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Backward Glances: A Full Cellar

News stories on the growing crisis in global food supply have to be taken seriously. We are told that even Canada, one of the bread baskets of the world, will be impacted, initially with rising prices. When we walk into our vast supermarkets with their counters and shelves laden with food of every description, it’s hard to imagine shortages.

With this backdrop, a CBC news item this morning about the flooding crisis … caught my attention. Many families are being told to evacuate their homes if they are not self-sufficient for as many as seven days. I thought about our own situation in like circumstance, and my mind drifted back to earlier days in this community and how much has changed since I was a kid.

Generally the generations up to and including my parents were remarkably self-sufficient, at least in the rural areas such as ours. Most families had a large garden and the larger plots of land then also allowed for growing many varieties of fruits, berries and nuts. Our attic would be covered with walnuts spread out to dry. I remember the taste of really fresh milk and cream from the cow we kept, and riding up the road on my bike to pick up our fresh eggs from Vivian Stone. With all of this, kids learned early not to say “I’m bored!” in summer or they’d soon be out weeding a few rows of garden, or cleaning out the chicken coop.

Food preservationAs the growing season waned the Mason and other types of jars came out and canning began. We had a cool cellar under the house and by fall the shelves would be filled with jars of every type of fruit and berry, tomatoes, pickles and relish, and wonderful jams. Sacks of potatoes, tubs of carrots buried in sand and a sack or two of turnips filled the small space. Dad would take boxes of apples to the Cariboo in the fall to swap for the turnips, one of our family staples. The Cariboo also provided the majority of our red meat as Dad always brought home a moose augmented by a deer or two. These went into a freezer locker in Kelowna as home freezers were virtually unheard of, and our Saturday trips to town always ended with a trip to the lockers to pick up the week’s supply of meat. Because of the infrequency of those shopping trips mom bought a lot of her basic foods in bulk. I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone buying a fifty pound bag of flour or bags of puffed wheat that would last for months.

Fall was also the time when Dad and I would fire up the old buzz saw to cut the winter’s supply of firewood. Once the wood was cut and stacked in the shed Dad would predictably say, “That will feel pretty good this winter.” Our folks had grown up during the Depression and had learned early that a cellar laden with food and a full wood shed was their idea of security against a long, cold winter.

While some people still retain these practices they are now the minority, while the  majority, like us, rely on the loaded shelves of the supermarket to provide our food and at the touch of a thermostat, our heat. 

Maybe our folks were right when they’d say with satisfaction when the work was all done, “Well, that’s better than money in the bank.”

Source: Rich Gibbons. Director, Lake Country Heritage and Cultural Society.

Source: Richard Gibbons’ column Backward Glances was originally published in The Calendar.

Photo source: Wikipedia