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A simple soup from the Great Depression

December 9, 2008 |  5:17 pm


Food habits died hard.

Hence, parents who worried about getting enough food during the Depression might be forgiven for nudging their children to clean their plates. Or for the sense of frugality that could seep into meal preparation years after it was necessary.

My parents were raised in upstate New York in the 1930s and '40s. After they married, they moved a few hours south, 75 miles north of Manhattan. On summer nights, we’d sometimes have a meal of a soup made with milk, potatoes, green and yellow beans, a dollop of margarine, and salt and pepper.

That’s it.

But while they hung on to some dishes, they let others go. My mom, who grew up on farm, knew from an early age that it was not the life for her. She complained about gathering eggs before school. And she pined for the store-bought bread her friends had in their school lunches, wishing she didn’t have to eat what so many people pine for today: fresh-baked bread.

While interviewing people -- including Pat Box, above, -- who grew up during the Depression, there were several consistent threads to their stories and the lessons learned, including a sense of ingenuity in the kitchen, making do and sharing what they had. Read more here.

--Mary MacVean

Photo caption: Pat Box, above, grew up in a large family in Boyle Heights. No one went hungry, but it took ingenuity. Photo credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times