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make do

5 January 2011

There was a time when I was embarrassed to shop in thrift stores.  I was eleven. We grew up on an old family property, smack dab in the middle of an affluent area and we weren’t, um, affluent…not even a little bit.  If I wanted to dress like the cool kids at school then I had no alternative but to buy second-hand because I had seen, first hand, what happened when my mom tried sewing the latest style for me…stirrup pants made out of baggy, white sweatshirt material [shudder].  But crossing the threshold into the thrift store left a lump in my stomach.  I was scared of being found out.  I was terrified that someone might spot me and tell everyone at school my dirty, little secret…that my awesome B.U.M. Equipment shirt was previously owned by [gasp] someone else!  It took a while but I’m so glad I grew out of that phase.  Now I view a trip to the thrift store with the enthusiasm of a pirate who can already taste the treasures that await, like these beauties…

Humans are, if nothing else, adaptable.  It’s my experience that most of us find a way to make do with what we have and with what we don’t.  Quite often a “make do” mentality is born of necessity, as was the case in my grandparents’ era, first during the Great Depression and, again, during World War II as housewives, and those too young or too old to fight, pulled together and did their part to keep America afloat.   Those who are truly fortunate, however, are those that maintained that attitude post-war, or those who’ve never gone without but have adopted “make do” by choice because they inherently know that more stuff does not equal greater happiness.  The kid who dies with the most toys does NOT win.  It took me a long time to stop being the girl who wanted what everyone else had…regardless of what it cost me.  I spent many years after I “grew up” learning some very hard lessons about money and debt and compound interest.  Single, and responsible for only myself, my income was fairly disposable, and I still tried desperately to keep up with my peers, but I have nothing to speak of to show for it.  These days I rarely scrape together enough money for a movie or an evening out with friends but good conversation and a home cooked meal is far more enjoyable to me anyway.  And I don’t buy new anymore, at least not most of the time…sometimes because I can’t afford to but usually because I perceive the value of things differently than I used to.  Why spend $300 to buy a shiny, new, color-coordinated stand mixer that’s made in China and further contributes to the waste-stream, when my grandma lovingly offered me her plain, white, 60 year old KitchenAid that works as well as the day she bought it?  I choose to make do and to be happy with, and grateful for, what I have.

Make Do Cake:

This afternoon, my three year old daughter asked if we could have cake and tea.  I’m sure she meant that she wanted to make a pretend cake and serve pretend tea out of her little wooden kitchen but I thought we could spend some quality time baking together so to the real kitchen we went.  In taking stock of the ingredients on hand, I realized we were out of eggs and, after the Christmas baking rush, low on sugar and butter…basically essential ingredients for making a cake.  But cake I had promised so we would have to make do.  In researching eggless cakes, I found out that in place of eggs, you can use buttermilk, which I also didn’t have.  But you can make do and make your own buttermilk by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to one cup of regular milk.  We were getting low on milk too, though, and I wanted to save the remainder for drinking and to pour over our morning oatmeal so I reached for some half and half that I found in the back of the fridge after Thanksgiving…a month expired and sour, but not moldy.  One cup mixed with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar worked fabulously!  Buttermilk so thick, it coated the spoon:

We then prepared our go-to “everything” pan, our trusty cast iron:

Striving for a less processed life, my baking helper and I split the difference and used half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour:

After mixing up the batter, we folded in organic strawberries, frozen at the end of the last strawberry season:

We spooned the batter into the pan, spreading it as necessary, and topped it with more strawberries:

And into the oven it went.  The aroma left our mouths watering:

After cooling, we turned it out onto one of our lovely thrift-store treasures:

Sprinkled with powdered sugar, we enjoyed a moist, delicious slice!  Mmmmmmm!

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