During WW II, we had a lot of Spam. I and several of my cousins lived with my maternal grandparents and they must have been challenged to feed all of us kids. Grandma did everything with it, cooked it in lard, or in maple syrup if we could get it, she made all kinds of sauces, tomato, or cream sauce, or Spam gravy. We had it with all the garden vegetables, fried, baked, roasted.
We kids had to help in the kitchen because she really needed help. We learned all kinds of things at her elbow. That was a very precious time for me, learning so many things so young. We had to cooperate and if we didn't perform like a team, grandma would send one of us out to cut off a birch switch and we would get our legs stung. Cranky or fussy or arguing or not solving our conflicts were not options. Oh yes, very valuable lessons.
They had a wood burning stove in the kitchen and a huge, round table. She had a large garden with just about every vegetable you can imagine. She canned everything on that wood burning stove during the heat of the summer. We would walk to the railroad tracks and pick apples for pies and sauce, and plums too. It seems railroad passengers ate a lot of apples and plums and threw the cores and stones out the windows. The resulting trees, especially in spring, were really pretty, all lined up following the curve of the tracks.
She had chickens in a hen house at the back of the property. They loved the greens she grew up on the fence. She had a unique way of managing the birds. The fence was chicken wire that covered the three sides. She placed boards along the ground outside the fence so that the pea seeds could sprout and get a good growth on them before they started to climb the fence. Chickens love fresh greens and they would eat all the leaves off as high as they could reach and then peas were able to grow naturally and bear wonderful peas.
Daniel, skip this part please .....
When she wanted a chicken dinner, usually on Sunday, one of us would take a handful of chicken corn and drop it in front of us in a pile and all the chickens would gather around. Grandma would designate which chicken she wanted and we would catch it. She took it to a chopping block with two big spikes driven firmly in and she put the neck between the spikes and chopped its head off with a hatchet. The chickens would run around and flop all over the place. We threw a wicker basket over the dying chicken to keep it from spraying the house.
Then the feather plucking began, a miserable job, but someone had to do it. Free of all the feathers, Grandma lit a wad of newspaper on fire and singed the pin feathers. Off it would go to the kitchen for her wonderful fried chicken, gravy, potatoes from the garden, and whatever was in season.
In the winter, we bought out jars of vegetables and fruits that we had canned. Her pantry was as big as her kitchen and very well insulated so the jars wouldn't freeze.
The house wasn't insulated at all. It was the coldest place I have ever been, even my memories of living in Alaska did not produce the kind of cold that I remember as a kid.