Monday, August 01, 2011


When we were growing up as kids in our family the big meals were on Sunday:
roast chicken, pot roast, stew, corn beef and cabbage. and there were always
leftovers for at least one more meal.  The rest of the week the meals were
food that could be cooked fast and easy because sometimes both Dad and Mom
were working. Those dinners also reflected the fact that our parents had grown
up during the Great Depression. So dinner one night might be hotdogs and B&M
brand Boston Baked Beans or Campbell's (and occasionally with B&M Brown

Pan fried pork chops were another meal, usually cooked by Dad in an old frying
pan that we had for years. Other nights we'd have sausages and rice or macaroni
& cheese with tuna or peas. And of course there was spaghetti. Only in America
would the family of an Irish American woman and a Yankee from Maine look
forward to spaghetti for dinner!

Pizza was something we might have once or twice a month.

As my sister and I grew older into our teens. we  helped a little with the cooking
since we were home from school before our folks from work. Mom or Dad might
take a chicken out to thaw in the morning before leaving for work and either Cheryl
or myself would start it in the oven around 4pm.  And we both learned how to make
the spaghetti sauce: brown the ground beef, then add two small cans of Contadina
Tomato paste, one can of water, a tablespoon or two of sugar, cover and simmer
while the water boiled for the spaghetti .  We were a Prince Spaghetti family, by the
way. Another night we would have the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese already made
and waiting for dinner when our folks came home. Our younger brother Phil
learned how to do this too.

Spaghetti was my favorite and we usually made enough for two nights. But there
were some meals that I wasn't too crazy about. Mom really liked fried liver and
onions. I didn't like the taste of liver and smothered it with ketchup. Dad had
developed a taste for Spam while in  the service, so sometimes we had fried
Spam and beans. I smothered that in ketchup as well. (I am a big fan of ketchup.
One of the best finds of my new healthier lifestyle was finding low fructose ketchup.)

When slowcookers and crockpots came along Dad thought they were great. He
liked making the beef stew and letting  it simmer all day in the slow cooker.
Mom liked them too because she never really liked Dad using the pressure cooker,
especially after the day the little pressure thing on the cover of the pressure cooker
blew off and hit the ceiling.

There weren't any traditional family recipes in our family, although Dad learned
how to cook Italian dishes from my Aunt Emily and Mom had a recipe for mundel
bread  given to her by a Jewish friend when we were living on Capen St in Dorchester.

Looking back, I'm struck by how many of the specific brand names of the foods
we ate I remember: Dinty Moore Beef Stew,  Bennett's Mayonaise, Prince Spaghetti,
Oscar Mayer Bologna, B&M Beans.

I think we were like millions of other working class blue collar families who had
both parents working eating what I'd call "blue collar cuisine"  made up of food that
was easy to cook made with products we knew and trusted,


Susan Clark (Nolichucky Roots) said...

I recognize every one of those brand names! My mother's 1960s CT kitchen had those and more. She loved the convenience and economy of those foods. She also made what she called Irish-American Spaghetti (boggles the mind) that was a combination of tomato paste and a couple different Campbell's Soups. My Italian friends shuddered, but we thought it was delicious.

Greta Koehl said...

That spaghetti sauce recipe sounds familiar. I loved spaghetti and sauce, too, but my dad was a meat-and-potatoes man, so it was a rare treat. So now I make up for it by eating lots of Italian food.

Midge Frazel said...

Your posts about your New England family makes me smile. I never realized how many meals made no difference who your ancestors were. We ate many of the same foods you mentioned and so did my husband's family.

Cooked ground beef in gravy topped with mashed potato was a favorite in my family and my husband wishes I'd make it more often.

My Mother's pressure cooker exploded one day. What a mess!

Jasia said...

I remember that blue-collar cuisine. My mom used to make spaghetti using Campbell's condensed tomato soup as the marinara sauce. Boy does that bring back memories!

We were big fans of "wiener bean pot" too. That's hot dogs cut into pieces and cooked in Campbell's Pork and Beans with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls on the side. Mmmm, good!

Thanks for a great post and for participating in the Carnival of Genealogy, Bill!

Dorene from Ohio said...

We had lots of Kraft mac & cheese at our house...good memories!

Nancy said...

Some of the foods you ate we, too, ate in our family. To my father, if dinner didn't have meat and potatoes, it wasn't dinner. My mom cooked to please my dad but since Dad worked turns, there were some evenings when we ate spaghetti or macaroni and cheese (with ketchup added by the individual), and other less expensive meals. Thanks for sharing your memories.

footnoteMaven said...

Bill - So enjoyed this post. I could almost smell the spaghetti sauce. Ours was Chef-Boyardee.

Spaghetti every Friday night after we did the weekly shopping.

Thanks for these memories.


Cynthia Shenette said...

Bill - Wow! It sound like you ate at my house! I didn't realise for years that mac and cheese wasn't always bright orange and didn't come out of a blue box. We also had to have hot dogs and beans every Saturday night. My mom did it to please my dad, a throw-back to his Navy days. Apparently Saturday night was bean night in the Navy. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

Sheryl said...

The old brand names in the post bring back memories of other popular foods from the same era: Jello gelatin (made with canned fruit), tater tots, and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.