Country Kitchen

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Of the things in my kitchen, a basket which one of my grandmothers took to church suppers and a striped stoneware bowl my other grandmother used for mixing are my favorites.  They bring me closer to lives lived in the country.

I treasure memories of real country kitchens overseen by my aunts, where I got to spend time in the 1950s and 60s.  I don’t suppose there are many left: family farms (excepting those of the Amish) are a thing of the past.  People running modern conglomerates probably don’t have a dinner bell to welcome them to to a table weighed down with meals of garden vegetables, hot bread and homemade jam, and meat they’ve raised themselves.

My mother cooked like her sisters, but we lived in town where the environment was quite a bit different.  Usually there would be a large number of people when we were company at the relatives’ houses.  Kids ate at card tables while grown folks and babies were over at the big dining table expanded by leaves.  We listened in on storytelling that went on well beyond the time that the pie, with its sweetened apples or cherries enveloped in flaky, lard-laced crust, disappeared.

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One of my uncles was a dairy farmer.  I remember the smell of milk separating in the room off the kitchen.  There were other smells, from boots left inside the back door, that weren’t so pleasant, but you had to have one to have the other.

And cleaning up after dinner?  No shiny, super-efficient dishwashers then.  Girls separated into washers and dryers (the boys must have been out chasing pigs or something).  I never could keep up with my cousins when I washed, so I usually dried.  When the counter filled up they’d help me.

A few weeks ago, a Sunday newspaper feature proclaimed the computer-friendly kitchen with the latest appliances and docking stations to be an “epicenter.”  I’d prefer it without docking stations.  I don’t care if I have a stainless steel refrigerator.  The real epicenter of a home, when food was grown just outside and its producers came in to a real dinner, was a country kitchen.

 

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