Pioneer Potluck: About being Irish

  • By Grannie Annie
  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015 4:36pm
  • LifeFood

On a farm in Northern Colorado

1937 to 1955


Our family was the only Irish family in a mostly German-Russian community. Mom drilled into our heads and warned us to be good by saying “Now remember, you are Irish and don’t do anything to make your dad ashamed of you!” This simple statement kept me and my siblings out of a lot of trouble! And if we did not behave to her standards, she would shame us by saying “What would your dad think?”

Actually we were and are a mixture, Mom’s background is English and Austrian (German) and Dad’s family is Irish, so we were told. But in Mom’s eyes we were all Irish, “Your name is McClure, and don’t you forget it!”

I never knew what nationality our neighbors were, it did not matter. Still doesn’t. During WWII the Germans on the farms surrounding us became Russians and after the war, some switched back to German. Dad teasingly called all his friends Rooshins. It did not make any difference at all because we were all good friends.

I was asked to sleep-overs in the 7th and 8th grades by school friends and learned real fast the difference in food and types of living conditions. I also learned to eat delicious dishes such as Kraut Burok or as my family calls them Cabbage Patches. A soft bread dough wrapped around cabbage, hamburger, onions and salt and pepper, sautéed and folded into a great pocket of goodness, then baked. My sister-in-law Sandy, makes the very best! Her family calls them Cabbage Bellies.

Fermented pickles from a big crock setting on a basement dirt floor at my friend Betty Schmidt’s place, were the best pickles I had ever tasted, outside of Mom’s dill pickles. You just reached in with your hand and grabbed a big pickle swimming around in a vinegar-salt brine. It did not matter where your hands had been before that!

On the farm to the west was my friend Geraldine Dietz. Her Mom always had apple pie! The Winnicks were all good friends of Dad’s who lived on a farm to the south of our farm. All the children were older than me, but still friends. The Tripples and Schilds lived to the north of us.

An Italian family lived “up the hill” to the south. Tony, Jessie Aranci and their two children. JeanAnne and Duane, who became a very good friend of my brother John. We were taught to say “Mrs. Aranci” to show respect at Mom’s direction. Dad called them Tony and Jessie. JeanAnne and Duane made it to Sunday School in the pea green Dodge a few times with the rest of our family and neighbor kids. Mrs. Aranci called her husband Anthony. He played the violin and it absolutely fascinated me. He would bring his “fiddle” (Dads words) to our house. He and I would make good music as I tried to play the piano and keep up with him. He was very patient and eventually taught me to play along with him. He was a good, patient teacher. He played for Square Dances with my piano teacher, Kathryn Sutherland, held in the Sutherland barn. Those dances did not last long and I do not know why. I enjoyed the music and fun everyone was having. Dad “called’ a few Square Dances once in a while.

All our neighbors were very hard working farmers and exchanged equipment, helping each other during haying season, picking corn, hoeing beets and beet harvest in the fall. And if there was any emergency – every farmer was right there to help out!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day ta ya ! Dad made a big event out of this day. We all had to wear something green or get pinched by Dad and he pinched hard. I cannot recall what type of green Dad wore – probably a John Deere hat! We never got to pinch him!


The Grannie Annie series is written by a 47-year-resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski.Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. Grannie Annie can be reached at

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