New Englanders are known for our thrift, which is sometimes an almost obsessive need to reuse and recycle. That’s a good thing!
I drove to the market recently and passed by a house with a chair on the lawn with a “FREE” sign sitting on its threadbare cushion. It was not an unusual site as these roadside giveaways are pretty common. On the way home, a half hour later, some lucky person had secured the chair and brought it home, leaving the sign on the side of the road. No doubt, it would be brought in the house to be used another time, for another item in need of a home. Some may think this a little lazy, just setting the unwanted item on the side of the road rather than bringing it to the recycling center, but it’s also quite efficient and works like a charm! You usually don’t even need the sign, it’s understood that a chair on the sidewalk is first-come, first-served.
Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without!
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Those are words from the Great Depression, my mother’s childhood world. She was raised in the most frugal of times, and this stuck with her and her contemporaries all their lives. It was second nature. The lifestyle was frugal, it was thrifty, and it was sometimes downright cheap. It was also something passed on to most of us. Even the cheap part.
The romance novel circuit
When I was a kid, my mother was an avid reader of romance and historical romance novels. She read them every morning of her life when she rose, well ahead of anyone else in the house, probably the only time in the day she had to herself. There was a circuit of romance novel readers, and every couple of weeks, a grocery bag of books would appear at the house, traded for an equal bag of books from my mother. There were quite a few women she traded with, some she really didn’t even know! Those books got a lot of use moving from reader to reader until they fell apart.
It was also very much a tradition to save a week’s worth of newspapers to trade with a neighbor who subscribed to a different one! Yes, the news was a little stale, but there was always something to be gleaned. Mom subscribed to McCall’s, the Saturday Evening Post, and Reader’s Digest. Sometimes, Yankee Magazine and Good Housekeeping as well if she got a bargain. These were traded for other magazines we didn’t get, although I must confess that the McCall’s didn’t get recycled until I carefully tore out the page with the Betsy McCall paper dolls! I had a whole shoebox full of Besty and all her seasonal outfits, ready for tennis or skiing. My Aunt Mary, my Dad’s sister, had her own group of people she traded her newspapers and magazines with, but never my mom even though we lived right next door! They had issues.
At a flea market, I found a bag of tiny fabric scraps, many just thin little trimmings. It was labeled “Scraps too small to save.”
Fabric scraps and buttons were also popular to share, and still are. Scraps from old clothes were used in quilt making. As a quilter myself, fabric scraps are raw materials just begging to be transformed, given new life. I saved many pieces of my children’s clothes as they were growing up and put them in quilts for their wedding gifts, leaving bits of rick-rack or buttons making them even more recognizable. At a flea market, I once found a bag of tiny fabric scraps, many just thin little trimmings of selvage. It was labeled “Scraps too small to save.”
Buttons and snaps cut from shirts and skirts filled canning jars. I still have a jar of Mom’s, and once in a while I find just the right button tucked in among the rest. More often, they are used in little craft projects with the grandchildren. But some saved items are not recycled as far as I can tell. My mother-in-law had a giant ball of rubber bands and they were never used again. But, they were just too good to throw away.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
If I have furniture to get rid of, I can usually find someone I know to give it to, so I haven’t yet placed a chair at the side of my street to offer to the world. I give magazines away, but I’m afraid I recycle my newspapers at the center, along with anything else the center will take. I collect and give away fabric, and I offer sourdough starter to friends and strangers. Used clothing goes to a local charity that either sells the items in their thrift shop, or give them to those in need.
These kinds of recycling remain important to our way of life, I rarely have to throw anything away, and I know it spans far more than our little region. I was reminded the other day that the “three Rs” are reduce, reuse, and then recycle. This is the pecking order. It is better to reduce the amount of plastic we buy, then perhaps reuse it. If all else fails, recycle it, and hope it actually gets recycled.
Our gardens and the treasures created from them were also a source of great sharing. Drive-by zucchini drops are still common (I found several on the front seat of my car last summer), and during caning season, jars of pickles and jams are often handed to the casual visitor, postal carrier, and friends with a different type of pickle or jam. It’s not that we have a surplus we find ourselves having to give away, it’s more we grow the surplus to have something to give away.
Use that sourdough discard!
Sourdough starter is one of those things. In order to keep our starter active, we need to feed it occasionally, even if we don’t intend to make bread! I’ve given away more canning jars of starter than I can count; I just can’t bear to throw it out! Sometimes I end up with way too much starter waiting in my refrigerator, other times, I carefully weigh to the fraction of an ounce so I have enough to feed for the next time. “Ginny Junior” began her life almost 11 years ago, and I plan to keep her circulating!
This scone recipe uses that discard, unfed. The subtle sourness enhances the northern flavor combo of maple and walnut, and the texture is great. If you don’t have sourdough starter hanging around waiting to be fed, you can still make these scones. Just decrease the flour by a cup, or half cup of each flour. This would be a great Depression-era bread, it uses no eggs or fat and you can use any milk or cream you like. I’ve chosen light coconut milk, and there was just enough in the can for the recipe and to glaze the tops! Not a drop wasted, grandmother would be proud.
Sourdough Maple Walnut Scones
Makes 15 or so, Vegan
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 cups unbleached white flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder, non-aluminum
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup dark maple syrup
- 1 tsp. maple extract
- 1 1/2 cup coconut milk (or any plant or dairy milk or cream)
- 1 cup unfed sourdough discard
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet, or line with parchment.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a large bowl. Add the walnuts and mix evenly.
Mix the syrup and extract into the cream, then add the starter. Add the liquid all at once to the dry with a wooden spoon or your fingers, pulling up the flour from the bottom and gently spreading on top of the liquid until just about mixed. The dough will be soft.
Pour out onto a floured surface and gently pull the sides of the dough up over on itself in a fold in one direction and then the next. A bench scraper works great here. You might have to sprinkle with a little more flour. You want to make a few layers, but don’t overwork. This is gentle hand work.
Decide on your shape. You can either divide into two flattened discs and cut each into six pie wedges, or cut out biscuit-like rounds. I do it both ways depending on my mood, but my mom always formed a disc, patted it down to an inch or so, and cut it into six wedges, no waste or reroll. She placed the whole disc on the sheet, but separated the wedges just a bit. They often cooked together, but easily pulled apart. I give them more space and bake the wedges individually. During this process, use only as much flour as possible to keep everything from sticking.
Whichever shape you pick, cut down quickly and vertically with a sharp bench scraper or biscuit cutter. You want nice crisp edges so as not to seal the layers of dough together which prevents a nice lift.
Brush the tops with a little more milk, and place in the center rack of the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 400 degrees.
Bake for 20 minutes and check. They should be tall, with visible layers all around the cut sides, and browned on top. They may need a few more minutes, but keep your eye on them.
Note: If you don’t have any sourdough starter, you can still make these. Just decrease the flours to 1 ½ cups each.
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