Tuesday, August 16, 2005

You're No Spring Chicken!

My mom is a child of the depression. She likes to remind me of this. Generally the time she starts to remind me is when I am telling her to throw something away that I think is not needed but she thinks is still usable. We tend to have this discussion quite often. It goes something like this: "Mom, I'm throwing this bread away. You bought it three weeks ago." "No!, I'm going to eat it!" At which point I gently tell her that if she was planning to eat the item in question, she could have eaten it while it was still food.

Another case in point: Yesterday she bought some file folders, which came in a bag with a little adhesive strip, thus rendering it "resealable". Mom asked if I wanted it. I told her that, no, I didn't have any use for it and she could just throw it away. Out came the depression again. She explained that, when she was a kid in the depression, nothing was thrown away until it was determined that no one in a 4 block radius could use the item in question. After determining that neither of us wanted to canvas the neighborhood to see if anyone wanted a "resealable" bag, she agreed to throw it away.

Champs and I saw just how prevalent this trait is in my mom when she went to Phoenix last winter. When she moved in with us after my dad died, she brought with her a small chest-type deep freezer and gave it to us. Champs and I decided to clean it out and find out what was in it and make room for new food when she was safely out of state. We emptied the unit, depositing various frozen items on two card tables in the sun room. We found a lot of interesting stuff. Pea soup from 2003. A bag of turkey stock from the New Year's before. Something like 15 one-pound boxes of butter. Each layer was like another historic period in my parent's life. We saw the Crustatous era (a three year-old pie shell) , the Cenozoic era (a beef roast from 1998 ) and finally, at the bottom, a perfectly preserved specimen from the Mesozoic era; a fifteen year-old whole roasting chicken.

This chicken riveted us. The skin had turned leathery and white (and red where some popsicles had melted some time back). There were small items placed around it much like the treasures in Tut's tomb. The chicken itself was permanently adhered to the freezer floor. It took us three pots of boiling water to disengage it from it's frozen nest. When we finally got it free and read the label, we saw that it was from a store that has since gone out of business. We realized that this chicken was born before our high-school senior nephew started kindergarten. This chicken had been through three presidents. It had been around for all of "Friends" and "Everybody Loves Raymond". The freezer was in its third location since the chicken was brought home. How it had managed to remain undisturbed all that time was a mystery to us.

It was almost with a sense of awe combined with an amazingly strong sense of revoltion that we put it in the garbage. I wish we had thought to take a picture of the label as proof. Mom didn't believe us when she came home and saw the "new" clean freezer. She really didn't believe us when we told her about the chicken. But it is the truth, I promise.

Now, I don't care how much of an impact the depression has had on someone - no one is going to use a chicken that old. So, in an effort to keep the food in the freezer fresh and on a rotation, we have a system. We've bought a magnetic wipe-off board where we write down the food items that are stored in the freezer and erase them when they are used (no more 15 pounds of butter!). The system is working well. I think it is because we are all following the rule at the bottom of the board:

"15 year-old chickens are NOT allowed!"

Here are some of the comments from this post:

Heather said...
What a hysterical story! It is my theory that there is so much credit card debt in our society because so few remember the Depression.

Sandy said...
THAT is a fantastic story! Thanks for sharing it.

Thumper said...
Sounds like my Great Aunt Eleanor. When she died my mom and her sister and brothers gathered to clean out the house...she hoarded *everything.* They found years-old meat, hundreds of skeins of yarn... they did take pictures, mostly because as sad as they all were, they knew they'd want proof and even then it was so fricking funny to them...

princssis said...
I love stories about your mom! How funny! 3 pots of water to free the nearly permanent chicken? WOW!
This story reminds me of when we bought our house from AR's grandparents. Certain items were agreed to be left (like the picnic table), but upon our arrival, they were gone. The grandparents even took all the toilet paper and light bulbs - out of the fixtures! Maybe not ALL the light bulbs, but there were quite a few missing!

Geekwif said...
You could write the date on your freezer items with a sharpee marker too. Then you'd always know how long they'd been in there.
I've heard this story before, but it was fun to read some of the details I missed last time. I'm a bit of a packrat myself, but I hope I never stoop to saving ancient chickens!

kenju said...
She is just like my Mom, who NEVER threw anything away. She would give it away, but never throw it out. When she died, my Dad and I cleaned out the freezer, which had stuff 3 years old in it, and the kitchen cabinets, which yielded spice cans so old they were already collectors items!! They now reside in my kitchen - but on shelves - as display.

yellojkt said...
My father-in-law was a Depression era person also. The first time I visited their house I thought he was either a survivalist or a Mormon because there was at least a year's worth of canned goods in the house. When he passed away about five years ago, my wife had to hire a hauler to take away the entire garage full of stockpiled cleaning supplies. It could have served as a Proctor and Gamble logo museum. There was a box from every style change ever.

I think part of his problem was also that he bought off of a mental grocery list that never adjusted for existing inventory.

Peri said...
haha, that is so funny. My grandmother was a teen in the depression and the same way, Never could throw food out....... later when no one would eat it, at least the dog would. Her favorite line, "now, if you don't eat this, I'll have to give it to the dog".

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