When I was a kid, it was not unusual for friends or relatives to show up at our house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. TV was a rare commodity then. My family didn't have one until I was 15 years old. Personal computers and cell phones were somewhere in the future. People went visiting. They sat on front porches and talked about the weather and the condition of the crops and wasn't that daughter of Aunt Ruby's acting just disgraceful with that boyfriend of hers. And when the sun was getting low in the western sky and the visitors showed no signs of leaving, they were invited to stay for supper. And most times, they accepted.
My mother was one of those women who planned. She knew that on Monday she would wash clothes and on Tuesday I would iron them. She planned nothing for Saturday morning except setting her daughters to cleaning the house. If you have ever experienced scrubbing out the corners of a set of stairs with a toothbrush, then you know the extent of my mother's planning. And she knew exactly what each meal would be for a week.
Mother didn't take it well when her plans were disrupted. So it was always a wonder to me how she coped with guests for the supper she had planned for four people. She took it in stride and never batted an eye. Thinking back, I realized how she did it.
If she had a roast beef or a chicken in the oven, she sent one of us kids down to the basement, which doubled as our cold storage area, to bring up more potatoes to be boiled and a handful of fresh carrots to be cleaned and cut into carrot sticks. She had us get a quart jar of dill pickles and a pint jar of relish. And added to that were a couple of jars of home canned peaches for dessert. A plate of homemade baking powder biscuits rounded out the meal, now with enough food for company.
I remember once having supper guests when Mother had made a pot of chili that was enough to feed just our family. Mother calmly cooked up a pot of rice and made a double batch of cornbread. She added a plate of sliced cheese and another of raw carrots, radishes and sliced cucumbers from the garden. She filled bowls half full of rice and topped that off with chili. Dessert was sliced strawberries from the garden, with cream and sugar .
The point is.....Mother was prepared. She was a girl growing up during the Great Depression. After that came the WWII food rationing. Her mother taught her how to stretch a meal. Although my Grandfather was one of the fortunate ones to be employed during the Depression, he still had seven children to feed. That was not always an easy task. My grandparents grew a garden. They canned as much food as they could. My father grew up in a similar environment with the added benefit of living on a farm where they could have meat and milk animals to feed his family of nine children. Both my parents carried on the tradition of preserving as much food as they could in the summer and fall. They passed on that lifestyle to me. One of the best things they taught me was how to stretch a meal.
I don't always have fresh food on hand. I can't raise a garden. But I can go to my shelves and pantry and get the fixings for any number of meals. And like Mother, I keep on hand ingredients to be able to stretch a meal when needed. Just makes sense.