Skim vs. Powdered

Our discussion the other day about paper plates reminded me of stories that my folks used to tell about their early married life.  My dad was in basic training in North Carolina and my mom moved there to be close to him.  She taught gym part-time and they lived in a small trailer.  One of the stories they told me about how broke they were was that they couldn’t afford to buy a set of plates.  So not only did they eat on paper plates, they cut the paper plates in half!

By the time I came along, they were in better shape, although still not great; my dad was in law school with two part time jobs and my mom was forced to quit working the minute the school district found out she was pregnant!  As a kid, things were tight, not destitute, but definitely tight. One of the ways that my mom saved on groceries was by using powdered milk.  I still remember it after all these years, chalky and for some reason never seemed to get really cold.  I hated it.

At least once a month we had Saturday dinner at my grandparents’ house – hamburger and french fry night.  There were a lot of reasons that I liked to eat my Nana and Pappy’s; one of those reasons was that they had “real” milk.  It was always very cold because that’s the way Pappy liked it and there was always plenty.  They had a special half-gallon carton holder that looked like this:

When my younger sister started school and had “real” milk every day, she began refusing to drink the powdered milk at home.  While I hadn’t been brave enough to do this on my own, I quickly followed her lead and my mom gave up and began to buy “real” milk.  I started drinking skim about 30 years ago and I’m still a big milk drinker all these years later.  My mom doesn’t understand how I can drink skim and  has suggested more than once that I “might as well go back to powdered milk”.  Yes, after all these years, she still remembers how we “forced” her to buy milk.

My milkman told me yesterday when he was making our delivery that big local dairies are going to discontinue skim milk production for a bit.  Apparently skim milk requires more steps and production time; during our current crisis, trying to keep up with demand means cutting out skim so more easily produced milks can make it to market faster.  Who would have thought?  Guess I’ll be on a higher fat milk for a while.

Do you remember any meals you enjoyed at your grandparents’?

32 thoughts on “Skim vs. Powdered”

  1. Neither of my grandmothers were very good cooks, although my maternal grandmother had been exposed to fine cooking by her mother. My Great Grandmother Marie had been a professional cook in wealthy homes in Hamburg before her marriage. We have a photo of her from some time in the 1890’s in her best starched cook’s uniform, with her employer “family” on a beach when they all vacationed on the Baltic Sea. She was a homemaker, of course, by the time my grandma was born in 1900. My grandmother told me how hard it was for her mom to adjust to farm life in Minnesota and how much she missed making fancy sauces and things. I like to think I channel her cooking verve when I am in the kitchen.

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        1. Being a major port and a Hanseatic League city, Hamburg has long been noted for its markets and availability of exotic spices and foods.

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  2. my grandparents were polar opposites
    jb in fargo had room for us all to stay at his house kids slept like cordwood in the bed upstairs and mom and dad got the guest room
    he had normal meals like bacon and eggs in the morning but what was memorable was the candy stash in top of the refrigerator. alway 10 types of candy with those big orange peanuts i didn’t like and chicken bones with butterscotch covered hazelnut as constants gumdrops or chuckles ahh the sugar buzz for active munchkins. jb’s was home base for meeting up with cousins for super active visits.
    moms parents had easter and had a kids table with mashed potatoes and ham with a raisin sauce my mom got the hang of. huh … hadn’t thought of that raisin sauce for years
    butter sugar and raisins in a little pitcher like cream pitcher on the table with a little spoon in it
    have to make that next time we do ham and see if anyone will eat it? i’ll ask my mom to make it

    she and my son are in charge of gravy now. he is impressed by how she makes it look so easy

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    1. The very first purchase I made using my own money was a bag of those chubby orange peanuts. Knowing no better, I ate the whole bag in one sitting. The disgust I felt afterward should have taught me several of life’s lessons. I could have learned “the things we want most aren’t always good for us.” Or “you can have too much of a good thing.” Or “spending money on silly things won’t make you happier.”

      Of course, one experience didn’t teach me all that. So I spent a lifetime running the experiment over and over until the results became clear.

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      1. I think my first purchase with my very own money was one of those little bags of gum that was shaped like nuggets. Gold nuggets. These are all the rage when I was about five.

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  3. Skim milk is whole milk with the milkfat removed. I would have expected that 1% and 2% milk would be skim with a percentage of the fat added back in—much easier, you would think, than reducing whole milk to a certain percentage. That would make skim the second easiest to process after whole milk, with 1% and 2% following. Maybe that is the way it’s done and skim undergoes extra processes to make it palatable.

    We drink almost no milk of any percentage at our house and use it only for cooking and baking and putting on oatmeal. Often a half gallon goes bad before we can use it up.

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  4. Nana didn’t have the chance to try out any cooking skills. I’ve mentioned many times before that this is the grandmother who only made seven things because that’s what my grandfather liked. And that’s why the only time we went to dinner at their house was on Saturday because that was hamburgers and french fries.

    But I loved going to Nana and Pappys for other reasons. There were always goldfish crackers around because Pappy loved to munch on those while he was watching TV. And they had a second refrigerator in the basement, which was unheard of at that time, full of my grandfather’s beer and tonic water …. and pop. There were always several kinds of pop in the fridge and Nana always let us have a bottle when we were there. We never had pop at home so this was a rare luxury.

