Jim Terry
Cheesecloth and egg whites
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By Jim Terry
June 6, 2018

My daughter recently asked me if I had any cheesecloth. I thought for a moment and said I believed I had some and asked her why she wanted to know. She told me she wanted some cheesecloth to strain a kind of coffee she brews and her strainer is not fine enough to catch all the grounds.

After I thought about this for a moment, I told her my cheesecloth was not food grade and it was under the sink in my bathroom and probably not what she wanted for straining her coffee.

"Why do you have cheesecloth in your bathroom?" she asked.

"That is an interesting story," I replied, and began to tell her about my grandmother who was born in 1889 and died in 1963. "Grandmother was always resourceful, or frugal, or cheap," I told daughter. "But, she lived through the Great Depression, and I think that made her more aware of each penny in her pocket."

America's Great Depression fell in a period from 1929 to 1939. According to several sources, the number of Americans who were alive during the Great Depression and still living today is somewhere around twelve to fourteen million.

The Great Depression chiseled a character of extreme frugality in those who grew up or lived through that period. They cherished each penny they earned and learned to live with less. And that trait was passed to those of us born shortly after the depression ended.

Today, in our throwaway society, young moderns seem to have not much respect for money, except they want more of it. They don't know about television repair shops as we did in those early days of television, because today's televisions are built to run for a period and then they are thrown away. Most of the shoes we wear today have soles that cannot be replaced. Kitchen gadgets are not made to last. And people are not frugal.

In recent years, we have been besieged with headlines declaring, "Most Americans don't have $1,000 for an emergency," or " Majority of Americans don't have $500 in savings." The web site of the Federal Reserve Board of St. Louis contains a chart of Americans' savings rate over the past sixty years. The site defines the savings rate as, "Personal savings as a percentage of disposable personal income." The high point, at seventeen percent, occurred in May 1975. Since then, the savings rate for Americans has steadily declined and was at 2.8 percent in April 2018. My mother-in-law, a child of the Great Depression, at ninety-four, wears her frugality proudly. Her experience growing up in those times equipped her in the 1950s, as a single parent with a fifth grade education, to send her two daughters to a private Catholic school and purchase her own home, unlike many in her circumstances who were forced into a life of apartment hopping. She did this through hard work and watching every dime, nickel and penny she earned, and without any SSI, Section 8, child tax credit or food stamps.

Oh, about that cheesecloth in my bathroom. When I was a kid I would stay at my grandmother's house often. In those days, all the bath soap, whether it was 99 44/100 percent pure, or lye soap, was cast into bars- no liquid body washes smelling of lychee or green tea in those days. As a bar of soap would melt away, all we were left with was a small, thin sliver of the original which was impossible to handle. Grandmother kept all those slivers of soap and when she had a handful, she tied them up in a small piece of cheesecloth and that became our bath soap until they, too, melted away.

"The nature of bar soap hasn't changed," I told daughter. "That's why I have the cheesecloth in my bathroom."

"One more thing I learned from my grandmother," I continued. "You have seen me break an egg. After I empty the egg into the bowl or skillet, I run my finger around the inside of the shell and get that last little half a teaspoon of egg white out of the shell. I learned that from Grandmother.

She just didn't waste anything."

© Jim Terry

 

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy62@yahoo.com

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