Pioneer Potluck: About my birthday and thinking I was adopted

Recipes for spinach salad, apple streusel cobbler, halibut fingers

  • Tuesday, April 30, 2019 9:33pm
  • Life

April 29, this past Monday, was my 82nd birthday. I marvel at all the eras I have lived through and still have the memory to tell about. I was born in 1937 while America was climbing out of the Depression. Dad would talk about it a little and Mom not at all. They learned to be frugal and practical at all times.

Dad was born in Kansas — the third child of a family of four boys and three girls. They worked hard on a farm in Westfall, Kansas, during the Depression. I am sure at times their mother, my grandmother Hatie McClure, worked just as hard at baking bread and figuring out what she should serve for the next meal.

She also saw to it that they all went to church because she drove them there herself. I have conjured up a picture of her in an old Model T with seven kids scrubbed shiny clean, with clean clothes she washed on a washboard and starched and ironed with a “glad iron” that was parked on the cook stove to get hot. She would iron until that needed to be exchanged for the hot one on the stove. It took long hours to have clean, ironed clothes for her family.

Now in the modern era we have automatic washing machines and dryers. I bet not too many even own an ironing board anymore. I still have one. However, I seldom iron as clothes are wash and wear.

Mom cooked fine, balanced meals and we were expected to eat every bite. We cleaned our plate at the dinner table, with the last crust of bread to sop up the last of the gravy.

She talked about when Dad and her were first married; they lived on macaroni and tomatoes and homemade bread. They acquired a few chickens for eggs and Dad had an old milk cow that provided the milk and cream.

Dad told of the times he and his family had popped corn with milk on it for cereal for breakfast. I could never imagine that as we always had popped corn with real butter and bacon grease.

Dad worked hard to succeed on the farm and eventually he bought several ranches. Mom took her station in life very seriously and everything she did was for the family. She once told me how lucky she was that she did not have to boil macaroni and tomatoes for a meal anymore. The fine meals she learned to prepare were serious business with her.

When the new addition to the old farmhouse was built, and a new kitchen installed, Mom got a big, white electric cooking stove to replace the huge iron cook stove that stood in the corner of an add-on lean-to. My fondest recollection of Mom is her standing in front of her brand-new cook stove conjuring up what her next meal would be. It always was delicious.

This was during and after World War II. The rationed items were hard to get, requiring coupons and tokens. Sugar, flour and meat were a few of the items I remember. Mom made the best of the rations and we always had well-balanced, delicious meals. Mom canned all the vegetables and fruit and made tons of jelly and pickles. Very seldom did she buy canned goods of any kind until much later.

Mom’s kitchen also graduated from an ice box to an electric refrigerator. We kids sure missed the ice man as we got big chunks of ice to suck on after he left. NO paper towels in those days and we each got a wash cloth to hold the ice.

My first recollection of the farm is when my Dad was headed to the barn, always in a hurry to milk the cow and get on with his farming chores. I was running as fast as my 6-year-old legs could. I was trying to keep up with my Dad’s fast pace with the milk bucket in his hand. “Dad-Dad, how come Butch has black hair, Ginger has pretty curly auburn hair and Mom has black hair and you have auburn hair and I have this white straight stringy stuff??” Dad nickname for me was “cotton-top.”

Being in his usual hurry he shot a glance at me and said, “Oh, I found you in the woodpile!” I stopped in my tracks, looked at him as he hurried off to the barn and I started to cry. He thought he had answered my question and went to milk Bessie.

I knew it! I just knew it! I AM Adopted! My hair does not match anyone else around here. I went into a worrywart state about being adopted and wondered who my real family was until I was 12 years old.

Dad and I and a couple others were in the living room lying on the floor looking at the “Pitcher Album” with all the photos of the family. This was the Sunday afternoon entertainment, especially if we had company. We all listened to stories Dad would tell (as if we had not heard them a million times) and laugh just as hard as Dad would when he finished. He turned to a page of the album and there was my Grandma Cogswell, (my mother’s Mom ) — she had white hair! I yelled at the top of my lungs, “I LOOK LIKE MY GRANDMA!!” I scared the half-sleeping, belly-filled guests wide awake. Dad looked at me in utter amazement and answered, “Of course you do!”

“And I am not adopted?” I blurted out. Well, of course not — whoever told you that? He said to me in a mater of fact tone.

I never said a word or offered any explanation, but from then on I never worried about being adopted! And I loved my Grandma even more, but I never told Dad. He would have laughed at me anyway.

I have lived through many eras as many of you have. The end of the Depression in the late 30s, World War II in the 40s. My world opened up when I went to grade school at Cactus Hill Observatory #101 and then it really opened up when I made friends in high school. I still converse with most and some have traveled to Alaska to see me.

I was married when I was 20 and my three kids being born is the highlight of my whole life. Moving to Alaska was another big, big adventure and I went through many fazes of struggles and happiness until 32 years ago when Bob and I met and as the saying goes, “We have lived happily ever after!”

We have many friends and most of us watch out for each other.

I am so happy that my three kids live close by and three grand kids live here and one in Washington and two great grandkids live here and one in Washington. I am eternally grateful for my health and the happiness of my every day life.

DILL POTATO SALAD

2 pounds small potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 cup nonfat yogurt or sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup minced red onion

Salt and pepper and dill weed to taste

Boil potatoes, drain chop in quarters. Add olive oil and the rest of the ingredients. Let set in refrigerator at least two hours.

Add celery, boiled eggs and crumbled bacon, if you would like.

CRUNCHY SPINACH SALAD

6 to 8 cups fresh torn spinach

1 16-ounce can bean sprouts, drained, or 2 cups fresh beans sprouts

1 small onion sliced thin

1 8-ounce can of sliced water chestnuts drained, chopped

6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

DRESSING:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

In a bottle or jar combine all the dressing ingredients, cover and shake well to mix. Just before serving pour the dressing over the salad and toss.

APPLE STREUSEL COBBLER

Mom never said strudel – she said streusel – German maybe?

2 20-ounce cans apple pie filling

1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand condensed milk

2 eggs

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cold butter

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup old fashion oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread apple filling in buttered 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside.

Beat eggs, add condensed milk, melted butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well and pour over apple filling.

In a small bowl mix sugar and flour, cut in cold butter until crumbly. Add nuts and oats and mix. Sprinkle over custard. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until set. Cool. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

NOTE: This is very good with a combination of rhubarb and strawberries — 4 cups, in the bottom of the baking dish and add the rest the ingredients.

HALIBUT FINGERS

This is my invention. I got thumbs up and smiles.

The batter is enough for four generous servings so plan you halibut accordingly.

Trim partially thawed halibut or fresh halibut of all dark pieces. Cut in 1-inch strips, 4 inches long. Drain and pat dry.

In one paper plate, add 1 cup flour

In another paper plate, place 1 cup Panko or Italian dry bread crumbs.

In a small mixing bowl, combine:

1 cup of flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon each lemon pepper and garlic salt.

A pinch of cayenne pepper

Enough water to make a thin batter. Stir and set aside.

Roll the drained and patted-dry halibut fingers in paper plates with flour.

Dip in batter, lift out and let drain until stops dripping. Roll in the Panko or Italian bread crumbs.

Place in deep fat fryer and fry until deep brown and the fingers lift to the top. Dip out with slotted spoon and drain.

Serve with your favorite tartar or chili sauce, or ketchup mixed with horseradish sauce. All you need with this is garlic toast and a green salad.


• By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg, for the Peninsula Clarion


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