My father was 17 years old when the stock market crashed in October of 1929. He told me that Grandpa Rang lost all the money he had saved from twenty years of farming except for the last couple of milk checks that he had deposited in a bank that survived the collapse. With cows and chickens and a big garden, the family had enough to eat, but clothes, hardware and other “store-bought” things were precious.
Women and girls mended clothing, darned socks, and turned flour sacks into dish towels, pillow cases, dresses and curtains–often embroidered with flowers or geometric patterns. Men and boys made tools, repaired equipment and salvaged anything they could. My father and mother passed on those frugal ways to their offspring.
For instance, the second carpentry job I learned was how to straighten nails. The first was how to bend them, but that was self-taught. Today I still find myself reusing nails and saving wood scrap.
Before I left home for college, Mom taught me how to sew on buttons and stitch up a seam, and she gave me a patching kit with some needles and spools of thread. This spring I actually sewed on a button when I was spending a few days by myself at the cabin. It is still on my fishing pants, which seem to be getting smaller.
People didn’t waste food either. Leftovers were saved and either warmed up and served again or used as ingredients in another dish. Here is an example. We called it “dough potatoes.” It’s not fancy–just leftover potatoes and onions fried in a thin batter of eggs, flour and milk–but made with a baked potato and served with ketchup, it is a good example of northern European comfort food.
Dad sometimes made this simple dish when Mom was not home to cook dinner. My sister Barb thinks that he learned the recipe from his mother, so it might have originated in Germany. I probably ate it at Grandma and Grandpa’s the year I lunched with them when we had lost our good cook at Blair School, but my most vivid memory of that year was Grandma’s Boiled Raisin Cake.
Anyway, here is how to make Dough Potatoes.
1 leftover baked potato (1 to 1 1/2 cups when sliced)
1/4 cup onion
3 T flour
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 scant tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 T butter, vegetable oil or bacon grease
Peel the potato, cut it lengthwise into quarters and slice 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Chop the onion medium fine. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the potato and onion until they begin to brown.
While the vegetables are frying, beat the eggs until lemon yellow. Add the milk, flour, salt and pepper and mix well until you have a thin batter. Pour the batter over the potatoes and onions and stir continuously until the batter begins to set. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and cook until done, about 3 minutes.
Dough potatoes are rather bland, so make sure that ketchup, salt and pepper are on the table.
NOTES: You can use leftover boiled potatoes, but baked potatoes give a better flavor, at least to our tastes. Once the eggs are nearly done, you can use a spatula to turn them over so the bottom does not get too brown.