As long as I can remember, mama drained the bacon grease into a container kept handy on the stove. The next day, the saved grease was added while heating up home-canned green beans. It made that vegetable super-tasty. It was also used when frying eggs for breakfast. I’m guessing many women who grew up during the Great Depression, not just Gail Lee Martin, saved their leftover cooking grease.
During WWII, housewives were urged to Save Your Waste Fats to Make Explosives. Previously, the U.S. imported a lot of vegetable fats from the Far East, but the war disrupted that supply. The fats were needed to make glycerine which was used in explosives for the Allies.
Here’s how it worked, housewives were told to keep every single drop of used cooking fat. This included bacon grease, meat drippings, and frying fats. They strained the grease through a metal strainer and stored it in a tin. The grease was taken to a meat dealer once a pound or more was saved. They rewarded the housewife with two red points which were ration stamps for buying meat.
The meat dealer would pay for the waste fats and send them on to the war industries. They would have a sticker on the window or door that proclaimed, “Official Fat Collecting Station.”
Although Gail spent part of the war years in a rented room while she worked at Boeing, I’m sure she was very aware of this campaign to save fats for the war effort. On the occasional weekends back, she would see her mother carefully strain the hot grease to save.
Other home front contributions to the war effort included collecting scrap metal and cans, plus helping with paper drives and silk drives (silk stockings were reprocessed into parachutes). Driving was kept to a minimum to save rubber, which was another vital resource for the military.
Do you carry on the tradition from your grandmother and mother of saving used cooking grease for reuse?