A measuring cup full of bog cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) is seen in the kitchen of Erin Anais Heist on Oct. 14, 2018. (Erin Anais Heist | For the Juneau Empire)

A measuring cup full of bog cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) is seen in the kitchen of Erin Anais Heist on Oct. 14, 2018. (Erin Anais Heist | For the Juneau Empire)

Pioneer Potluck: How times change

1937 TO 2018

I was born on a small farm at the end of the Depression in 1937. My first memories are sitting in a high chair beside a big black coal-wood stove that Dad put corn cobs in first to start it.

First memories of eating anything was Mom’s warm biscuits with butter and jam. Pancakes and bacon. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Dad’s oatmeal. Popcorn with butter and bacon grease on it. Mom’s cakes and cookies and her canned peaches with cream and sugar. Dad would fix him a big bowl of peaches and share them with me. So good!

I remember Mom scrubbing the worn-out kitchen linoleum on her hands and knees every Saturday. Washing clothes on Monday and ironing on Tuesday. The smell of roast beef in a cast iron Dutch oven cooking all day in the old cook stove oven.

Oh, and yes, her wonderful chicken noodle soup with REAL homemade egg noodles. Homemade bread with real butter that melted into the bread because the bread was still warm.

The smell of fresh sheets on the bed after wash day. Wash day Monday was not over until the beds were made after washing, hanging out the laundry in all kinds of weather, bringing in the clothes that were sometimes frozen stiff and drying them in the kitchen. They smelled so good! All the new soaps and powders and detergents of this modern era cannot replicate the smell of fresh-off-the-line clothes. And how good I slept tucked into fresh-smelling bed clothes.

The Ice man!! Yes he was real in my day!! We looked forward to him driving in the driveway, getting out of his “ice truck” with a ice pick in hand. He was not murdering monster; he was the ice man that delivered ice to the ice box located in the kitchen. His big, old wicked-looking ice tongs pinched the big block of ice as he carried it into the house to place in the bottom of the ice box to keep the milk, cream and butter from spoiling. On hot summer days he came twice a week, but most of the time he came once a week. As kids, we would line up by the ice truck and wait for him to hack off a big sliver of ice and hand it to us to slurp and lick on. Our biggest regret was he only came in the summertime. Oh my goodness, what a treat! He was our equivalent of the ice cream man coming down the street in his truck.

We did not store ice cream in the ice box; it was not cold enough. So on Saturday night, if there was ice enough, Dad would get out the hand-cranked ice cream maker and we would have a rare treat of homemade ice cream. Because we had Betsy the milk cow, and fresh eggs from the chicken house, we had cream and eggs for the custard mom would make for the ice cream. We certainly had to be patient and wait and wait for the final product. We earned it too — Dad made us take turns turning the crank, no matter our age. If we were not cranking fast enough he would place his hand over ours and help crank. I think we appreciated that wonderful fresh ice cream even better. Dad always had a grin and a comment or two about how he loved ice cream and made a big party out of it. We all got a lick off the beaters after the ice cream was done, but Dad finished it!!

Sunday night Dad would tell Mom, “You just sit still Loretta, I will fix supper.” He would get out the big cast iron skillet and the big dish pan. He put bacon grease and sometimes lard in the skillet and plop on the lid, wait for the first pop of a kernel, and then he would gently shake it until he heard no more popping. He poured it into the dish pan and popped one or two more skillets of corn. Then, in most important details, as if he invented the recipe for the butter for the corn, he put in a very generous amount of real butter and bacon grease into the skillet. He let the butter “slightly brown” and poured it over the popped corn, as someone stirred it around. The last thing he did before we could eat any of it was generously salt it and scoop out big cereal bowls for each of us. Mom got the first bowl. On the table were big red delicious apples, freshly washed that someone — usually ME — fetched out of the basement. They were picked from Grandpa and Grandma’s cherry-apple orchard about a mile from our farm, and stored in the basement coal room for the winter. That was our Sunday night supper. Dad grew to corn and was very proud of his crops.

Sunday dinner after church was fried chicken that we had caught and beheaded and plucked the feathers the day before. It was washed and cut up and “rested” in the ice box until the preparations for Sunday dinner. Mom fried her chicken in bacon grease and lard or butter. Of course it was very very good. Mashed potatoes did not get mashed by an electric beater; we had a potato masher that took skill to get the potatoes smooth and buttery.

Mom’s gravy was excellent. Chicken grease dripping, flour stirred into until just right, then she added milk and cream and stirred and stirred until it was gravy. Salt and pepper was added and pour into a big bowl. It was the last thing that went on the table before we all sat down to eat. We had our appointed places. Uncle Guy, when he lived with us, sat at one end of the table and Dad at the other end. We made sure the biscuits were placed at Uncle Guy’s end. Dad passed everything else as Uncle Guy took two biscuits, split them and waited for the gravy to be passed. I am sure you have heard me say that Uncle guy would wait until everyone was through with the dinner and then stutter a little, asking Mom if he could have the last biscuit. Mom would nod and he would reach for the last of the gravy. He ate it like it was his last meal on earth and it was his dessert.

Thinking back on memories of the past, people of my age have seen many things that have changed for the better — (sometimes!!). I would never in my wildest dreams thought I would see everyone walking around with a phone in their hand — including me! Airplanes had propellers; now they are jets. During World War II the jets flew over our house from Cheyenne to Denver and we would pile out of the house or barn, stand in the yard and wave at the formation flying over. It was the hit of our day.

