Friday, February 27, 2009

Flahsback Friday: Juice and My Grandma's Food Storage

Most of the juice here is sold in boxes. When I was younger we used to have boxed juice frequently--mostly apple juice, from what I recall. Later on we stopped using boxed juice and started using concentrate, the kind that comes frozen in a can. We always put 4 cans of water in with the concentrated juice, and even though the box only said to put in 3 we never questioned our mother's wisdom. At least, I never questioned my mother's wisdom, and it wasn't until I got married that I learned that not everyone put an extra can of water in with their juice. Some people actually follow the directions and only put in 3 cans. And here I thought it was some internationally understood typo on behalf of the juice company because 4 cans of water easily fit in an average-sized pitcher.

I still put extra water in our juice. It makes it last longer and juice is expensive. I totally see where my mother was coming from when she instigated the 4-can rule.

My grandmother continued to use boxed juice long after my family made the switch to concentrate. I think it might be, in part, because she had excellent food storage. She didn't eat a large variety of things so didn't have a large variety in her food storage, but she had a lot of what she did have: canned chicken, tuna fish, mayonnaise, potato pearls, bran, boxed juice.

I remember one time when we were making lunch at my grandma's house after church one day. She had stayed after for choir practice or something and my mom walked all of the kids back to her house for lunch because we were "starving." We went scavenging in her food storage for something yummy to eat. Finding an acute lack of junk food we settled on tuna fish sandwiches and brought up a can of tuna and jar of mayo to have my mother prepare for us.

Being a very organized and particular person, my grandmother had marked every item in her food storage with the year it was purchased. Unfortunately she only used the last two digits of the year. This would have been fine if we trusted that her food storage turned over quickly. With only she and my grandpa at home we were sure it didn't, however, and there was no guarantee as to whether the can of tuna fish we found was from the year 89 or the year 68.

We stared at it for a while, everyone debating about which year it was from and whether or not it was still good. This was the mid-nineties so even if the tuna was from the eighties it was still 4 or 5 years old. Unless it actually was from the sixties...

My grandma had some old stuff, so this was a real worry for us kids. If my grandma had just used all four digits for the year we could have trusted that it was 1989 because I don't think she had anyway to get tuna from the future year of 6861. As much as my grandpa was in to tinkering and welding I don't think he ever invented a time machine.

We ended up eating the tuna. Judging by the familiarity of the label we figured it was safe. And not from the sixties. No one got sick, so it was probably alright, although we didn't eat tuna fish all that often at my grandma's house.

Canned chicken, though, is another story. My grandma was the type of housewife who had trouble sitting down at the table for very long. She was always up and running to get something out of the microwave (until she stopped using it), to refill the water pitcher, or to make the meal more square. Sometimes she would notice, mid-meal, that we were missing our protein and would rush off to get a can of chicken. She'd cut it up on a plate and pass it around and we'd all have to take a piece.

I hated it. It was like spam chicken. Spickam.

But other things from her food storage was alright. My grandpa had diabetes and had regulated snack time, which rocked because usually when he got a snack, the grandkids got a snack, too. Usually this was digestive cookies but sometimes it was tapioca pudding. And not just any tapioca pudding, either, but the kind made by Jell-o that came in those little pudding cups. We rarely got those as children so that was a real treat. We never did find the stash of those in food storage, although I'm sure there was one.

There was an area of my grandma's food storage for juice, though, and we knew where that was. There was always an open box in the fridge, but it was only for breakfast. We had water for lunch, dinner, and snacks--distilled when Grandma was going through her distilled phase, and tap water when she was going through her tap phase. She kept her water in the fridge in clear plastic pitchers (that a lot of church buildings have) with the lids from margarine containers on top. They were specially cut so they would sit on the rim of the pitcher better.

Juice, however, was kept in the box in plastic carton holders, which my grandma used for both her milk and juice. They made it much easier to pour.

We could probably use one of those here. We are forever spilling juice. I'm not sure it's so much the lack of the carton holder that is the problem as it is the ingenuity of the spouts the boxing companies are putting on the cartons nowadays.

