When I was a kid, modern was all the rage. If a family had a washer, dryer, cook stove, and a refrigerator in their home, plus indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water, they were first class. I was quite surprised to discover some areas of Arkansas weren’t electrified in the 1950’s. The Arkansas Encyclopedia says only 67% of the farms had electricity in this decade. Modern conveniences came late to our rural folks, who did hand labor long after their city cousins were “taking it easy.”
My grandmother’s home had a cold room on the shady side of her home. Kitchens in the south were always located here to keep this room as cool as possible. The room had a box, which opened to the outside. The iceman would make his rounds in this old section of the city several times a week in our torrid summers. Into this small box, he’d place a newspaper wrapped block of ice. This little chip off the glacial block would slowly melt, but would help keep the cold pantry below the rest of the house. The shade tree helped, as well as the large eave.
Grandmother never had the giant icebox we have today, but if she were to make peaches and shortcake, it would be when the peaches were firm and ripe in season. They would be at the peak of freshness, most likely up from Ruston, or one of the nearby towns known for their fruit. They wouldn’t have traveled far. Local food is fresh, plus it costs less to ship.
She didn’t believe in Reddi-Whip. Beating heavy cream by hand with sweetener and vanilla was all part of the gift. Taking time to make the gift was also part of the blessing of this lifestyle: taking care of people by sharing food cooked with love.
The death of aerosol food arrived about the time of those hippies and the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Folks decided once again natural foods raised with respect for the environment and respect for the farmer were important. While some of our hippie ideas may have been “hair brained,” the idea all life is interconnected and interdependent did make sense. If we care for one another, we are caring for ourselves also. If we care for our world, we are caring for all of humanity. It’s the neighborly thing to do. We can’t love ourselves without loving the world and all the people in it. Likewise, if we hate others, we’re hating a part of ourselves.
Read on if you want to know more about the story of aerosol foods. They were a really big deal for a while, and then they fizzled!