Blog, Cooking, Family, gardens, Home

Home Cooking

Day 16

Nothing says home like a meal taken to the table and eaten with those people we love. It is our very identity. Food is such an important part of our heritage and cooking says a lot about our relationship with the people who raised us.

Gardens As a Food Source

IMG_7213My families were great cooks. We grew up with meager means, but heck, I didn’t know it. I thought we had everything. My mom, my step-mom and my grandmothers were great cooks. They cooked simply – everything taken from their environment. We were farm to table before it was a thing.

It started with the garden. Planting a garden was a lot of work. It started in the fall. Often old plant stems were plowed under so they could again become part of the soil. In spring, the soil was turned over (a term for plowing under) and the dark rich earth was brought to the surface.

Planting and tending the garden was everyone’s responsibility. I learned early on how to plant, fertilize, weed and hoe a garden. We did not think of it as work – it was just part of what we did.

Harvest Forward

IMG_7214Once plants were mature, the harvest began. Again, as children, we learned to pick and string green beans at a very early age. Pulling onions, ‘hilling’ potatoes, picking cucumbers and tomatoes was just part of the routine of growing up country.

We had a small grape arbor where we grew the most amazing concord grapes. Those were picked and turned into jam and jelly and even a little wine – which we were never allowed to touch. Thinking about it, I can close my eyes and picture the bees swarming around the fallen grapes and tasting the warm grape right off the vine. It was divine!

We sat on the porch and shucked corn, snapped beans and sorted potatoes. It was a communal time of conversation and just getting the work done. After we were finished our jobs, the preserving started.

Mothers and Grandmothers

I came from a fabulous line of amazing cooks. None ever used a recipe, but I have watched them cook more times than I can remember. In late summer and early fall we ate fresh vegetables but it was also time for ‘putting up’ food for the winter.

Tomatoes were canned and turned into tomato juice. Fruits were turned into jellies. Cucumbers were turned into pickles. Beans were canned. Beets were pickled and potatoes were put into the cellar where they would stay cool for use all winter.

My paternal grandmother made grape jelly. I was always fascinated by the paraffin wax she melted and poured on top to seal the jelly from any contaminants. I used to sneak behind her and put my fingertips in the hot paraffin and then, once cooled, pull off my fingertips in utter amazement — fingerprints and all! My maternal grandmother made apple jelly from a pound apple tree in her front yard. It was so clear you could see right through it.

Recipes? What Recipes?

Recipes were few and far between. There were some that may have been clipped from a magazine or some were written if acquired from a neighbor. But, for the most part, all the ‘know how’ was in their heads. They cooked, they tasted and they served the most amazing meals.

IMG_7229I do have my maternal grandmother’s recipe for ‘Angel Biscuits’ but mine never rise high and fluffy like hers did. She made the BEST ‘Angel Biscuits’ I have ever tasted. She also wrote down her ‘Fool Proof Piecrust’ recipe for me — but I think I might be a fool!

I cook much the same way, although I do love cookbooks. I have a few favorites that I consult over and over again. Tonight I tried a new recipe. It turned out well, but I am already thinking about how I would alter it. That’s just the way we learned to cook.

My son recently asked me to cook for him on his 40th birthday. He asked for flank steak and mashed potatoes. It was one of our staples when my children were growing up. I bought flank steak because it was cheap – not so much anymore folks! It is his memory of the comfort food that he is after, not so much the food.

The Legacy

Both my children are good cooks in their own right. They both cook for their families frequently. My daughter makes THE BEST meatloaf ever. I am not sure either of them really use recipes much, but this I know — they are building memories and a lifetime of comfort for their children.

And that makes me proud.

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 
Laurie Colwin

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Home Cooking”

  1. Oh, Maggie, you remind me, in your memories, of my good friend in South Carolina, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, and spent summer with her grandparents in Kentucky.

    She’s written lovely pieces, like yours, remembering those times.

    All good memories. One of my aunts, seven years older than my mother, wrote equally good stories about growing up on a hard-scrabble farm in Northern California. My mother didn’t share those as good memories! She remembered the hard work, and tedious shelling of beans, etc.

    She escaped that through education, and marrying young, and having educational opportunities ahead.

    Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Lisa, it is interesting how siblings each view our lives differently. I know that was true in our family. I was the youngest, so maybe my memories were framed differently. Thank you so much for reading.

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  2. And, I should have also written that I’ve channeled my grandmothers, in my adult life, both in vegetable gardening and fruit growing, and cooking and baking. It skipped a generation and came back.

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  3. What wonderful memories you have. I had my own garden for a short period of time as you know. The citrus rats changed that. It was fun when I would go and have my little girls pluck the green beans and bring them in, They would never eat green beans before we grew them. They didn’t like tomatoes until we grew them. I envy your wonderful memories and the respect for the gifts of mother nature.
    Thank you,
    Lauren

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    1. Lauren, it is so interesting how children react to the involvement with a garden. 💕 Of course, I must say both green beans and tomatoes are so much better when fresh out of the garden. I am sorry you had to give up because of the citrus rats. But, having experienced them myself, I do understand — they are VERY unwelcome guests.

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  4. Oh Maggie I loved this so much. This post was “comfort food” to me to read. And I sigh because on the keto diet for over a year now which I will remain on and which has done me so much good so many of the foods I loved I can no longer eat but it is amazing how many keto versions of things you can make of things you used to love. I get organic riced cauliflower from Costco and you can whip it up with butter and cream and make something that is a good substitute for mashed potatoes. And I would love for you to tell me how you cook flank steak. I don’t know much about cooking meats and I want to learn.

    And oh Maggie… I SO loved Laurie Colwin, I had and read all of her books, loved her fiction and her books on food, when I heard that she died all those years ago I cried. I don’t know if you read/remember it but I loved the things she wrote about how much she loved coffee! Anyway it was a great delight to see one of her quotes at the end of your post. I enjoy your blog so much. Thank you for sharing it with us all…

    Love,

    Maitri

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    1. Oh, Maitri, thank you for your kind words. I wasn’t not sure the flank steak turned out so well, but my son seemed to like it. I will send you my notes.

      I only recall reading one Laurie Colwin book, but it was so wonderful. I thought this quote was perfect for today.

      Thank you for taking time to read what I write. It means so much.

      💕 Maggie

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I appreciate those who read and enjoy your thoughtful comments.

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