Chicken was fried chicken — no chicken fingers in those days! I never ate a taco or a burrito until the ’60s. Mom never made a taco or a burrito. We never heard of yogurt. Potato chips we plain and no off-the-wall flavors. We drank buttermilk, almost daily. Healthy food was food on the table, and we were thankful we had food on the table. Fat or lard is what she cooked with — not oil. Oil was for the tractors and automobiles.

Never heard of cooking on a grill, but we understood what cooking and eating around a campfire was. Water came out of the cistern and had to be hauled in by a water truck every two weeks. We never ever let the faucet run — ever!! BECAUSE Mom or Dad would holler at you!! That was a waste of water! We drank milk in place of water most of the time. Water in bottles — well, I buy water in bottles all the time now!!

Fresh pineapple, nope — that came in a can. We have access to wonderful fresh fruits now. Apples and oranges were a delicious item you got in your stocking at Christmas. Bananas, before they were carefully shipped, were not in good shape by the time they got to the grocery store. We bought meat from the meat man standing at the counter, who was ready to pick up what you wanted and wrap and tie the package with twine. I saw Mom and Dad trade popcorn and beans at the little locally owned market. My grandparents traded eggs and chickens, and during Thanksgiving turkeys, for groceries.

Now we HAVE to talk about cattle and horse feed. Oats and grains were to feed the animals. Seeds were for the birds. Now we have that in breakfast bars.

The whole family sat at the table at 6 o’clock every night. We said a blessing and passed food in bowls to each other. We HAD to take a little of everything. We HAD to clean our plate. We did not make choices as far as food at the table. That was what was available at the time, and you had better eat that because it would be a long time before the next meal. AND if you did not clean your plate — you did not get any of Mom’s wonderful desserts.


I am thankful I have my family is here and that we can come together as a family. So many families are scattered and fractured. Most of all, I am thankful to have been born and raised in this wonderful UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It gets a little more precious every day.

This recipes is most delicious, and I am proud to say it was compiled and invented by my daughter Gail.


The shortbread crust:

Place in medium bowl:

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cube of chilled butter, cut into small cubes.

Cut in the butter with pastry cutter. Or use your hand and rub the butter in.

Mix until butter resembles small even pieces.

Press into a 9- by 13-inch pan. I used two 8- by 8-inch foil pans and divided evenly with a measuring cup. Press evenly into pan and up the sides. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until lightly brown. Take out and let cool slightly.

While shortbread is baking mix:

One 8-ounce package of cream cheese with one teaspoon sugar

Warm to room temp.

Spread on slightly warm crust.

Pour the following over:

In a bowl mix:

15 ounces of pumpkin

2 eggs

1/2 cup canned milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

Add a splash of vanilla.

Mix well and pour onto the crust and cream cheese.

Bake 350 degrees until pumpkin is set — about 30 minutes.


I modified this because I put in the things that we like into the great cake.

Prepare the fruit:

Chop into bite-sized pieces:

2 cups dates

2 cups dry or candied pineapple

2 cups dehydrated apricots

2 cups chopped walnuts

1 cup of chopped pecans

1 cup of raisins

1 cup of candied red cherries (You can put one cup of green cherries in also. I do not use them, but add on more cup of red cherries.)

Place in large bowl and pour 1/2 cup of dark rum or apricot brandy over top and let soak covered for 24 hours.

To finish the cake

In a small bowl, cream until fluffy:

1/3 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon dark molasses


2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon soda

Pinch of salt

Add all your favorite spices:

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon each of cloves, allspice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix thoroughly.

Stir into the fruit mixture and make sure all fruit and nuts are coated. If you think you have to much batter, add more fruit such as dates, apricots and nuts a small amount at a time. I use Craisins in place of raisins. You can use half currents in place of raisins also.

One year, I could not find dates anywhere — so I used chopped prunes. Everyone raved about it. They gave the cake a rich flavor. So now I make one cake with prunes and one cake with dates. No one knows the difference.

Absolutely NO citron of any kind. It ruins that cake.

Bake at 305 degrees for one hour in 8- by 8-inch pans – or use 2 loaf pans, and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. I find that the 8 x 8 pans are much easier for cutting the cake in squares for serving, in place of slicing.

After the cakes is baked, take it out of oven and let set for 20 minutes. Turn out cake onto a sheet of plastic wrap — pour 1/4 cup of dark rum, or I prefer apricot brandy over top. Wrap the cake up in the plastic and place back in the pan. Let it set for three days and pour more brandy over. Let set for a week and pour brandy over until ready to serve at Christmas.

I have decorated the square tops with halves of red or green cherries. Brush the top with a very small amount Karo syrup first. Enjoy!! And share.


This is so good. I eat leftovers for breakfast.

1 package fresh cranberries, picked over and washed

Grind and place in large serving dish.

Add 1 cup of sugar over top and let set for 2 hours.

Prepare 1 package of orange or raspberry or strawberry Jello with 1 cup of boiling water. Stir to dissolve completely and pour over cranberries.

I like orange Jello but others are good also.

Set aside to cool and add while the Jello is still not set:

1 cup of crushed pineapple well drained

1 cup finely diced celery

1 cup of crushed walnuts

Stir into the cranberry-Jello mixture and refrigerate until set.

Prepare this the day before so it will be set. Serve with or without a dollop of mayonnaise or a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Enjoy as much as I do.

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