Have you ever heard of vienna sausage dumplings? Ketchup soup? Lard sandwiches? No? Then you probably don’t read many Depression era cookbooks. My mother was raised during the Great Depression and, because of that, I feel a strong connection to the people and events of that time. I love reading recipes from back then. They speak to a creativity not often found today. Things were hard, really hard. Folks did what they could with what little they had. There’s an old saying from that time that goes: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Some folks substitute “eat” for “use” as the first word. But the sentiment is the same: Stretch things as far as you can and be glad that you’ve got it to stretch.
Yesterday I was reading about times of celebration during the Depression. The story went that the mother of this particular family had managed to secure some vienna sausages for her family and it was near Thanksgiving. Now vienna sausages might not sound like anything special and you might not like them at all but, to this family, this was a promise of a feast to come. They didn’t have the luxury of complaining and were glad for what they could get. When Thanksgiving Day rolled around, the mother took out the vienna sausages, cut them into pieces and dropped them into a pot filled with water. While the pot began to boil, she made some simple flour dumplings and dropped them in one by one. Setting the table with her nicest dishes and placing a bowl of apples in the middle, she called her family to the Thanksgiving feast. The children were enchanted. They’d not seen anything so fine in a while. The memory of those vienna sausage dumplings and fresh apples, their thankfulness for the love and creativity their mother showed in doing the best she could to have a celebration for them during such difficult times, stayed with them forever.
I may never get around to making vienna sausage dumplings for Thanksgiving or for any other day for that matter. But should times ever be that hard, I’d hope that I had the grace that this precious woman had to go all out even though her “all out” was small compared to what we expect today.
This Thanksgiving, may we all rejoice in the good gifts that the Lord provides for us. Even if those good gifts come in the form of vienna sausage dumplings.