November 20, 2008

Both of my parents grew up on farms in southern Alberta (Canada, for those of you from Iowa (I grew up in Minnesota, and the Iowa joke was a staple–enjoy)).

The upshot is, while my parents weren’t crazy frugal, like, save string and rubber bands because they grew up in the Depression frugal, they were still on the frugal side.

Normally the frugality manifested itself in the form of hand me downs. My jeans had patches on top of patches. One Summer I saw a girl who had been in my previous elementary school class, and I heard her say to her friend as we passed each other “That’s Doug Anderson–I can tell because of the patches.”

And people wonder why I wear shorts all the time.

But the worst of the frugality was the milk. When I was really little all we ever had was powdered milk. I would sit on the stool in the kitchen and watch my mom “make the milk.” And I realize that phrase will probably get this post blocked for those of you using Net Nanny.

Later on, my mom must have felt a little more comfortable with our family financial situation, because instead of powdered milk, we would get MIXED powdered milk. That is, she would buy milk, then cut it with powdered milk. So, 50/50. Cutting bags of white powder on the kitchen counter. It was a simpler time.

When you grow up with that sort of thing, it just seems normal. No big deal.

But one thing I never got used to was the Gungees.

In our house, nobody EVER drank or poured the milk to the bottom. You ALWAYS left the bottom half inch IN the container. Because no matter how much you mixed, you never got ALL the powder to disappear.

It was like Russian roulette. We would pass the milk around the table, desperately hoping not to get the last pour. Because if you got the last pour, you could chew it.

On the other hand, maybe that’s why I never break bones. I bet the Gungees are totally rich in calcium.


25 Responses to “gungees”

  1. Simón Says:

    I grew up on powder milk and Gungees, from a third world country no less, and I’ve never had a broken bone. (That I’m aware of). Who needs a Similac Child when you can have Gungee Kids?

  2. dug Says:

    hi simon.

  3. steve Says:

    ah, the memories. umm, Dug, the broken nose incident. Not very much bone, but broken nonetheless. There’s another cool word. Don’t know if it really is a word but I like it. My wife grew up on the farm and would have “fresh” milk. They always had to shake it to get the cream mixed in or you would get a mouthful of the stuff. Much like we did growing up to mix in the Gungees. That might appeal to some but not her. Anyway, after we were married we were not so frugally minded as the folks and bought our milk. She shook every gallon for years until she figured out it didn’t have cream on top.

  4. Jen Says:

    Hey Patches! Is Kim still mixing your milk for you?

  5. Rick S. Says:

    this explains so much

  6. dug Says:

    rick, you keep saying that. maybe i’m revealing too much.

  7. bikemike Says:

    Boy howdy, i’ll bet your mom coulda made a killin’ cuttin’ cocaine and distributing to the hood.
    Moms got mad skills.

  8. steve Says:

    Revealing too much?? On this blog?? I didn’t know you had any boundaries.

  9. uncadan8 Says:

    Grew up on the same thing, but we called them “duds”. They were so nasty!

  10. Matt Says:

    Ahhh…brings back memories! I grew up in Wyoming and Montana, and Mom did the same thing to save a buck (the 50/50 mix, using 2% even…ACK!) We flat out refused to drink the 100% mix…I think she tried that only a few times. I think it was around the time I was 12 or 13 that she found a farm where she could by FRESH milk (hand poured into glass 1-gallon mayonaise type jars) cheaper than the powdered stuff…Holy MACKEREL, what an upgrade that was! Going from the nasty mix (at least it was Milk Mate instead of the ULTRA nasty Carnation) to unsterilized WHOLE CREAMY DELICIOUS milk right from the cow…it was almost intoxicating! Milk Overdose even! And now I am back down to milky water (they call it skim). And just a few weeks ago, my brother and I were backpacking and I INTENTIONALLY carried a pouch of Milk Mate into the wilderness to sprinkle on our morning instant oatmeal (to give it SOME sort of milky flavor). And I didn’t retch or vomit. I guess I’ve come nearly full circle.

    And btw, LOVED your fill in for Fatty the other day (which brought me here)…NICE! I have since added you to my ‘daily reading’ list (pretty high up on the list too..not to be butt-kissing, but I was reading thru the last 2 weeks or so here and really enjoy your ‘random’ daily musings!) Though I’m primarily a ‘cycling’ kind of guy. Road or dirt, they both ROCK! Hence my attraction to Fatty’s.