Juhaina, for example, has a 4 part system. A hole is cut on the top of the box, which is covered with foil. A spout is glued over it, which, in theory should make it easier to pour. A twisty cap closes the spout so that the juice won't spill when not in use.

To open the juice you have to twist off the cap and pull a tab, which is glued to the foil that covers the hole. Inevitably, the tab comes away from the foil before it's done any good pulling and the foil is then stuck covering the hole, so you end up digging around with your fingers in this tiny, little spout, trying to pull the foil off the hole so you can get to your juice. Sometimes this is easier said than done and requires the use of pliers or tweezers.

Once you get the foil off you have to hope, while you're pouring, that you didn't wiggle the spout loose, because if you did it will fall off and the juice, instead of pouring into your cup, will pour into your lap, or onto the table.

And that's only if you're lucky enough to not have the whole spout fall off by the time you get the carton home from the store.

Today at lunch, Andrew pulled out a carton of juice that's spout had already come unglued. He pulled it the rest of the way off and then proceeded to pull off the foil covering the hole.

"Your pour," he said.

"Oh, no." I declined, "You go right ahead. I will not be blamed for this mess."

Just before he poured, though, I remembered how we opened juice when I was little, back when boxed juice was popular, and how my grandma opened boxes of juice until the day she died.

"Stop! Get the scissors!" I instructed.

Luckily, Andrew hadn't started pouring yet or we'd have juice all over our kitchen table.

"Just lift one of the flaps on the side and cut off the corner. It makes a nice spout."

It really does. And it only took me 6 months of living in Egypt to remember that.

I love my grandma. She's got more ingenuity than any of the juice box manufacturers out here. Her juice spout never malfunctions, which I just can't say for Juhaina. And, she's a problem solver; she died when I was in high school and she's still solving my problems!


  1. Remember when she used to put Saran Wrap over the water pitchers in the fridge. I asked her why and she said to keep the germs out! I then, in all my seventeen year old wit and charm said: "But Grandma, didn't you know, Saran Wrap is permeable!" The next time we came to visit, she had the margarine lids...
    Then there was the wet garbage and the dry garbage, and the compost, and the turning of the fans! Oh how I miss Grandma :)

  2. Back in the 80s, boxed juice in Norway used to come with little perforated lines on the flap so you could just tear them open. Now they have the nifty little cap and tab set up, which means that you can never get all of the juice out. Sigh.

    PS: I do four cans of water too - otherwise it's too sweet!

  3. I think the juice idea is fabulous! I am always one of those that follows the directions to the tee when I do juice or other boxed dinners, etc. But I like the idea of the juice lasting longer. I loved the 89 or 68 story!

  4. I loved the 89/68 story as well :) and i'm impressed that your grandma is still solving your problems with her ingenuity! luckily, i haven't had too many problems with the juice boxes.. but i have small fingers and long nails so i can normally pry it out well enough. and the extra water thing? my mom did that, too. but not anymore. she's regained some normalcy (even though that's not technically a word)

  5. What are you talking about, Lindsey? 4 cans is normal. :)

  6. By the way, Mary...if you ever do boxed pasta, like stovetop lasagne or anything like that, we always (always, always) add extra noodles. That way we get to eat more...there always seems to be enough sauce. :)

  7. Thanks for the extra noodle tip! Yes, Grandma was special. I occasionally buy a box of Corn Bran just to remember her. She was very big on recyclin. I remember her making us wash out our soda cups and dry them out before we threw them away....

  8. my mom put in four cans of water in the juice too - maybe it was a sutherland st thing :P

  9. That's probably exactly what it was, Lindsey. :)

  10. What do you mean, "When boxed juice was popular"? Except for orange juice, all the juice my mom buys is boxed. I thought it was just Canadian. You never see boxed juice here (in the US), but you see it at home all the time. And it is so yummy... I have yet to find apple juice as good as the boxed Sun-rype apple juice. :)

  11. You're right. Boxed juice is definitely more popular in Canada still than it is in the States. But there was a time that juice came in boxes in the States. Andrew thinks he remembers it.

    I didn't realize your mom still bought boxed juice because our family switched over so long ago.

    Of course, you guys also drank Kool-Aid and we never, ever bought that, either. :)