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  5. I grew up on powdered milk, yet we also drank a lot of whole milk from one of those cool 2-gallon (or so) rectangular plastic jugs with a spigot on the bottom corner so one could pour milk similar to how box wines are poured.

    I think the powdered milk was bought to defray the cost of going through probably a gallon or more of milk per day when I and my brother were growing like weeds. And pretty much everyone but mom drank milk for dinner. Plus we went through tons of cold cereal. My usual breakfast was three HEAPING bowls of Cheerios, Wheaties, or whatever.

    RE: grandparent meals.
    Mom’s mom wasn’t a great cook. Strictly meat and potatoes, with lutefisk and something similar to plum pudding with thick purple sauce poured over at Christmastime.

    Dad’s mom had the knack though. Still pretty basic meat and potatoes but she added flavor to the meals. One of our all-time most memorable meals was in June 1982 when my wife and I visited Grandma and Grandpa Norbury in Eldon MO. Grandma made perhaps the best pork roast I’ve ever tasted. That was back when pork actually contained fat. And as we all know, “Fat is flavor,” and “Pork Fat Rules!” Plus, Grandma bragged that Missouri pork was far superior to pork from other states. No argument from me that day!

    She rubbed the roast with a cut garlic clove, dredged it in seasoned flour. and roasted it to crispy perfection. Served with pan gravy and butter-laden mashed potatoes. It was the epitome of simple ingredients prepared perfectly.

    Chris in Owatonna

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  6. As I’ve mentioned too often, I hated milk as a child. My parents, fooled by propaganda from the Dairy Council, made me drink a big glass of the stuff at every meal. That was the worst part of growing up, which is to say I had a pretty nice childhood.

    Now that I’m a grownup (although opinions on that vary) I know that drinking milk is disgusting but drinking wine makes the world glow and helps me forget who is the president. I’ve learned that truth through the scientific method, running the experiment over and over.

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  7. The woman I think of as my paternal grandmother, farmor, always had cold pancakes in her icebox when I came to visit. Remember, Danish pancakes are essentially crepes, and a cold one rolled up around a dollop of raspberry jam is a delicacy.

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  8. Mom’s mom – I remember once we had something called stuffed cabbage, which was delicious – I’ve never been able to replicate that. Other than that, we were there mostly for Thanksgivings, etc., and they’ve all run together in my memory, but I know they were wonderful.

    Dad’s mom – This is where I had lefse – spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar when we were little, then as the whole meal, but with salt cod, potatoes, and metled butter when we were older enough. And kumla, potato dumplings cooked in a ham broth and served with… melted butter.

    She also made her own bread while I was little, and that smell… And I do remember a candy dish at Christmas that had those red raspberry candies, hard on the outside and then a chewy middle.

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    1. My dad’s mom was a career woman. She owned a real estate company and had Janie who was a maid/cook for most of the years I was growing up. I don’t remember one single meal at her house that struck me as memorable. I loved visiting her but not for the food.

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  9. I grew up with a large Italian family large vegetable garden and many good cooks. My maternal grandmother’s sauce was incredibly delicious (I think simmering with pork for a long time was a factor); I associate the smell of that sauce with the Syracuse Italian music hour or opera on the radio. I am still trying to duplicate that sauce. Being from upstate NY whole or 2% milk was present at every meal. What is interesting is that my mother made Avocado toast back in the 1950’s- we often had it for lunch when I was a kid.

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  10. HI-
    When I grew up we were just bringing milk up from the bulk tank in the metal container that went into the pasteurizer. Let it sit overnight, skim the cream off in the morning (with a special flat ladle) to return to the bulk tank. So it was probably 1 or 2 percent.
    Then when the pasteurizer burned out, we used a gallon ice cream bucket to transfer milk. Same deal, skim the cream off and return it.
    After my kids were born we switched to store bought milk. 1%.

    I don’t remember meals from my grandparents. Dad’s Dad surely didn’t cook; Or only canned food. Maybe he had fig newtons on the counter.
    And Mom’s mom, all I remember there is the candy dish on the counter filled with that weird old Christmas candy. And If I took a piece she’d tell me I was going to get fat.

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  11. My father’s father died before I was born, and his mother died when I was about three, so I don’t have memories of them.

    On my mother’s side, I remember visiting them on the farm when I was a kid, but I don’t have vivid memories of the food. I remember getting glasses of milk with thick cream on the top, because they had cows, and brought the milk in very soon after procuring it from the ladies. That was different from the refrigerated milk I was used to.

    Probably the meals were chicken and potatoes and peas and beans and that sort of thing. But nothing really stands out because it was similar to what I was used to at home.

    I remember my grandmother umping water from a little pump next to the sink. Looked like this one:

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    1. I think the pump was red, like this one.

      For a long time I assumed that my mother had grown up in similar circumstances, with an outhouse and a pump in the kitchen. I was surprised to learn that my grandparents had actually lived in town when their kids were growing up, with indoor plumbing. After the kids moved away, they considered a flush toilet and hot and cold running water a luxury that they didn’t need. They moved and went back to a more rustic lifestyle. It’s hard to understand, today, why you would want to give up that convenience, having had it once.

      Especially when it means having to make that trek to the outhouse during a South Dakota winter.

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      1. Boy yeah.
        My folks got married in 1948. First child was born in 1949. Mom told Dad she wasn’t going to be pregnant and using an outhouse. He got water installed to the house toot sweet! Sounds like not all the way into the pregnancy, but close enough. 🙂

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