  11. KanyonKris Says:

    I didn’t have too many hand-me-downs, only because I was the oldest. I did get some clothes from the cousins occasionally.

    But I did wear ToughSkins. Remember those? Some kind of denim reinforced with steel cable, or something. Sold at Sears. True to their name they were tough, but they could also wear holes in your skin. I fell on asphalt once and bloodied my knee, but the ToughSkins looked good as new.

    dug – Didn’t you also say your father bought a lot of products that were heavily advertised (i.e. informercials)? Interesting dichotomy (another cool word).

    And isn’t revealing yourself the point of this blog? So not possible to reveal too much, as you’ve demonstrated multiple times.

  12. We only did the powdered milk thing when we had to dig into the food storage but those were some dark times.

  13. Mary Says:

    I think we may have the same mother. How about washing out yogurt containers and using them as cups? She’s still doing it.

  14. steve Says:

    Mary, do not let Dug’s mom (mine also) hear you say that!! She would do it!

  15. Rich Says:

    Perhaps a generational thing, I too had the fake milk or Malk experience with the 50/50 mixture. We didn’t even get yogurt that would facilitate the use of empties as cups, we did however have the empty processed cheeze, (yes I misspelled on purpose) glass containers that were saved for cups. Mum also saved plastic margarine tubs to serve breakfast cereal in (and not the pre-sweetened kind) along with the 50/50 Malk. Mmm mmm good. I think I just threw up a bit in my mouth.

  16. Steve Says:

    I dealt with gungees, too. And then, in better times, with whole milk. We (the kids) would attempts to get to the gallon jar first and shake it up, so we could actually have creamy whole milk.

    Mom, OTOH, wanted to skim it ALL off, to “save the cream for cooking”, and feed us the blue stuff under the cream…. which tasted like the powdered stuff.

    Only worse, for what might have been.

  17. Blecchhh! Your blog just sent my gag reflex into a frenzy. Milk gungees…that’s rough.

  18. Mocougfan Says:

    Mission Story….
    I went to eat dinner with a family that lived waaaay to far back in the woods. With the dinner the daughter brought in fresh Goat’s Milk. Frothing, foaming, warm, and nasty. Straight from the Goat. I like Louis Pasteur milk now.

  19. Mary Says:

    Wow – I had forgotten all about those olden days when we had the powered milk. Even more exciting was Mom using the powered milk to mix up the instant potato flakes. We were livin’ then! 🙂 We actually did not mind it too much (or my brother and I were just too dumb to know the difference – more likely).

    But I still have horror flashbacks to the morning when my dad was left alone to feed us breakfast. He was sure we needed milk on our instant oatmeal, and there was none to be had in the kitchen; despite our assurances that we were fine (and even a few tears in protest) he dumped sweetened condensed milk into our bowls. (shudder)

    I’m not really a milk drinker now. Can’t imagine why…

  20. Miles Archer Says:

    The worst for us was that my mom thought it was a good idea to send us to school with milk powder rather than mix it at home. You know, it otherwise could go bad, and we didn’t need a thermos that way.

    Thanks for the lousy memories.

  21. BurkeInTheOzarks Says:

    Well, we never had to deal with the gungees but we had our own special version of hell when times were tough. Powdered milk was used for “cooking” and, yes, I have to put that word in quotes because it was definitely not my mom’s forte. She would buy whole milk for drinking, cereal, etc. and then half it between 2 jugs, making up the difference with plain ol’ water. yum.

    When times were better, we would go through 7-10 gallons a week between my dad, my brother and me. I have also never broken a bone…

  22. KL Says:

    haha this reminds me of good times in mexico. my friends and i would mix up a good 10 gallons of powdered milk and grab a couple jars of peanut butter, then drive out to the slums. the kids came running from every direction with their cups and spoons. peanut butter soaked in powdered milk – it really is delicious. pretty sure the gungees were the their favourite part.

  23. forgingahead Says:

    So, do you like real milk or do you long for that special flavor of the powdered stuff?

  24. dug Says:

    forgin, for some reason, i was not put off milk in the least. drank whole milk until i went to college, eventually switched to skim, and love it. i drink milk a lot.

    i think it makes me snore.

  25. AMR Says:

    I really think there’s a study to be done here. I too (!) grew up on the 50/50 mix…with 2% pffft…poured over a bowl of Puffed Wheat dumped from a bag taller than I was. I’ve never broken a bone and neither has either of my sisters. And considering a few instances, we really should have.

    I never really thought about it but, man, we’s was po’!

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