By Debbie Bullington
For Rural Life Today
MEIGS COUNTY — Recently, it seems our children, ages 37, 34 and 25 say things like “You guys really need to step into the 21st century” or “Why are you two so “old school?” I don’t know why their father and I are this way? I suppose because we have always been this way and aren’t likely to change anytime soon.
There’s a lot to be said about knowing how to do something without the use of modern technology or electricity and I often joke that we’re closer to being Amish than we are to being “techies”.
I mean for examples….
I drive a 2003 Subaru Baja that has 189,000 miles on it. I love this car! It’s great on gas. It’s easy to fix and it gets me from point A to point B without a problem. The air conditioning in it hasn’t worked since I bought it 5 years ago, but I just roll the windows down more. The fanciest things about it is the CD player and the cruise control, but I’ve never use either of those. I just listen to the local radio stations and I like to be in control of a 2,000 pound machine that could potentially hurt someone.
Today’s modern vehicles are designed to drive for you, park for you, make phone calls for you, and show you where to go and the quickest way to get there. I still pull off to the side of the road and use an old fashioned map! Modern vehicles have media centers in the back seats to entertain your kids, so you don’t have to. Gone are the days when families actually had conversations while traveling.
A long time ago, when I spent my days chauffeuring my kids to sports and band practices, or took them to the store with me, I considered them being confined in an enclosed vehicle, for 20 minutes or more as a perfect time to ask them about the things they were doing and the friends they were making. We had some of our best conversations and solved some of their most “traumatic/drama filled teenage dilemmas” in a vehicle. It did help that our farm was 34 miles round trip from the nearest “big” town, so we spent lots of time in cars.
One time, in particular, when my youngest son was in Cub Scouts, I drove him and his best friend, who was also a scout, 30 miles one way to camp each day and then I drove back home. Fortunately his friend’s Mother would fetch them in the afternoons and bring them home, but they lived a half mile from us, so they were doing the 30 mile shuffle too! The kids wouldn’t have been able to attend Scout Camp if we had to do this much driving by ourselves. We did this every day for a week. Now, I won’t drive anywhere unless I absolutely have to and I consolidate all my stops into one weekly trip.
The boys and I decided on day two of those excursions that we would make a list of all the ways you could convey the action of “throwing up”, like barfing, puking, etc. Seriously, in a weeks time we had come up with nearly 25 different ways to describe something that none of us likes to do. We laughed and laughed all week about this. Fifteen years later we still laugh about this.
Today, kids know it’s time to turn off the electronics in the car when it stops and the ignition shuts down…
The next “New Age” thing that leaves me puzzled is, what ever happened to the food we eat and the enjoyment of preparing a home-cooked meal? My husband and I shop for our own food (or grow it) and cook entirely from scratch 99.9% of the time. The other 0.1% is because, as hard as I try, I cannot duplicate a box of “Jiffy Corn Bread Mix”. So, I still buy it instead of making Corn Bread from scratch.
We purchase all of our beans, rices, flours, and grains in 25-50 pound bags. We buy olive oil, soy sauce, Mayonnaise and Mustard in gallon sized containers. We buy organic food whenever possible. If we can’t find an organic version, we’ll buy commercial instead, but only if we have to. We buy all of our herbs and spices in one pound Mylar bags instead of those costly little containers that hardly have anything in them. My husband loves to cook and I love to bake! We have 50+ cookbooks that we use on a regular basis and tons of recipes that have been handed down from one generation to another.
In the 1950’s, do you know what they called “Organic Food”?….they called it FOOD! That was before modern technology brought forth thousands of additives and preservatives to be added to the food we eat. And as time goes by, scientists are finding that some of these additives and preservatives are actually harmful to the human body and can cause cancer! As a random example of modern food additives, take Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHT). It is in margarine, dehydrated potato granules, potato flakes or shreds, in mixed diced, glazed fruits, in dry breakfast cereals, in sweet potato flakes, in dry mixes for beverages and desserts, in emulsion stabilizers for shortenings, in active dry yeast, and even in chewing gum.
I have a policy, if I can’t pronounce it, I’m not going to eat it.
The newest trend in grocery shopping and cooking this year, is shopping on the internet and purchasing boxes of food to be shipped directly to your front door, from who knows where, from who knows what kind of growing conditions and by what farmers? Are they even American farmers? These “Dinners-in-a-Box” companies, send you recipe cards and precisely measured ingredients to be able to prepare 3 meals worth of dinners a week and they charge you an arm and a leg to do so.
To prove my point, let’s do the math here. Say on average, two people consume 3 meals a day each, for 30 days each month. That’s basically 180 meals a month.
The “Dinners-in-a-Box” company will send you, to feed two people, three meals a week. That equals 24 meals a month. The cost is $239.80 for 24 meals or $59.95 a week. So,what are you going to eat for the other 156 meals that you consume during the rest of the month? Then, once you remove the contents from the “Dinners-in-a-Box,” you’re left with an empty cardboard box, lots of empty plastic recipe-sized bottles and a gigantic “freezer pack” that can’t be recycled.
Is it so hard to find a decent cookbook or two and write an actual shopping list and then drive yourself down to the local grocery store (to support a “Mom and Pop” business while you’re at it) and hand select the food you want to consume? Then take it home and actually follow the cookbook’s recipe and make yourself and your family a good wholesome meal to eat?
The last thing I want to discuss is the difference between “Old School and New Age” Bookkeeping. I was recently hired by a local, start-up business to do their bookkeeping. But to be able to satisfy their professional accountant at the end of the year, I would have to learn how to use “Quickbooks”. Ok, so how hard could that be? I registered for a 6 hour class entitled “Quickbooks Pro 101”. So, I packed myself a trusty lunch, and headed 25 miles to the local university to learn more.
The class was free, but the “Quickbooks Pro” program was $200 and needed to be ordered online. Once I received it and started using it, I discovered that it was the most complicated thing I had ever used in my life to “keep books”. I got so frustrated with this program, I had to make an appointment with the instructor to come to my house and give me a refresher course, because I had no idea what I was doing. She was very patient and very pleasant and got me back on the right track. But I just know somewhere down the line I’m going to need her services again.
You see, I’m “Old School” and the way I keep track of our family’s assets, liabilities, income and general tax information is with a pad of Wilson Columnar Sheets, a real sharp pencil (unless I’m feeling brave and use a ball point pen) and an ancient calculator (that they don’t even make paper for anymore) and a handful of paper clips. I use checks to pay most of our bills and put them in envelopes, add a postage stamp and off they go. I walk to the end of our driveway, place the envelope in the mailbox, raise the flag and return to the house.
I don’t like companies charging me to be able to pay my bills online and I definitely don’t want companies storing my Debit Card number for future reference. If I need information about one of our accounts, I get my purple, 3-ring binder and open the pages until I find the information I need. This way even works if the power is off and isn’t subject to computer viruses eating up all my hard work.
I could go on and on here presenting examples of how doing things the way they used to be done is superior to doing things exclusively with modern technology. But I won’t. And, I’m not saying that the “new ways” of doing things are bad. I’m just happier doing things “Old School.”