A Story and a Recipe

By Dorothy Johnson

This last spell of cold weather reminded me of the stories my folks used to tell about “the old days.”  According to them, the winters were more severe;  the snow banks were higher; the cold was colder and every winter lasted longer than the winter before.  

My mother’s family had a harder time because they did not live on a big  farm and did not have lots of potatoes and other vegetables in the cellar.  All of the kids had to help out while my grandmother walked from the Hersey Side to West Pembroke, picked up a load of someone’s laundry, toted it home, washed it, dried it, ironed what had to be ironed and then toted it back to the owners.  She did all of this for a quarter, which was a lot for a woman with four young children to feed.  She had more than one customer so she walked a lot, worked a lot and earned more than one quarter a week.

The three older girls were out of the house, married and working for their own families so when they had an extra quarter some of them helped out, but it was still a meager existence.  In those days no one expected help to buy oil (or in their case, wood); no one knew about food pantries or commodities; and no one expected that their fairy godmother would make everything alright. They just knew they had to work for every penny they could get.

The clothes they had were hand-me-downs, which my grandmother mended to be moved from one kid to the next.  Knit mittens and woolen socks were the prizes of Christmas and considered the best gift they could get.

What I remember of the cold winters was the clothes we wore.  I was forced into undershirts, snuggles, long brown stockings that were supposed to defy gravity and stay over my legs and then layers of flannel-line jeans, ski pants, flannel shirts and pullovers.  When I finally put my jacket on, I was too fat to move.  I was like the little kid on “The Christmas Story.” If I fell down, only my middle would touch the ground.  My boots were off the ground; my head and arms were off the ground and I was like a beached whale with no way to get back to the water or in my case, back to my feet.

Just getting ready for school each morning would take an hour.  Getting all those outer clothes off for supper was another struggle.  Knowing that a hot supper awaited me at my house or my aunt’s house made the struggle bearable. That brings me to this week’s recipe for a simple, but nourishing, Hamburg Vegetable Soup.

Hamburg Vegetable Soup


Four ounces lean hamburg

Onion flakes to taste

One teaspoon butter

One small can tomatoes

One small can of water

One-half cup diced carrots

One-half up diced turnip

One fourth cup uncooked macaroni or other small pasta

Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a small frying pan, melt butter.  Add onion and hamburg and cook until justbrowned.

2. Put tomatoes, water, carrots, turnip and macaroni in a small saucepan, add hamburg mixture and cook together until vegetables are tender.

This is an easy recipe for a quick, hot soup.  Cooks may make changes such as a real onion for onion flakes, olive oil instead of melted butter, or other vegetables.  It is highly recommended for a diabetic diet.