A & P (March 16, 1936) Digital ID: 1219150, public domain, nypl.org
Have you ever noticed how food is like fashion? How it changes over time and what we ate in some eras, we may not in others? For example, the recipes we posted last week—many of them were from the 1960s and there were lots of jellos and sugar. Compare them to the healthier, natural foods we eat nowadays.
“I remember when we were kids we had salmon a lot,” says Duane. “And when Bruce would get home from school he always had an onion and peanut butter sandwich. And I had a mustard sandwich.”
“At lunch time we had grilled cheese,” adds Jerry. “I also liked scrambled eggs and cereal. I’d have that in evenings a lot. I’d have a scrambled egg sandwich. That’s why I was the fattest kid in fifth grade.”
Seriously? Jerry was fat?!
The Amos Boys say they don’t remember their mother Gladys having any foods that were her specialty. Because she worked out of the house each day until 5 o’ clock, she didn’t have a lot of time for creative cooking.
“I don’t think she had a recipe box or paid a lot of attention to recipes,” says Jerry. “Other than a few slips of paper here and there, I don’t remember seeing any of the standard cookbooks in our house. I remember her cooking a lot of liver. She would send us over to the back of Curtis’ store and he’d give it to us.
“When I lived with my grandma Maggie and her husband Jim Adams, it was pretty much meat and potatoes. There weren’t very many vegetables. We had a lot of chicken because they raised chickens. We raised them for meat and eggs.”
I ask the Amos Boys if they had a favorite meal?
“I remember going to the Famous Grill when I was quite small. My grandfolks never went to restaurants but I went with Mom, and maybe you guys,” Jerry says to Bruce and Duane. “I had a grill cheese sandwich and chocolate milk, and it was about the best thing I ever tasted.”
“That was on the corner of Larch and Michigan, wasn’t it?” says Duane.
“Well, as an adult, I always enjoyed Jeanie’s spaghetti dinners,” says Bruce. “The kids loved those too.”
“I’ll tell you what Bruce’s favorite was when he was a kid, like 12-13 years old,” says Jerry. “Mashed potatoes. My grandmother was having a big dinner. I don’t remember whether it was Thanksgiving or what, but there was probably dumplings and chicken and mashed potatoes and all kinds of stuff. Mom got mad at Bruce because he only wanted a big plate of mashed potatoes.”
“I can’t really remember any specific thing that was my favorite,” says Duane. “I remember when I went down to Topeka after I graduated from high school, they (grandfather Wm. Arthur and his wife Hazel) had a lot of things I’d never had before. Like fried cucumbers. They had a lot of vegetables and we didn’t have them much growing up.”
I ask if the foods they ate when they were young were shipped in from far away?
No, the Amos Boys say the food was pretty local. You know how we always hear that oranges were special treats for Christmas? That was true for them, as well.
“You couldn’t get bananas during the war either,” says Jerry. “Anything that had to be shipped, you couldn’t get. All the ships were busy with the war. There wasn’t a lot of produce except in the summer, when people went door to door.”
Interesting how that goes, isn’t it? Nowadays, local food is a popular buzzword and we’re willing to pay extra for it so we can “live sustainably.” Back then, however, people often struggled just to sustain life.