Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Old Times and Spry

 My grandfather
While I was visiting my mom in Florida a couple of weeks ago she pulled out a disk my uncle had made a few years ago with some information regarding my paternal grandfather.  Mom had forgotten about this so it was new viewing for us.  I never met my grandfather as he passed away several years before I was born.

Most of it was a lengthy and mildly interesting FBI and Immigrations file on him (they tried to deport him several times), but what caught my eye was some food related information in letter correspondence from his relatives in Scotland.  

Just a quick background here:  My grandfather had come over from the UK to Canada in 1925 and quickly (and illegally) found his way to the States.  It wasn't until early 1948 that he tried to contact his family from abroad again.  On the disk are these first contact letters, saved by my grandmother, from my grandfather's sister, brother and sister in law.  

They, of course, start out with excitement that my grandfather is still alive and well, then get into some catching up, mostly about their families.  It was fascinating reading, basically eavesdropping on my family goings-on in 1948 (in Scotland).  That it was in their own cursive handwriting made it even more special.

One more tidbit here before I drop a few quotes.  My grandfather sent over some 'food' packages to his brother and sister in Scotland for the Xmas of 1948.  They were overwhelmed with the generosity and it was telling:

'The Spry we haven't seen since before the war, and it is such an excellent fat'
'The spam was marvelous - it costs too many 'points' for us to buy it here'
'The ration of 1 egg each per week we keep tenderly for Sunday's tea'
'I think the lack of meat and fats over the last 8 years is now beginning to tell on us all.  We are all becoming easily irritable, and the least effort tires us out.  However, as each year comes along we hope it will be better than the last!  We must not grumble - or is that an Englishman's privilege?!'

I didn't realize they were still rationing food in England in 1949.  That's crazy.  In the letters they were also elated over some sugar being sent.  

Spry* I had to look up.  It is the equivalent of Crisco.  For some reason it surprised me that vegetable oil was not only used, but considered 'good fat' even before WWII.  I knew that Crisco was brought to market in like 1911 or something, but did not realize how quickly it must have surpassed butter and lard.  At least in some areas of the world. 

Spam costing too much?  In my mind Spam is synonymous with cheap.  Apparently not back then.

And then there is the whole lacking meats and fat quote.  It didn't take a rocket surgeon back then to figure out what gives people energy in their diet.

Anyway, this post is not to make a point or anything, I just found it interesting.  Two more for you:

'I baked the 3-tier wedding cake in early February, and marzipaned it late March, and had it Royal-iced by a local baker, who finished it very prettily'
'Aunt Maggie is much frailer and has to spend much of the day on her back owing to a groggy heart'
Now, I don't know what about what in regards to wedding cakes, but I suspect if I take a cake I baked a couple of months ago to a local baker and asked them to Royal-ice it, well, they would probably think I'm Scottish or something.

Although it could be worse.  You could have a groggy heart like poor old Aunt Maggie.  Yikes! 

* I asked my step-dad if he had heard of Spry while I was down in Florida.  He was born during the depression and, indeed, remembered his family using it.  Happily, Mom has Kerrygold in their house these days!