Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 14, 2014

Not quite my mother

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

ASHLAND — I like to think of myself as not cheap, exactly, but more frugal — trained by those who survived the Great Depression and were in a constant state of preparation in case another one came.

The family joke is that I don’t consider a car broken in until it’s hit 200,000 miles. And yes, I do tend to patch my cars up and keep them running as long as I can. I finally gave up on the old blue Chevy a couple years ago when the transmission started going just after replacing the engine.

Because of my frugality and because I was raised in a family of good cooks, there is nothing as leftovers in my house. It’s more like meal starters.

Since we had cows on the farm, we ate a lot of beef as I was growing up. From my mother I learned of the many second-use options for a roast.

Vegetables soup was always a favorite. So were beef and noodles, shepherd pie and stew.

Next-day chicken began creamed chicken over biscuits, chicken pie or chicken salad.

Back in the day, no self-respecting lady served finger sandwiches with the crust left on. So when my mother was called upon to furnish sandwiches for a church function, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary meeting or Eastern Star refreshment table, the cut-off crusts went into a plastic bag and into the freezer.

When we’d be called to supper and see a chicken and dressing casserole on the table, we knew the stockpile of crusts had reached meal proportions.

I will admit to being more wasteful than my mother. When there are leftover mashed potatoes, for example, I’ll throw them out.

She didn’t.

My mother would make these fantastic potato patties with them. I’m not sure how she did it, but I know it involved flouring the patties and frying them crispy in butter. They were so good that I always secretly hoped no one would be inclined to scrape the potato bowl.

My mom loved her freezer. In fact, when she died, her freezer was so full she had cartons of pop on top to keep the lid down.

Leftover vegetables, like the bread crusts, went into the freeze. When there were enough and we had meat remaining after a meal, she’d make soup. Sometimes that soup would be heavy on corn and peas; other times the featured veggies were onions and lima beans. It all depended on what she grabbed first.

Me, I’m spoiled. I may use leftover roast beef or chicken, but I buy my veggies at the store. There’s a particular vegetable soup blend I adore that includes okra, so I spend the dollar a bag to get what I want.

I know, my mother wouldn’t approve. She believed in having a big garden, and she would have grown her own okra, the way she grew everything else from rutabagas to three varieties of tomatoes.

My mother grew fruit, too. We had the strawberry patch and the bramble of raspberry bushes. She had red, black and yellow raspberries and the scratches on her arms to prove she picked them herself. And we had rhubarb plants, fruit trees ... you get the idea.

And since my mother was of the “use it if you grow it” philosophy, I’ve always wondered what she had in mind the year she decided to plant both cotton and tobacco seed in that little patch my dad plowed up.

CATHIE SHAFFER, executive editor of The Greenup News, can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net