WHIDBEY RECIPES: Broke, and with the blues?

For years, I heard my father saying “What we need is a good recession, maybe even another Depression.”

It was often said after reading yet another article about the booming house market, sky-high housing prices, rapidly increasing national debt, credit card debt, etc., etc.

He lived through the last one; in fact he married my mother right in the middle of it all, which many deemed not a smart thing to do. In less than a year, they had their first child, born on the tail end of that first Great Depression, also probably not a good idea, but I don’t think they planned it that way.

They waited a long time before another came along, when they were sure Dad’s job was secure and they had a few dollars in the bank.

Living through times that hard does something to you, changes you. He learned many tough lessons about living within your means during those years, lessons he never forgot and which he tried to impress on all four of his kids (with varying degrees of success, I might add).

And, at least a decade ago, he must have seen the early signs, because

I began to hear “This country can’t go on like this; we need a good recession to put people back on track.”

He avidly read financial news in newspapers and magazines and watched TV programs such as Wall Street Week, and again I’d hear, “This country is flying way too high; we need a good recession to bring us back to reality.”

Well, you know the saying, “Be very careful what you wish for; you just may get it.” I’m not sure he comprehends, now, that he’s about to get his wish. After all, he’s turning 100 next week, and even though he still watches the TV and looks at a newspaper every day, I can’t tell how much of what he sees or reads really sinks in.

It’s probably just as well.

But, here we are, Dad, literally teetering on the edge of another economic disaster, probably not just a recession, more like a full-blown depression.

Many in this “land of opportunity” we call home may not make it through this one without extreme hardship and suffering, especially the elderly who don’t have enough time left to recoup losses they may be suffering right now.

Personally, I hope I can remember some of those lessons I learned from Dad about handling your money during hard times, as well as the lessons I learned from my mother and grandmother about how to stretch food dollars like they were rubber.

How many kids, I wonder, will find themselves with dead cellphones when renewal payment time rolls around? And how many parents are already learning, through necessity, how to say “no” and mean it, when requests for this, that and the other lead to hostile glares and perhaps even tantrums?

How many credit cards are being tossed away, cut up or shredded as “If we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it” becomes the operating principle? For millions who’ve been living on their credit cards, this will be a tough one.

They say history repeats itself, and it looks as though that’s exactly what is going to happen, even though we were told that “It couldn’t ever happen again because we have taken measures to see it doesn’t.”

Well, guess what? Our high-flying, big spending, king-of-the-world nation has just been handed a huge lesson in humility, and it’s going to take a long time to recover. Will we learn from this and make sure it never happens again? Why do I doubt it?

So, what now? It’s called “Back to the Basics.” Tighten up on everything, don’t buy unless you can pay, stretch every dollar, save even those pennies, throw nothing away if it can be used in any way, make do with what you have, ask yourself “Do I really really need this?” before you buy anything, and do without whenever possible.

Thanks, Dad; we’ll try, but it’s not easy to change habits, especially bad ones.

RECIPES

Casseroles were lifesavers in my grandmother’s and mother’s day; you could feed a lot of people with “cheap” cuts of meat, or even just beans and rice and vegetables, and often make a casserole stretch for two nights. I suspect casserole cooking will be making a big comeback very soon, which makes me glad I didn’t throw out my old cookbooks, some of which were first printed during that “other” depression.

BEEF & RICE CASSEROLE

Vegetable oil or olive oil

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 cup short grain white rice, uncooked

1 onion, minced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or to your family’s taste)

½ a green pepper, chopped

2 t. chili powder (or to taste)

Salt, to taste

1 cup canned tomatoes, drained (or use juice to add to water to make 2 cups)

2 cups water (or water and tomato juice to make 2 cups)

In a large skillet, break up and brown the beef in

1 T. oil. Add raw rice and brown with the beef, draining off any excess fat from beef, if necessary. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, chili powder, salt and tomatoes. Mix well, add enough water (or water tomato juice) to cover. Cover pan and allow mixture to simmer about 30 min. or until the rice is tender. Remove the lid and allow mixture to dry a bit during the last 5 min. of cooking. Don’t stir during this time. Serve with coleslaw, or a tossed green salad and/or green vegetables.

I think everyone in my generation grew up eating some form of tuna noodle casserole on a regular basis. I have dozens of tuna/noodle recipes and I expect these, too, will be making a comeback, although tuna is no longer as inexpensive as it was then.

TUNA NOODLE KUGEL

1 8 oz. pkg. noodles (use your favorite as far as width)

4 eggs

1 t. salt, or to taste

1 cup sour cream (use lite, if desired)

1 t. sugar

2 cups cottage cheese (use low-fat, if preferred)

1 can tuna, drained

4 T. dried bread crumbs (use seasoned, if preferred)

3 T. melted butter

Cook and drain noodles. Beat together eggs, salt, sour cream and sugar. Stir in the cottage cheese, noodles and tuna. Turn mixture into a buttered 2 qt. casserole, sprinkle with bread crumbs and butter and bake in a 325-degree oven just until mixture is heated through.

Serves 8.

And of course, there’s sure to be a revival of good old hot dogs, with endless variations of “franks and ———–.”

WIENERONI CASSEROLE

½ lb. bacon, diced (use diced ham, if preferred)

½ cup chopped onion

4 t. Worcestershire sauce

½ cup dark corn syrup (more, if preferred, after you try this)

¼ t. salt

½ t. paprika

1/3 cup lemon juice

½ cup plus 2 T. water

1 to 1 ½ cups chili sauce

1 lb. wieners of choice

1 T. cornstarch

Combine bacon (or ham) in skillet; saute until bacon is crisp and onion is soft. Drain off excess fat. Stir in Worcestershire, corn syrup, salt, paprika, lemon juice,

½ cup of the water and chili sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 min. Add wieners; simmer until wieners are hot, about 8 min.

Blend cornstarch and 2 T. water; stir into the sauce and allow to boil 1 min., or until slightly thickened. Serve over hot macaroni, spaghetti or any other pasta of choice. Serves 6.

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