1940s to 1955
This story is a tribute to my Mom and all the things she did for her family day after day for years!
From 1936 to 1947 Mom cooked on an old black cooking stove in the corner of the kitchen which had been converted from an added-on porch. The usual morning ritual, starting a fire in the stove, was Dad poking a small amount of paper down deep inside the belly of the stove, hoping there would be a few small red coals left to catch the paper on fire or lighting a kitchen match on the leg of his overalls and tossing onto the paper. Then he dumped a few corncobs inside so they would ignite. The next step was to place a few pieces of coal on top of that. They bought the coal from Tolliver and Kenny Hardware in Fort Collins. That store carried everything including bottled pop. We each got a cold bottle handed to us from Mr. Tolliver. My favorite was Orange Crush!
Our water was pumped from a cistern by a red handled pump located to the right of the stove, next to the sink. We thought it was our duty to “help” Dad pump water into the coffee pot. Dad would dump some coffee “grounds” into the pot. He made coffee that could make a spoon stand up in the cup! He would wait for the coffee to boil. Then he would set the pot off to the side of the stove, pour a half a cup of cold water on top of the boiling coffee, wait a few minutes for the “grinds” to settle. He would pour himself and maybe a neighbor and Mom a cup. It always smelled so good but tasted so awful when I was little! Now 70 “some” years later I cannot drink enough of it!!
By the time the old stove was hot and the coffee done, Mom already had a batch of biscuits mixed, cut out and ready for the oven. She had bacon, sausage or ham frying on the stove. The smells coming from the kitchen were so great laying in bed! It was our alarm clock. We would wait until the last possible minute, pop out of the warm bed onto the cold floor, run for the cook stove to keep warm. We always dressed in front of the cook stove. I thought that’s where everyone dressed!!
Water was poured into the reservoir located in the stove so it could be heated. Mom always had a dishpan of water on the stove, so when she was finished with the meals she could do the dishes. A pan of hot water for rinsing the dishes sat “idling” next to it. She was so very particular about doing the dishes. Each one was scrubbed and washed with the dishrag, cups and glasses first, the plates in the forks, knives and spoons next. Always cooking pots last! They were rinsed in hot, hot water and fished out with a huge meat fork because the water was so hot. We dried them with Mom’s feed sack towels that she and Grandma had so carefully embroidered. Why my goodness, you never wanted to be caught doing dishes without embroidery on the dish towels!
Mom usually planned her day by putting a roast or a chicken in the oven for supper and baking her fine cakes for dessert while the stove was still hot. On Sunday she fried the best chicken in the whole world on that old stove. It was fried with bacon grease, butter and lard. Boiled potatoes, smashed with cream and butter in them. The milk gravy was made from the fried chicken drippings, with flour stirred in, then milk and cream, stirring until thick. She added salt and pepper. Now that was good eating!
Her baked cookies, pies and cakes coming out of the oven were always baked to perfection. When they remodeled the house and in her new kitchen, a brand-new electric stove. She would stand in front of the stove admiring it, then conjure up some wonderful meals and delicious desserts.
Breakfast was usually bacon, sausage or ham, fried potatoes, fried eggs with “frizzled lace” around the outside because mom cooked them in hot bacon grease. The bacon and any other kind of grease was never thrown out. It was kept in a coffee can for future use. When she made biscuits for breakfast she made milk gravy to go on top of the biscuit. My Uncle Guy when he lived with us, was in heaven with Moms biscuits and gravy!! Or homemade bread toast slathered with real butter, we had churned and that wonderful peach jam or all the good jellies she took so much time to make in the fall.
My Mom is the reason I have been interested in cooking and writing cookbooks all of these years. I thank her and always think of her when I make banana bread with her recipe or make her cookies and hope she is not scolding from Above, for baking a cake from “the box.” I seldom make pies but when I do I “cheat” and unroll a pie crust from the store! Then with rhubarb season coming up – I will make rhubarb custard pie – rhubarb coffee cakes, just like Mom did and her Mother did. Mom and Grandma’s cherry pies from Grandpa and Grandma’s orchard were my very favortie. The cherries were picked, pitted, canned and ready for pies. Again I cheat and open a can!! Our life in the kitchen is so much simpler these days!!
I have a saying above my computer written by someone I do not know. I wish I did!
“If I could give you one thing in life, I would give you the ability to see yourself through my eyes.
Only then you would realize how special you are.”
“Love, Grandma Taylor.”
I hope everyone of my friends has a wonderful Mothers Day!!
Thank you for all your comments and compliments! It keeps me writing!
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. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.
Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net
Cookbooks make great gifts!
The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.