What’ll You Give?

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Nowhere may be found more condensed treasure than at an auction. When the event is a family member’s, sweetness and sadness push in all at once.

I observed several things on the Saturday estate sale of a dear aunt. The turnout of townspeople just because they knew her. Family history traipsing in and out of rows of chairs, cabinets and pretty dishes.  Stone crocks and comforters used in daily housekeeping one hundred years past.

Sun and a nice breeze came in waves as the house on the corner stood looking out of its 1890 stained glass windows at curious antiques dealers, friends and relatives. In one ring the caller echoed, “What’ll you give…” against another ring as helpers in both places fielded the bids.

There were clues left about some pieces: notes, in drawers and pinned to quilt tops. Others had to speak their age and origin for themselves.

More recent momentos: ice skates worn on the holidays at the frozen pond down the road from the farm. Toys from the Fifties and Sixties well used by brothers, sisters and cousins.

Some things went high; some did not. I should have bought another chair. I should have separated a pair of high-buttoned shoes and a piece of irreplaceable artwork by my grandmother from boxes whose contents went above my bids.

“What’ll you give” for the memories and one’s heritage?  They are without  a price.  You cannot pay for such things.

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Good Dishes

I love china.  Most of all I love the pieces which have belonged to my family, some for generations.  Each one, whether I have others to match it or not, has a special place in my heart.  The plate, cup and saucer of the Lenox “Harvest” pattern below belonged to my Great-Aunt Elsie, who grew up in rural Steuben County but moved away when she was married.  I think she chose it because it reminded her of the farm.

Elsie’s mother, Maria (pronounced with a long i), had a soup tureen which passed into my mother’s hands and then mine.  It is heavy, white stoneware.  I can imagine holiday dinners when Great-Grandfather lifted the squash handle and dished out hot food to his strapping sons.

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Delicate Depression Glass, like this fruit bowl of my dad’s mother’s, to me suggests a charmed life with tea parties and society ladies.  Far from it.  She did hard physical labor inside and outside the house.  But she liked pretty things.

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 Because I inherited her name, my maternal grandmother’s place setting of her grandmother’s transferware came to live in my china cabinet.  It traveled from England to America on a sailing vessel in 1843, according to a  handwritten note taped to the bottom of the saucer.  I photographed it (as well as the fruit bowl) on a linen tablecloth which Margaret Edith Beck tatted before she was married.  The transferware pattern is Canova, named for a sculptor; in the center of the design is always a large urn.

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Before I was married, I chose a china pattern.  Had I been a little older I may have selected something different.  But it was what I liked then, and so I cherish it because of those special days of looking forward to house and family and making more memories.  Are brides today choosing good china?  Is it practical to have a special set of dishes when time is so limited and schedules permit only the fastest ways to get things done, so time may be better enjoyed?  I don’t know.

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I had planned to include research about the source of Early American china, and how manufacture and sale of dishes have changed throughout the years.  But I think I’ll leave these photos as they are, with their special owners attached, and let them speak for themselves.  It is my history.  That is enough for now.

As You Were

Along with reunions of the summer come lots of memories and thoughts about them.

Family reunions are usually of the picnic variety.  Ours is, I know.  Younger and older cooks bring casseroles, salads and desserts for which they’ve become known over the years.  Before, during and after the eating we tell stories.  We ask how others have been.  We exclaim at how tall the kids have become.

Like Christmas, it’s as if no time has passed when you see cousins, aunts and uncles.  But there are always poignant absences of those we’ve lost, among those who remain.

Class reunions require more planning for the meal and entertainment, and draw people who haven’t seen each other for five or ten years, or maybe since graduation.

People come from all over to their reunions, be they groups related by blood or by experiences of school days.  But they usually find some peace and laughter because the ones who are there want to be there.

And appreciate the time spent with those who remember and accept you, as you were.

 

 

Recipes I Relish

Many recipes sit behind the doors of my kitchen cupboard.  I still use some which didn’t originate from allcooks.com (Ah, the conveniences of today).  Some are on 3×5 cards with watercolor pictures, some are on notebook paper, and some are on luncheon napkins and store receipts.  My favorites are the few I have copies of in the handwriting of my grandmothers.

I am very blessed to have known my dad’s mother.  Grandma Porter grew up on a farm and was used to hard work, which included wringing the necks off chickens in preparation for Sunday dinner.  By the time I came around, though, the chicken coop was being used to store old chairs and things, and my grandparents got their meat from the grocery store.  I remember walking into their house to the welcome smells of roast beef, homemade noodles, mashed potatoes, and sweet corn.  She was an expert canner of bread and butter pickles and sweet pepper relish.  We used to reach up to take a square of her dark chocolate fudge from its glass dish on the heavy wooden sideboard.

She was left-handed, so when I read her recipes, I turn my head slightly.  I don’t know when she would have had time to write them out.  She was constantly at work: scrubbing clothes, dishes, and floors; cooking; and when she did sit down in her rocking chair, crocheting.  She always wore an apron except when I saw her in church.

My mother’s mother, whom I did not get to meet, had ten children and therefore many delicious dishes to feed them.  I make her brown sugar cookies as often as there is occasion for.  Drop cookies with creamy, buttery frosting, they taste even better frozen.  I have made them with lard, as she wrote on the recipe card, but usually use Crisco now.

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Cookies of the past and the present: brown sugar (left), and molasses.

Grandma Covell also passed down pickle recipes which directed how cucumbers should be steeped in a crock with vinegar, sharp spices, and other mysterious ingredients to make them go crunch in your mouth.  Her generation seemed especially proud of their pickles.

I will leave you with a gift, which is how to make a batch of my favorite cookies.  Happy Holy Day.

Brown Sugar Cookies

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup lard (I use Crisco)

3 eggs

1 cup cold water

5 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

2 heaping tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

Mix ingredients in order given.  Drop by teaspoon (I use a scoop, which gives them a uniformly round shape).  Bake at 350 degrees 12-15 minutes, or until bottoms of cookies are lightly browned.

Frosting:

3 T. melted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

powdered sugar to make a thick consistency