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Italian Grandma Survives Depression, Strikes Gold


Depression-era cooking means recession-era profits.

Q: Growing up, did your grandmother talk about the Depression a lot?

A: She is a great storyteller and she has talked her whole life about the Depression. They were her formative years. At first I didn't pay much attention. When you are really young, you don't care. Now that I am older, I see that she is living history.

Q: What did you learn from Clara about living through a depression and handling money?

A: It's kind of funny, my grandfather didn't have a well-paying job, but they used to go back and forth to Italy all the time. Frugality allowed them to do that. Things like, not preparing portions bigger than you can eat that day, because they spoil. Another one is saving and reusing everything, like bags.

My wife and I have become a little more frugal, not by necessity, but by her example. Another thing we do is really think before buying new things. A lot of the items in my grandmother's kitchen have never been replaced. They are 80 years old. She doesn't see the point in replacing something that still works. But people today see a new coffee maker and think they need it. We are living in a disposable society.

Were your parents frugal?

A: My father, Carl, was the only child and they spoiled him. He is not of that mind at all. I am a child of the '80s. I was brought up in a household where everything was disposable. Frugality didn't click in for me until the last few years.

Q: How did your life change when that happened?

A: I am a filmmaker. I am employed. I'm unemployed. It's recession or boom, again and again for me. I have to keep a level head. I am conscious of what I eat. I eat in more than eating out. I have an old-fashioned stove-top espresso pot. My wife and I got 3 coffeemakers for our wedding and we prefer to not plug one in. We like the stove-top method.

Q: What's your favorite meal from Great Depression Cooking?

A: It's the Poorman's meal -- potatoes and hot dogs. Lots of Clara's meals are $0.50 a serving. They contain a lot of carbs, so you have to be active.

Q: In what other ways has your grandmother influenced your life?

A: Clara taught me about the value of money and it's not as important as the quality of time you spend with the people you love. What I learned from her is you have more control of your life when you have less. If you have a lot of possessions, your mind is all over the place.
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