Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Local industry during hard-times

In the book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives of North Koreans LINK, the author writes about one family who adapted to (yet another) drought-and-famine.

As you might guess from the title of this post, it was a unregistered business.

They made cookies.

One side of the business made cookies for the speculative market: Say twenty cookies a day. The other side of the business custom-made cookies.

What they called a "cookie" might more accurately be called an unleavened hoe-cake or a journey-cake. It was ground corn mixed with a bit of water and baked on a hot griddle with almost no shortening. When times were tightest they dusted the griddle with wood-ashes so the cookies did not stick.

The custom side of the "cookie" business operated in the following way. Customers would show up with a bag of corn still on the cob to grind to go into the cookies. The business owner had a hand-turned grinder. It was up to the customer to decide how finely to grind the corn and how much cob and husks to include with the grain when grinding.

Yes, you read that correctly. The poorest customers supplied most of the labor and they decided how much filler to add to the corn-meal to extend the cookies.

I don't recall if the book provided dimensions of the cookies but my mind's eye thinks they were about 6" across and a half-inch thick. The "speculative' cookies had no leavening and were heavy for their size. Without shortening (fat) they would be relatively low in calories for their weight.

The size and content of the speculative cookies and the number made each day floated a great deal based on the cost of ingredients, availability of fuel and the discretionary money of their clientele.

They might have somewhere between 350-and-440 Calories (220 CC volume at 50% grain @ 4 Calories/CC) which is comparable to two Pop-tarts and a third as many calories as a 12" Subway sandwich laced with Mayo and with a side of chips.

The book suggests that a factory of farm worker might only have a "cookie" for lunch. 

The custom-cookies might only be half corn-flour and consequently have 175-to-220 Calories per cookie. Starvation diet when working or shivering.

1 comment:

  1. We ought to pray for they who suffer. Lately I have been consumed with thought of being born at a different time or place. Forced to war, forced to live or die as serfs, forced into servitude, to labor, or starve according to the whim of a lordship. Banned from planting one's own garden, or hunting, or property ownership, or building wealth. The list seems endless. All ends in poverty but to the betterment of the few.

    Count our blessings of born and bred in America. Even now.

    Recently I made cornbread biscuits. Not the usual fare, actually a mistake in the kitchen. Rather than throwing out my mistake, I added several eggs then to bake several fist sized biscuits.

    Two cup cornbread
    Two cup flour
    1/4 cup oil
    4 eggs
    4 Tspn butter
    1/4 cup milk
    Black pepper
    Cayenne pepper

    Bake 350. Turn once. 15-20 minutes. 5 nicely sized biscuits

    Because I used electric skillet, I used olive oil for thin coat on skillet. Cast iron would be a treat.


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