. Not to mention the green mashed potatoes!!! We couldn’t understand how she could feel that way. We thought it was the next best thing to Red Devils Food Cake.
Dad was a good baker (He missed his calling. I think if he wasn’t an alcoholic, a baker would have been a great choice for him). Anyway, he was very good at making Red Devil’s Food Cake. Boy we loved that cake. . .one time we found out what he did with his mistakes. . .
We came down one morning and wondered what was for breakfast. Dad said, “Red Devils Food Cake”. . .we’re thinking, really? for breakfast??? He said sure. I made it last night. He opened the oven and brought out either a big plate or two cake pans, not sure which, and they contained the broken pieces of cake. . .apparently they just didn’t want to cooperate and come out of the cake pans in one piece.
Now, if it just had some icing on it, yeah! Instead we ate it with glasses of cold milk. Cake for breakfast, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!!!
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013