I grew up in a small town in rural Minnesota in the heart of dairy and wheat country.
We were “townies” so even though the area was rural, I didn’t grow up on a farm or anywhere near one really.
We were a family with 4 kids, very middle class, small town, middle America, parents married over 60 years, lived in the same tiny cape cod house my entire childhood, Dad worked as an “ad man” at the local family owned newspaper and Mom stayed at home
until most of the kids were grown and relatively self-sufficient.
Dad came home for lunch most days. Our elementary school was 2 blocks away.
All the neighbors had kids roughly the same ages and we were allowed to run free around the neighborhood.
Curfew time was “when the street lights come on”. It all sounds very “Leave It To Beaver” because it was.
Carefree, fun, sometimes boring and very laid back.
But raising four active kids whose ages ranged over fifteen years on a single income was not an easy feat for my parents.
We were on a “budget” as much as anyone is today. We didn’t have as much money as a lot of my friends, most of my early years my Mom sewed my clothing, we only ever bought used cars and I never had a new bike – only hand me downs
from my older brothers.
Because Dad was the advertising manager at the local newspaper, we always shopped the grocery sale items. My Dad would sit down with the local grocery stores (there were
a lot of them in those days) and work with them on the items that they wanted to feature in their weekly ads.
These ads were NOT the color printed “inserts” you get today, they were handcrafted and laid out piece by piece by the local newspaper men and women.
I remember flipping through books (kind of like clip art) with my Dad looking for the right picture of a beef roast and the right font that screamed “sale” to fit the ads that week.
Dad basically got paid “by the inch” of ad space that he sold (and created) each week.
Needless to say, computers changed all that but as a kid I really enjoyed “helping” Dad at work.
Not all of you will remember when newspapers actually contained these types of grocery ads, but this was literally the “bread and butter” of our family income.
As for bread and butter, two things I grew up loving and two things I always felt deprived of.
As a kid, I loved that super soft white bread – it was WONDERful.
But it was never on sale and if it was, it was still more expensive than the store brand, so it never crossed the threshold at our house.
I always figured that once I was living on my own, I would buy it in the super-sized loaf and no one could stop me.
The other item I felt deprived of was real dairy butter. We grew up surrounded by dairy farms, you'd think it would be cheap and readily available.
At our house, it was a treat at holidays…period. Margarine was the spread of choice.
It was always on sale somewhere (loss leader) so that’s what we used.
There was no brand loyalty relative to margarine, if it was the cheapest, it was what came home with us.
My Mom used to try to convince me that a new brand we tried was actually butter. I think she thought she could get away with it beause it was a different color or shape from what we'd had last week.
I would ask her to prove it by showing me the wrapper, but she didn’t have to.
Sorry Mom, even as a small child my taste buds were finely tuned to detect real dairy butter.
I can also spot butter by just looking at it. Even today, if butter is just a little bit soft, I can almost always tell you if its salted or unsalted just by looking at it.
During high school, I started waitressing at the local pancake house.
What do you put on pancakes? Well, yeah...syrup of course, but who cares about that?!?!?
Sorry. No. The best part about the pancakes was the sweet melting ooey gooey butter...and lots of it...with just a little bit of syrup. For the most part, they really were only a butter delivery mechanism
for me. And the butter supply was seemingly endless.
No more need for butter at home, because I had access to it 30-40 hours a week at work.
For me, it was like the holidays every day. I put it on toast, French toast, vegetables, mashed potatoes, in hollandaise sauce, slathered it on dinner rolls…it was endless. And so very satisfying.
The summer of after my sophomore year in college, I got my first apartment.
For me, this meant my first real on-my-own grocery shopping trips.
First thing on the grocery list? You got it…butter.
Even as a single gal, I bought a lot of butter. Definitely more than your average small family.
Every recipe I had from Mom, I converted to BUTTER – no margarine, no partially hydrogenated anything.
Just pure lovely creamy smooth fresh tasty butter.
Moving to and living in the big city on my own, paying for my own groceries, making my own car payment, furnishing my own place…all good memories of a young woman’s independence.
But being able to buy butter and always have it on hand literally was my “first taste” of freedom.