Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Poor Smells Like

It is no secret to those who have been reading my blog that these are not the best of times for us financially. We are making it, and that is what matters. I am learning much during these spare days, not the least of which is how full and complete my life is in myriad ways that I previously overlooked. 

Being here, and spending so much time online, I have had opportunity to become more familiar with issues and events that previously would not have been on my personal radar. I have deepened some relationships, made new connections, and been blessed in the process.

There are several blogs I read on a regular basis. There is a wonderful website,, that is a wealth of education and inspiration for me. One of my regular reads on Patheos is Star Foster. Today, she wrote of her current financial struggles, and to say it is eyeopening is an understatement. I think one of the reasons I enjoy her writing so much is her total open attitude. She does not deal in euphemism and innuendo. 

We see news stories everyday about the economy. This being a presidential election year, these stories are everywhere. Big, sweeping stories of fault and blame, numbers up, numbers down, recovery and recession, the disenfranchised and the privileged. Star does not write of these. She writes about beans and cornbread, ramen noodles and vats of soup. 

My first husband used to complain when I made boiled cabbage for dinner. Not because he did not like boiled cabbage. He was very happy to sit down to a meal of boiled cabbage, fried fatback, fried potatoes and cornbread. Just make sure he had some hot sauce to pour on the cabbage and potatoes and he was very glad to eat his way to the bottom of the bowl. 

He complained because of the smell of the boiled cabbage.

He was born in 1933, and came from a large family. His father was a storekeeper, and they would take boxes of groceries to needy families in the cotton mill community where he was raised. His overwhelming memory of those deliveries was, and I quote, "Poor folks houses always smelled like boiled cabbage."

These are times in our communities when a great many homes are smelling of boiled cabbage. 

Times when ramen noodles and saltine crackers are on family dinner tables, not just in college dorm rooms.

Times when meatless meals are not just Mondays, but Wednesdays and Fridays and every other Thursday.

Times when we are planting tomato seeds and onion sets and seed potatoes so we can be sure we will have food on the table come September.

Times when those who live where it is possible are raising chickens for the eggs, and butchering the hens when they quit laying so they can have chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinner.

I grew up in a small town. My father was an exceptional gardener. My mother's parents had a large farm. I learned to garden almost by osmosis, and was helping can green beans and tomatoes and make homemade relish at a young age. I have skills, knowledge and experience.

I worry for those who do not, those who will gather around a stranger in the dried bean aisle of a grocery store because they do not know about sorting, soaking, rinsing, seasoning and cooking dried beans and legumes.

I worry for their children.

I worry for our future.

1 comment:

  1. I remember living in Michigan and going thro a divorce not by choice, no heat in Nov, ex had broke the frig, but it didn't matter I didn't have the money to buy food and living on top ramen as main meal. I even sold a bag of pears off a tree to get a few dollars to buy food. I worked as a school bus driver but during the summer months could not get a job. Being poor just took all my energy so I am glad those days are long behind me. Roger can tell you I was kind of homeless when he met me, I was living in my mom's 18' camper because I was too poor to live in mobile home in Gloucester. My husband makes jokes about the tv shows I missed out on back in the 80's.s.b.