MAKING DO — WITH THE “GREATEST GENERATION”

by Joan Olson

When I’d come home from elementary school in the years just before World War II started for us Americans, my mother would often give me a treat – a slice of bread on which she’d spread a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Sometimes it would be toasted and when we could spread butter on the toast and under the sugar-cinnamon mix, it became a treat I have never forgotten. During those years and on into the War years, a really special meal featured “City Chicken.” The only way I can explain the name is that people who lived on farms in the 1930s and early 1940s raised chickens. Believe it or not, chicken was an expensive meat in those days. A Presidential candidate even campaigned on a slogan promising “a chicken in every pot.” City people just didn’t have chicken available very often and often chose not to afford it when it was available. I don’t know if there was ever an official recipe for City Chicken, and I’m not even sure that my mother made it the same way every time. What she did – and my husband’s mother also – was use cuts of veal and/or pork, coat them with flour or bread crumbs, and deep fry them, usually in lard. When she put it on skewers, it really looked like fried chicken legs. Today it’s hard to imagine that veal was once cheaper than chicken, but that’s the way it was. But as the War advanced, meat was rationed, and we couldn’t always get the cuts we wanted. Somehow, though, we managed to enjoy City Chicken every once in a while. Pork today is still a relatively inexpensive meat, and I am sometimes curious about trying to do “City Chicken.” I have found some recipes on the Internet, but none of them seem to be quite what my mother made. One of them that came close I found on Allrecipes.com. Maybe I should also mention that a favorite snack was an ice cube of frozen “Pop Ade,” a fruit flavored powder we mixed with water and froze. As some of you know, ice cream to us of the “Greatest Generation” was not a year-round dish, and frozen desserts were few and far between. No, today I won’t consider those frozen ice cubes, but that cinnamon toast and City Chicken have suddenly become very appealing.

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