During the Depression Era, everyone struggled to make every penny count and stretched food supplies to their limits in order to survive.
Born in 1913, my Grandma Iva was a young housewife living in Attica, Indiana, with her husband, my “Papo,” Willis Lashbrook when the financial world crashed in 1929.
I remember the stories of their early struggles as newlyweds, both financial and maintaining a home.
Grandma Iva learned a lot from her mother while growing up, which allowed her to have some culinary tricks that other housewives her age didn’t have.
My grandparents always had a garden, no matter how big their yard was, featuring onions, green beans, squash, rhubarb, carrots and some type of lettuce. However, grandma always made sure there were tomatoes because she made an awesome tomato sauce.
Canning produce, especially the tomatoes was one of her favorite things to do. She even canned meat products for later use and kept a can of boiled fat and another of pan drippings. She made her own pasta and egg noodles, jams and jellies. She knew the time spent preserving food would help the family get through the winter months, and when the Depression hit it was her ingenuity that made sure her young family was fed.
She tried to teach her experiences and skills to my mother, however, my mother never liked to do it.
I remember her saying, “Why? You can buy canned stuff at the store.”
My grandmother’s quick response was, “What will you do when the day comes the grocery stores close or you can’t afford to buy things at the store?”
It was a disagreement they never seemed to settle.
Grandma Iva ultimately used store bought items out of convenience, but always told me to make sure I learned the skills from her youth just in case the future crashed again. In the year 2018, I think she was a very wise woman, considering how things are right now.
I am grateful for all the wisdom and the culinary skills she passed down to me, and I passed a lot of those skills on to my children too.
Grandma Iva was famous within our family for noodle making (I’ve written about her chicken and noodles before) and her homemade canned tomatoes and tomato juice.
When she put those three things together to make a hearty noodle dish, I think she won my father’s heart. He loved her tomato noodles cooked with her family recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce or mixed in with a beef pot roast or served with pulled pork.
Tomato noodles were always made from the left over trimmings made during canning tomatoes. The good pieces were set aside, including the peeled skins and seeds, to be mashed in a mortar and pestle. Once a paste formed, it was mixed straight into the homemade egg-noodle dough along with the pan drippings from whatever meat was cooked. They could be cooked in a boiling broth, sautéed with oil and onions/garlic or lightly pan fried in leftover bacon grease with eggs.
Whatever the dish, Dad liked fresh green peppers added with a sprinkle of cheese on top.
After Grandma Iva passed away, I made the noodles a couple of times. Over time, however, Dad’s stomach became sensitive and he couldn’t eat them anymore. After 15 years, I honestly had almost forgotten about them.
That is until last November.
My father, Mitchell B. “Jack” Jackson, talked about them while creating a fundraising event for the Clay County Senior Center.
“I think people would like to have an old-fashioned, home-cooked meal. Like the ones we enjoyed back when people ate at home with their families,” he told me. “Like your grandma’s chicken and noodles, and remember tomato noodles?”
It was at his urging the first fundraiser took place in April 2017.
Our family made homemade chicken and noodles like Grandma Iva made for that first fundraiser, and it was a great success. Many people commented that it took them back to their grandmother’s cooking and Sunday dinners as a child.
Seeing our father have such an incredible time, dancing with the ladies, fretting over the free ice cream and spending the entire night with a huge smile on his face was well worth the time and effort it took to cook everything from scratch.
He was very excited to do it again the following year, and had already started talking about cooking tomato noodles at the next one.
That was Saturday, April 15, 2017. Ten days later he passed away. There wasn’t a question or a doubt about it, our family knew what we had to do. It was important for Jack’s “Senior Family” Fundraising Dinner to carry on because it was important to him.
On Saturday April 14th, our family and friends will once again take over the kitchen at the Senior Center, 120 S. Franklin St., Brazil, to continue what he started. All funds raised during the event will be used to support the recreational budget at the Senior Center.
The prices are the same as last year; get a full meal for $5, individual servings and sandwiches for $3 and desserts for $1. Doors will open this year at 5 p.m. to the aroma of homemade cooking, featuring the favorites from last year, including: chicken and noodles, drunken gizzards, smashed potatoes, seasoned green beans and seven-layer salad. Free iced tea, coffee and maybe lemonade with ice cream for dessert.
But the highlight of this year’s menu, at his request, is the unique 90-year-old family recipe of tomato noodles with roast pork along with a tasty gravy including garlic, onions and peppers. It’s a memorial to Grandma Iva and our father, two of the most generous and wise people you could have ever met or known.
There will also be door prizes that night, a live auction and entertainment provided by local Elvis Tribute Artist Eric Brown (5 p.m.) and local musicians of the Steve Manning Band (at 7 p.m.).
Every penny raised at the event will support the recreational activities at the Senior Center.
It’s a great cause, and we hope to see you there.