Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I never see this, a butter paper, without thinking of my mother. She was a child of the Great Depression - her family went from pre-stock market crash opulent to post-stock market crash comfortable. They didn't really suffer as most of the country did but suffering is individually defined and she was marked for life by the family's experience.

Even though my Dad made a good salary, especially late in his career, and she had a legacy from her mother, she never threw away a butter paper like this. Instead, she would save it to grease a pan or lay it gently over the dish of vegetables headed for the table to allow the butter to melt over the veggies. She would then use it again to wrap small leftovers, which would inevitably rot in the back of the fridge before she could bring herself to discard even the smallest dollop of food. She dressed for dinner each evening, often in a long dress complete with good jewelry, but she was frugal.

It used to bug me when I was young and I'd protest loudly that it wasn't necessary. Now I see that she was just ahead of her time, husbanding scarce resources. She was "green" before green was "in." She recycled long before curb recycling hit the country, saving pop bottles to convert to laundry sprinklers for ironing. She took back Coke bottles for refilling, even before there was a refund. She bought milk from the milkman who took back the empty glass bottles and brought clean ones. Once Dad retired and they settled in one place, she built a compost pile and added her scraps to it daily. She hung out her wash in an era when a clothes dryer was a status symbol - now the clothesline is, among a certain set.

It's a small thing, a butter paper, but I am amazed at how clearly it brings her to mind nearly 20 years after she died. So many important life lessons - even if I am learning them 20 years too late to thank her.



Blogger Greg said...

April's grandmother used butter paper too. Funny how so many of the great depressions ways of living are valid in today's economy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010  
Blogger Aimee said...

I do the same thing with butter paper - grease a pan. I never thought of laying it over hot veggies (or warm bread from the oven?) but now I will do that too!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

It seems tortured to "use" the last of the butter on the wrapper, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's butter. You bought it.

How did kids as young as our parents were during the Depression become so horribly scarred? My parents are the cheapest of the cheap. If I buy something nice for myself, they accuse me of "having wealth." And why would that be something to ACCUSE? I don't have wealth; I have incredible thrift, so I can afford the occasional nice thing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010  
Blogger Ms Brown Mouse said...

I, too, keep butter paper to grease my baking tins. I do it because my mum did it, she grew up in a huge family with little money. My grandmother did it, I'm guessing she spent time in the depression.
As you know I'm not a thrifty or frugal person, the very opposite, but I do still save butter papers (in the freezer no less!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010  
Blogger Ms Brown Mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, yes, but if we'd practice them in good times, too, we might not experience such bad times.

Aimee, my mother would be proud of you.

Cookiecrumb, next time, smile and say, "Yes, isn't it great that I'm so rich!" And we _are_ rich here in the Bay area, just not precisely as your parents mean it.

Ms. Mouse, I like the freezer idea - gonna start a baggie in there just for butter papers. I'm not very frugal, either, at least not where pretty china is concerned...

Thursday, June 17, 2010  

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