11.6.4 Bacon Beans and Gravy
"Bacon Beans and Gravy" was a popular folk song during the Great Depression. What types of food does the song include? How is the food described? To Hooverize means to economize or to cut down on the use of that item, namely butter. (The term in this case might have also been a sarcastic reference to the president in 1932, Herbert Hoover.) According to the song, what are some other ways that the song describes people eating food to save money? What types of feelings are described about food in this song? How does this song help us understand the ways that ordinary Americans experienced the Great Depression?
This song was created during the Depression by an anonymous songwriter. Students can listen to the song online; one version can be found here:
Ask your students to consider why music would be a powerful art form to convey messages during the Depression. How might it reflect and speak to the "ordinary" experience? This song can be connected to other kinds of art and music produced during the Great Depression, but it can also be contextualized in a broader history of popular music that labor organizers and church congregations used to build community and share messages.
Bacon Beans and Gravy
I was born long ago, in 1894,
And I've seen lots of hard times, that is true.
I've been hungry, I've been cold,
And now I'm growing old.
But the worst I've seen is 1932.
Oh, those bacon, beans, and gravy.
They almost drive me crazy,
I eat 'em till I see 'em in my dreams —
In my dreams,
When I wake up in the morning,
A Depression day is dawning,
And I know I'll have another mess of beans.
We have Hooverized our butter,
And blued our milk with water,
And I haven't eaten meat in any way;
As for pies and cakes and jelly.
We substitute sow-belly,
For which we work the county roads each day.