The Social Experiment

This blog is about understanding and exploring what my Grandmothers experienced by living on the home front during World War II. I am going to be living, as best as I can, to the US rationing standards of 1945. This is a social experiment, not only to connect to my families past, but to explore new way to live environmentally and socially responsible. I hope to show, that by living as our grandparents did, we can reduce the amount of waste that our society throws out and live healthier and more simple lives.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My New Shirt

Today was  the first real time I was just ready to be done with this project!


Today I bought my first shirt that was new. 
       It is a lovely shirt.
              It is functional. 
                  It matches every one of my outfits. 
             It is comfortable. 
       It is a boring.
  It is a white t-shirt that I need for a Highland dance show.

What made me want to quit is that….
       It was on a 30% off clearance rack,
             Hanging next to its neighbor,
                                A beautiful violet dress
                                                That would be perfect to wear to work
                                                That would be great to Preach in
                                                That calls my name, saying “Katie… I was made for you!”
                                This violet dress is 50% off and a great price.
                It hugs a beautiful teal blouse.
                                This blouse is washable
                                                It matches all my suits.
                                                               It is 75% off and less then $10!
Why – when all the stores are getting rid of their summer clothes,
                Clothes that I needed all summer,
                Clothes that would have made my life easier,
                Clothes that finally I can afford
Why am I following this silly rationing – of one new shirt, one new pair of pants, one new dress.

I waited all year to buy my new shirt.
                I didn’t want to waste my one purchase,
                I wanted to make my purchase count
                I scoured racks of clothes at the thrift store so I could buy a shirt when I really needed it…
And now I have my new shirt
                My, no one has worn it but me, shirt
                Hurry my new shirt
                My white tee shirt

                                               I am tired of being rational.

Butter, Butter, Butter…… BUTTER!

When I started this year, I knew that butter was highly rationed.  From what I have been following… butter costs 16 points per pound (that is most of my meat/ dairy rations for the whole week).  So at the beginning of this experiment, I bought my pound of butter and got ready to sssttttrrrreeeeeeccchhh.

To preserve my stretched butter – I only kept one stick of butter in the fridge, and the rest stayed in the freezer.  I did not know how I would do in keeping butter.

Much to my surprise… I finally used up the last of my pound of butter this week when I made a peach pie to share with my workplace.  I cannot believe my pound of butter lasted almost a full year.

How can this be?

Well I will state- in my regular life… I was not a big butter eater.  I liked butter on hot toast or beagles and often I fried my eggs in butter.  I use butter in making sweet breads and other baking… but that is it.

As I started this project – I knew butter was special and I tended to only use it on very special occasions.  I served it when guests came over, and used a full quarter of my supply to make an English breakfast, complete with scones and lemon curd, for a work party.  I rarely used butter for my food (except squash – nothing tastes better then butter on fresh baked squash).

I did discover… I use oil and Crisco in everything else.  Oil and Crisco were rationed, but they only cost 5 points per pound/ quart.  Most baking, a person can cut the oil in half anyways and it still tastes great.  When stretching meat… most of what I at were hot dishes made of a mixture of vegetables and meat.  Rarely did I add any oil or such.  Even this Christmas, I did not have time to make butter Christmas cookies because I was sewing a wedding dress for my sister-in-law.  So no butter used.

After all this… I was shocked to realize that I had grabbed a handful of butter packets when I was at a restaurant.  I had 4 containers of butter… and I used every single one on one piece of bread!  I never eat butter on my bread unless it is toasted.  But no, I realized that I missed eating butter.  Ohhhh…. It tasted sooooo gooood!  I did not realize how much I missed butter – how wonder it tastes.  The subtle sweet cream and the slightly salty that blends so well with the taste of bread.  I have to say that after not eating butter for most of the year –I LOVE BUTTER and I have MISSED BUTTER! 

I would not have known this if I had not given it up for so long.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The 4th… What was it really like?

                This 4th of July, America’s Independence Day, was very different then celebrations in the past.  One difference is that it was on a Wednesday and I was required to work on Tuesday and Thursday … this made traveling to celebrations unavailable.  In the past, I would gather with family in South Dakota or go up to our cabin in Lake of the Woods.  This year there was not time.  Another thing that was very different was the heat.  Rochester, MN had temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 60-70% humidity.  Nobody was outside celebrating.  On a day that is all about cooking outside and picnics… people huddled inside their air conditioning.  I did not have any air condition at home so to survive – I volunteered to work at the Hospital – at least there was air!

