Pioneer Potluck: Different styles of fixing, serving food

  • By Ann 'Grannie Annie' Berg
  • Tuesday, November 22, 2016 2:28pm
  • LifeFood

The continued stories of holidays and the differences between Northern and Southern style of fixing and serving food. Thank you everyone for your comments.

This is from my friend Pat Corbello in Louisiana:

“Ann, Another reason for the kitchen being separate in the old Cajun homes was in case of fire, the main house had a chance of being saved.

“We lived a simple life. There was no china or silver to serve the meals. Mom had Grandma Linscomb’s set of sterling silver flatware, but rarely ever used it. It stayed in her wooden box in the closet. To this day, most of our family never sets a formal table. Our meals are served from the stove. Everyone serves themselves. Tammy sets a formal table in their dining room for holidays, but food is on the stove and in the kitchen for service.

“Mom had a Servel butane refrigerator from the time I was a baby until I was in elementary school. Don’t remember when they bought an electric one.Her Daddy lived in the old house, was widowed and had all his meals with us. He would let me play with his false teeth when I was crawling. Mom told the story that one time, I left his teeth on the bottom ledge of the refrigerator door and she slammed it on his teeth, not knowing they were there. She said Grandpa laughed. She said I could do no wrong in his eyes. My Daddy was in WWII. Grandpa Granger was the only man around until I was almost 2. Mom showed me Daddy’s picture in uniform, so I would remember him. Every man I saw in uniform, she said I would call him Daddy.

“We were very rural. Electricity was in town, but not in our neighborhood. We were the first in our neighborhood to have electricity, because Daddy built a little house with a battery bank in it (he called it the Delco house; must have been the battery brand he used) and ran electricity to our house. Daddy was raised in town in Orange, Texas and always had electricity.”

Thank you Pat for a peek into your southern family history!


Northern Colorado, 1946-1955

Mom started two weeks in advance planning Thanksgiving dinner. She did her shopping in Fort Collins. She spent the rest of the week, baking cookies and pumpkin, apple, cherry and Dad’s favorite, mincemeat pie, made from homemade mincemeat she had made in the summer, from venison and beef. .She left out the citron that is in commercial mincemeat. It is truly delicious; however you have to acquire a taste for it. Apples were added to the mincemeat and baked in a two crust pie shell. Dad loved his mincemeat pie warm with vanilla ice cream on top. Me too!

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, the house was scrubbed from top to bottom. All the furniture was “tarnished” as one of my little sisters, Elaine called “polished.” Two days before Thanksgiving the china dishes, the silverware and the glassware and all the serving bowls were taken out of the cupboards and buffet, washed by hand and dried with her bleached white embroidered tea towels. The linen and lace tablecloths and the linen napkins, where re-iron to get any creases or wrinkles out after being folded from the first ironing and put on the table.

Mom made her famous cranberry salad in 13-by-9 pan, the day before, grinding up fresh cranberries and chopped celery. She added crushed pineapple to orange Jell-o, the rest of the ingredients and refrigerated to set. It was cut into squares before serving, put on a small serving plate lined with a lettuce leaf, and then the square of cranberry salad and the final touch was a dollop of Salad Dressing (no mayonnaise in Mom’s kitchen!) or freshly whipped cream. It was a very festive and pretty, set beside every place setting on the table.

The table was set the day before Thanksgiving with dinner plates, silverware, water glasses, folded napkins, all in its proper place. Mom inspected every detail after my sister and me tried to do our best getting each place setting just right. Mom always had a big beautiful fresh fall flower arrangement as the centerpiece in the middle of the table.

Days before, bread was dried and the day before Thanksgiving and when I got a little older, I chopped the celery and the onions for the dressing or is dad called it, the stuffin’. Usually Thanksgiving dinner was between two and four in the afternoon so the big 22 to 25 pound turkey had to be put in the oven at least between three and five o’clock in the morning. Potatoes were peeled that morning as was the sweet potatoes. A big green salad was prepared and put in the refrigerator. My job- I enjoyed it! The day before Mom took the pies, cookies and dinner rolls out of the freezer. We wrapped the dinner rolls in foil to warm them in the oven just before dinnertime. The plates of butter and individual salt and peppers were put on the table.

Potatoes were mashed by hand, leaving a few lumps, adding fresh cream and gobs of butter. The sweet potatoes were put in the oven with brown sugar, a little squeeze of Maple syrup, large amount of butter and at the last minute topped with marshmallows.

The dressing was taken out of the turkey that had been resting on the cupboard for about an hour out of the oven. Dad was summoned to carve the turkey and with big fanfare he did so. Sharpening the knife and flailing it about like he was the most important person in the world. The gravy was made from the turkey drippings, boiling and blurping away on the stove. It was poured into two large bowls, one for each end of the table.

The potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, green salad, and hot rolls were added to the table. With a big flair and a smile, Dad would bring in the carved turkey.

Mom had special places for everyone to sit at. So she directed everyone to their places, I always hoped I could sit beside Grandpa or Grandma Cogswell. My Uncles Marvin and Leslie took their place. Uncle Norman and Aunt Ruth (no kids at that time) little brother Jim in a high chair beside Dad and Elaine setting next to Mom. Then Ginger and me. My brother Johnny (Sonny-Butch) usually got to set with Marvin and Leslie.

The Grace of Thankfulness was usually said by Dad or Grandpa Cosgwell. The heaping bowls of food were passed around amid the “ohwws and ahwws” of how nice the table looks and how wonderful the food smelled. The hot rolls were passed last and then the table was silent except for the cling-clang of silverware and the gracious exclamations of how good everything tasted. Mom beamed with pride.

She worked so hard for two weeks for this moment — that lasted only for about 20 to 30 minutes — then it was time to wash dirty dishes while the men-folk retired to the living room waiting for the full bellies to subside, because there was pie with ice cream to eat. Dad was first in line.

These are warm memories I wish to pass down to my family. Our Thanksgiving dinners changed drastically in Alaska! First and always involving the family but including the “orphans” in the neighborhood that did not have immediate family or lived alone. Don’t forget your family and most of all invite a person or two who are not as lucky as you are.

This Thanksgiving we will go to Susan and Porter’s again, as has been the tradition for a few years. We all bring favorite dishes. We share our grateful thanks that has happened for the year. Then it’s time to eat the beautiful turkey that Porter takes so much time to do. The dressing is special also with the “Porter Touch” – extra giblets and sage. It is delicious! Susan works hard putting everything together and coordinating the most delicious extra’s that makes every Thanksgiving so special with our loved ones. We are thankful again this year to have all our Alaskan family around us. Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Grannie Annie can be reached at

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