Can’t Believe I Never Thought Of That….

Fixing dinner this morning (behold, the glory of crockpots) and thinking about Wrede’s Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic) book.


There’s a mention of getting to eat chicken dinner “even though it’s not Sunday”—driving home the point about how eating meat was a special thing.  Saint Pat’s day being so recent, I was also musing on how my mom never ate corned beef growing up, because “that’s what poor people ate.”  You might be eating spam and chicken feet, but you were not eating corned beef.  Mom grows up and never fed us spam or chicken feet, although we did eat a good amount of “chicken”—some of which may have had fur and gone hippity-hoppity-hop.  In turn, her mom had grown up not eating mutton for similar reasons, and I’d guess at some point her ancestresses had served mutton because it’s MEAT, and way on beyond that there was the whole “at least it’s food” thing….


Which lead my mind to the logistics my parents have to explain to the frufu “buy local” people who want their home area to be self-sufficient, but don’t realize that means you don’t get things like beef all year round, and some things you don’t get at all.


My mind connected that to the frozen chicken in my hand vs the logistics involved in even a magically aided 1800s style civilization, and a little light bulb came on: yes, people want meat more as they get prosperous.  But “meat” isn’t a set benchmark—ignoring that a beef cow now is nothing like a beef cow of 500 years back, ignoring economies of scale, it’s simply easier to deal with the stuff.  You don’t have to corn, cure, salt or smoke when you can refrigerate and freeze, and the level of waste just has to be much smaller in a mass aging room than in a cold room like my uncles’ ranch has. (think thousands of dead cows vs maybe four)


It’s sort of like how the price of a loaf of bread means something entirely different now vs when it was made by hand and spoiled in a week.  (Of course, the price of stuff made the same way now as then isn’t the same sort of style, either—you’re paying for fancy now, instead of basic stuff.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the cheap end of hand crafted chairs from way back—they’re nothing like the least expensive hand crafted chairs from today.  It’s sort of like the difference between the cheapest particle board stuff today and the normal level stuff you by after you move out of the dorm!)


But, yeah.  I’m no big believer in the usual claims about how we’re all gonna die because the world is getting richer and people want to eat more meat when they get richer, but I never thought about how I was accepting a part of the premise that I really shouldn’t….


I should know better.  Technology changes the value of things.


8 thoughts on “Can’t Believe I Never Thought Of That….”

  1. my dad says he never ate beef, not once, til he came to this country at 15. any cow they had was used for milk and plow pulling. to valuable to be eaten. and the occassional bull calf was worth cash in town. cash was on short supply, so yeah, you didnt eat the bull either.
    and fresh pork was only had in feburary, during the two days of slaughter.

    Dad had no concept of ‘poor people’ food. food was food. and our family was known as ‘rich’ back in the day. (pre and post war Italy).

    1. As best I can tell, the UK/Irish ladies are of the we’re-not-poor-we’re-proud sort. (See also, Sam Vime’s home street.)

      1. my dad tells a story that happened often: a random women from town would walk up to the farm to buy some milk. she would have kids with her. a jug of milk would be sold for ‘x’ amount of cash.
        Nonuzz (granpa) would call out: “Gino, get some eggs” (or bread, olive oil, fruit/veggies, whatever was in abundance at the time)
        my dad would grab a bundle of eggs, and Nonuzz would give them to the mother, along with with an extra measure of milk, no xtra charge.
        post-war italy was bitch.
        ‘poor people food’ meant ‘no food’.
        we were rich, owned our own land. my dad taught me: if you have it, and its extra, somebody else needs it. share with a few, but dont be a fool by opening the door or you wont have anything.

      2. I thank God often that the newest immigrants of my family have been here over 100 years. Reading Liberal Fascism just makes it more and more obvious there were REASONS for leaving.

  2. cheap eats: a box of rice-a-roni, whatever meat is leftover, toss in some veggies.
    a box of scalloped potatoes to sub for the rice-a-roni, and baked.

    1. Same sort of thing with the rice maker– dump in rice, a cup or two of frozen veggies, usually some scrambled eggs. (Don’t generally have leftover meat– when we do, it’s usually in something else. Ham is about the only exception.)

  3. My annual reading of Lamentations is a reality check – I’ve been poor, but I’ve never had to actively scrounge for individual barley kernels (let alone pick them out of animal waste) – so the poorest I’ve ever been is a better state than 99% of human existence. Thank God for the modern world.

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