                These differences got me thinking.  What was Independence Day like in the 40’s?  Did families celebrate, discovering new ways to make their favorite foods…?  Did men too old to go off to war – did they do fireworks?  Were there any black powder to use for fireworks or did it all go to the war effort?

                Often working in a hospital, I meet people … who give off a presence of strength and confidence that their loved one will get better- then as I talk with them cracks are seen in this mask.  I see their eyes brim with unshed tears, worry and fear of the uncertainty of the future shines out of those eyes.  Their voice breaks then they stop, take a deep breath, then their “strong” look is back.

                Thinking back to celebrating the 4th… how did families truly celebrate when so many of their loved ones were gone.  Their father was not the one cooking on the barbecue; the family would be so much smaller as the men had gone to war.  How did women celebrate?  The 4th of July is celebrating a victory in war- celebrating an end to fighting…. Yet that is not what was happening in 1942.
                As I stood to sing the American National anthem, I wondered how women could stand to be patriotic, singing about ‘the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air’… without thinking of their husbands huddled in a fox hole, trying to stay alive.  Did they present a “strong” presence – like loved ones do in the hospital?  Or would a person see the cracks in their patriotism… the unshed tears and the fear of the unknown future?  

Would they be singing “God Bless America,” or be quietly crying out “God, Just bring them home!”

I realized that this year – It was hard for me to be 100% patriotic.

This year, I have been given glimpses of the loss that goes with these holidays.

And I pray – Lord, bring Peace!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

SHOES – Oh How I Miss You!

I did it.  I broke down and bought a pair of shoes this week.  I have waited and waited to purchase a pair because in rationing – you are only allowed to buy one pair of shoes for the year.  One Pair.  That’s it.  Only one pair – even if it is a buy one pair – get one pair half off.  Nope – even if you have the money to buy more than one pair… you only get one ration stamp. 

See those wonderful red shoes shining in the window…???  Do you hear them calling your name?  Oh, wouldn’t they look great on the dance floor?  Oh and look at those lime green shoes…. Oh and those beautiful brown ones – they would be great for work….  Hummm , my dress shoes has a heel that is starting to come loose… Maybe this would be a great use of my ONE ration stamp for shoes.

One Stamp, One pair of shoes, One… that is it…

Ha Ha- are you starting to feel my pain?  I walk slowly by the shoe store on my way home from work.  All those beautiful shoes are calling out my name.  They are shiny, they are new.  Oh they look – and FEEL- great.  Better than my old, smelly work shoes I have now, that have lost their shine and the heel on the left foot is loose.  I only get to buy one pair of shoes.
And because of that – they have to be functional  and be what I need.  Not what I want.
Those shiny red shoes are beautiful… but they will not match all my outfits that I wear – and …. They … are… not… functional….! Gerrrr!

So today I bought a pair of shoes.

A pair of functional shoes.

Shoes that I needed – not shoes that I wanted.

I did not pick them by their color.

I did not pick them by their price.

I picked them for what they could do for me.

These are the shoes I need for every day-

For walking to work (not driving my car)

For biking to the store (saving gas)

Today – I bought a pair of functional shoes

I was rational – not fashionable

Functional – not fun

Today I bought shoes





Eating Victoriously!!!

It is in!  My victory garden has produce!  I am so excited.

This week I realized that I needed to start harvesting my garden if I wanted to get a few crops out of it.  Being that the garden has been growing in indoor flower boxes – I put on a movie and sat watching while picking lettuce, spinach, and some weird broccoli thing.  I picked enough for a huge salad  (which I ate for supper) and had fresh lettuce, spinach salads for lunch all week.

Who knew that freshly picked spinach is sweet.  I sat eating it while finishing my movie. UMMM – I am very proud that it grew.  I grew my own food.
One thing I would do differently is …. Mark what I planted where.  I have no idea what some of the plants are.  I think one is a beet plant – I have started pollinating the flowers so that it will grow something (hummm … maybe it is cucumbers…????).  It has yellow leaves like a pumpkin plant.  I also have heritage tomatoes that need to go outside soon … I am checking to see if there is a balcony that I could use.
I now understand the excitement that would come with that first harvest of a victory garden.