Crack it Open and Give it a Whirl

Crack it Open and Give it a Whirl

As a kid, going into the basement or garage of my parent’s home was like going back in time.  The old

Samples of food found in our basement

books, old clothes, old jewelry, old everything.  Some of it was so old we didn’t even know what it was so we made a game (surprise!) out of guessing what it was and what it was used for.  It was so much fun seeing the old record albums, smelling the dust and must, and seeing all the old…food??  Wait!  What is that tucked back behind the box of Grandma’s ancient sheet music from the 40’s? A quart of tomatoes canned in 1974?  “The seal’s still good.  Let’s crack it open and give it a whirl,” is a phrase I’ve heard way too many times in my life.  Then there is his statement of, “Sugar is like wheat.   It never gets old.”  On the contrary, Dad, some foods do get old.

Let’s talk about the time Dad brought home all the Army Surplus rations for our food storage.  Bless his heart, Dad saw “Free Food” and jumped on that bandwagon.  Unfortunately he missed some of the subtleties that went along with the fine print, like THE FOOD WAS SO OLD THE ARMY DIDN’T EVEN WANT IT!!  It’s all good, though.  We made it through and Grace just wears her hair long to hide the beginnings of a third ear we ground down when she was little.  She barely even remembers the trauma.  Maybe Chris can add a chapter to her cook book entitled, “101 Ways to Prepare Army Surplus Crackers.”  It would read something like this : 1) Throw them away. 2) Haul them to the dump 3) Spread with butter, broil, and feed to the birds.  Note:  The birds won’t eat them, so you’ll be cleaning them up later 4) Loosely crumble and use as slug bait 5) Carve into star shapes and use as Ninja throwing stars…you get the idea.
Anyway, I’ve digressed.  Food.  Old food.  Old edible food.  When we were recently visiting my father-in-law, he took us out to one of his storage sheds and announced to us, “Take anything you want.  I have more than I need and more than I can eat.  You want it, just let me know,” and he meant it.  I was in awe of his collection of stuff.  A phonograph, records, typewriters, books, vases, blankets, fabric from the beginning of time, hand crocheted baby clothes, tatted table cloths, gloves and snowmobiling gear from when my husband was a teenager, and of course, food.  Shelves and shelves of home canned, bottled, and dehydrated food and juices.
“Peggy, I think you need some of this,” and down would come a #10 can of dried beans.  “And some
of this,” would be accompanied by a couple of quarts of dark, partially crystallized honey.  But my favorite was the ten gallon glass (not plastic) jar of Reed’s candies.  “I know you want this one,” he said, and he was right.  Not necessarily because I wanted to eat the candy, but because it was filled with licorice and root beer flavored candies.  “Sugar is like wheat.  It never gets old,” echoed through my brain.  I think I surprised everyone when I laughed out loud and said, “Yes indeed, I do want that!”

Reed’s candy circa 1921
After loading our treasure trove of goodies into the trunk of our car, minus a few rolls of candy, we went inside to “give it a whirl” and taste test them.  When my husband told me that these candies were probably given to his parents by his grandparents, I did some research and discovered that Reed’s candy made licorice and root beer flavors circa 1921.  I’m happy to announce that they weren’t very gummy and actually tasted like licorice and root beer.  What I’m not happy to announce is that I probably just ate candy from one of the original batches made in 1921.  On the other hand, I’m alive to pester my kids another day!  Gotta love our parents.  And our grandparents too. We can learn a lot from their “craziness.”  I can totally see my kids sitting around with my grandkids saying, “Remember the time when Mom cooked lasagna and my fork broke when I cut into it?”  Ya.  They will totally do that, because they’ve already started with that one…
Peggy – #4

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