February 15, 2011
Fried Macaroni - A Memory from My Childhood
My sister and I knew not to ask for anything, but I also remember that my parents, though worried about their financial situation, did their best to give us a happy home life. We would come home from church on winter Sunday evenings and my home would make homemade hot cocoa and cinnamon toast. Yummy. We played board games on the weekends.
The strike that lasted 9 months brought my parents to the point of stretching and coming close to all but depleting all of their resources. Normally we would purchase half a hog and a side of beef from a local farmer for our meat for a year or so. My parents didn't have the money the year of the big strike to purchase a large supply of meat at one time. There was meat left from the previous year so we made it last. My mom was able to get some meat each week at the grocery store as sales would allow. Also, we qualified for some food assistance. We would go to the government food surplus store each month and we would get institutional sized supplies. I remember we would get one large block of processed cheese, rice, macaroni and peanut butter.
My father's favorite hobby was gardening. We lived in a small city in western New York. We had a big yard but my parents didn't want to put a big garden in our backyard as we kids loved playing in our backyard and my mother always hung the clothes out in the yard to dry. My father was able to rent a small plot of land from a widow who lived just outside the city limits. As I recall it was a minimal sum of money as my father would also do some chores for this elderly lady.
The garden was big and he raised potatoes, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, corn, peas, green beans, pumpkins, squash and melons. That year we lived off of our garden produce, the food from the surplus store, sales items from the grocery store, the meat in the freezer we had left from the previous year and extra produce from farmers where my dad worked off and on.
My dad was born in 1917 and my mom was born in 1930. So, my dad was born in the middle of World War I to a very, very, very poor family and my mom was born in the midst of the Great Depression to a poor family. It was from their years of growing up poor that they gleaned the skills necessary to keep our family fed and the bills paid during those 9 months.
Up until that 9 month strike, the longest strike my dad experienced was 3 months. So when the strike went into the 4th and 5th month, my parents really started to get nervous. My mom started to look at our food supply and even though she was serving frugal meals, she started to serve some extremely frugal meals at different times during the week.
One night my mom served us Fried Macaroni. She cooked up some macaroni. While it was cooking she browned some diced onion in some oil in a frying pan. She added a little garlic. Then when the macaroni was done cooking she drained it thoroughly and added it to the frying pan. Instantly the macaroni started to crackle and fry. She was careful to cook it on medium heat and let the macaroni brown and get crispy before turning it over. The result was a crispy fried "pasta." Okay - I'm trying to give it a "rich" label here. The key here is she took very minimal ingredients, cheap ingredients and made a tasty filling meal for us.
When my sister and I tried it, we gobbled it down. It was delicious and filling. The fried macaroni actually had a pop corn like taste. We loved the crispy, chewy texture and flavor. The onions and garlic also gave it more flavor. Even after the strike ended and things got back to normal, we would beg my mom on a Saturday night to make Fried Macaroni.
Okay, I'm not going into the healthiness of this meal. If you were faced with feeding your family on very little, you would find something that would fill their tummies. She not only filled our tummies, but she filled our tummies with something that was very tasty.
One night I made this for my kids. They loved it. If I were to make it today (and I think I will this weekend), I would make it with whole wheat macaroni and use olive oil along with the onion and garlic. I would also serve some marinara sauce on the side. Actually, think about it, fried ravioli is on appetizer menus everywhere now. My mom was ahead of her time.
What can you learn from this? Necessity definitely is the mother of invention.