Ann Berg

Ann Berg

Pioneer Potluck: Memories of grandma from a bygone era

Recipes: chicken divan, layered taco dip, boiled spice cake

  • Tuesday, January 28, 2020 11:37pm
  • Life

I read several articles this week about what we used to do and eat and wear — what kind of jobs we had and how grandmas told us how it was the proper thing to do.

Well, after about 80-some years trying to do the proper thing and trying to keep up with the present times, here are some facts that I find interesting.

Grandma’s aprons protected her “house dress” from everyday chores. I remember hiding behind her apron when someone came to visit. However, she also used it for many other things. Drying kids’ tears, removing pots from the stove. Gathering eggs and bringing in wood from the wood pile. (Mom and Dad burned corn cobs in their cookstove along with coal). In my grandma’s case though, it was Grandpa’s job, as they burned coal for heat. He used the coal bucket and stacked it high, parked it alongside the coal stove to keep their basement house warm. It also was his job to bring in the kerosene to fill the cookstove. Coal and kerosene have to distinct smells that I associated with Grandma and Grandpa. I have mentioned that her wonderful sugar cookies had a slight taste of kerosene, and when I baked them they did not taste the same and I wondered what I did wrong!

Grandpa and Grandma’s garden was large and took lots of time. Grandpa “hilled” everything, meaning he dug long rows and piled the dirt in rows. Then he planted his seeds and potato starts and the little tomato plants that he started in the house on the kitchen table in the long dirt rows. His garden was spotless — no weeds — and he hoed it almost every day.

To harvest the garden, Grandma would go out the day she wanted to serve something from the garden, and carry all sorts of vegetables, such as lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and peas, in her apron back to the house. There was a bench where she sorted out what needed to be washed and set aside the peas that needed to be shelled. But first she had to go to the pump and pump the handle up and down until water slowly filled an old water pail. Grandpa had patched it several times with various things, but the one patch that stood out the best was a small wad of gum stuck in a hole. It served the purpose.

Grandpa and Grandma lived in the edge on an 80-acre apple/cherry orchard, which was their livelihood, along with raising hundreds of chickens and some turkeys. He sold eggs every Friday to Steels Market in Fort Collins and in the fall butchered chickens and sold them. Grandma saved the feathers for the feather quilts that she made in the winter and replaced the feathers in the pillows.

When Grandma wanted to bake one of her most delicious apple or cherry pies, she would go out to the apple orchard, fill up her apron with apples and carry them into the house to be peeled and sliced into her homemade pie crust, made with lard. She had a special pan for cherries, and would put that in her gathered up apron and fill the pan with cherries. I can remember pitting the cherries with her. Her warning was not to eat these cherries; go get your own off the tree. I had a special tree from which I could eat all the cherries I could reach. Each of the kids had their own tree. That kept us from picking off every tree, so Grandpa could have some of the nicest cherries to sell. They were picked and put in flats and hauled to a cherry canning plant outside of Fort Collins. Apples, when they were ripe in the fall, were put in half-bushel baskets according to what kind and size. And they were hauled to Steels Market and the cherry canning factory for canning apple pie filling. Well, here is a contrast — Grandma put her pies on the windowsill to cool. Her granddaughters put the pies out to thaw. YUP, guilty of that!!

Also, if the preacher showed up, or other unexpected company, Grandma would quickly take a swipe at the top of the table and buffet to wipe off any dust. Her house was spotless at all times but she still did the last minute wipe!

That apron with all its duties — germs? That apron did not have germs! It held lots of love!

The story ends with this statement: “It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace the old-time apron that served so many purposes.”


This is a recipe from the ‘30s and still is popular and good today. I dedicate this recipe to Kelly and Kristina Kalnoski. There are several versions of this recipe. This is the original from a restaurant in New York.

4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts — cooked and cooled and sliced in half horizontally

Fresh broccoli trimmed and cut lengthwise into stems. You can cook in boiling water until tender, but I do not do this. We like a bit of crunch.

Melt in sauce pan:

½ stick butter

Stir in:

5 tablespoons butter and stir until smooth.


2 ¼ cups milk — stirring constantly until thick.

Temper one egg yolk and stir into hot milk sauce.

Whisk until blended.

Stir in ½ cup Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Place broccoli in a 13 x 9 pan and place chicken slices over top.

Pour the sauce over top.

Bake uncovered for 350 F until bubbly and lightly browned.

Makes 6 servings. ENJOY! P.S., I sprinkle cheddar cheese over top and then bake.


Tex-Mex food was popularized in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I learned from the BEST, Leatha Earll!

2 ripe avocados

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¾ cups sour cream

¾ cups mayonnaise

1 package taco seasoning

1 can refried, fat-free beans

2 cups cheddar cheese

1 bunches of chopped green onions or 1 cup chopped white or red onion

2 ripe tomatoes — chopped

1 can sliced ripe black olives

Peel, pit and mash the avocados. Stir in lemon juice.

In another bowl: Combine the sour cream and mayonnaise and taco seasoning.

Spread refried beans in a shallow dish (I use a 9-inch pie plate) and top with avocado mixture and then the sour cream/mayo mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, onions, tomatoes and olives.

Top with a dollop of sour cream in the center and a few spoonfuls of salsa if you like.

Serve with tortilla chips.


This is from an old book entitled “Old Settler’s Cookbook.” My sister Elaine sent it to me. I use it a lot.

2 cups raisins

2 cups sugar

2 cups warm water

3 tablespoons lard (butter)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon each ginger, allspice, cloves and salt

2⁄3 cup hot water

2 teaspoons soda

3 cups flour

Mix first 9 ingredients. Let boil slowly for 10 minutes.

Let cool 2 hours.

Add hot water with soda and flour

Bake in large pan — 10 x 14.

Bake at 350 F for approximately 1 hour. Test middle to see if done.

Serve like this or make a frosting of powdered sugar and milk and pour over slightly warm cake.

Moist cake can be stored for a long length of time in refrigerator.

Note: Add chopped walnuts if you like after you boil it.

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

More in Life

Kenneth Branagh portrays Hercule Poirot in “A Haunting in Venice.” (Photo courtesy 20th Century Studios)
On the Screen: Murder most haunting

Hercule Poirot takes on supernatural in latest Agatha Christie adaptation

Jack Meyers, Jackson Hooper, Kincaid Jenness, Kry Spurgeon, Leora McCaughey and Oshie Broussard rehearse “Lockers” at Nikiski Middle/High School in Nikiski, Alaska, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
High school drama

Teenage archetypes hit the stage in Triumvirate production “Lockers”

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Get Ready

It looks as though some early deep freeze history may be about to repeat itself

This mildly sweet and nutty gnocchi was made white sweet potatoes, but any potatoes will do. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Gnocchi brings it home

Enjoying an afternoon in the kitchen

Andrew Agosti prepares carrot gnocchi at the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival’s Chef Tent at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Vendors and vegetables

Harvest Moon Local Food Festival celebrates local food scene at Soldotna Creek Park

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Destination not journey

Reviewing the last column, I wondered when we started to avoid driving

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Artwork donated for the Harvest Auction hangs at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai on Aug. 29.
Live auction, catered dinner at Kenai Art Center’s Harvest Auction gala

The annual auction is a fundraiser for the center

Shana Loshbaugh (Courtesy photo)
History comes home

Historical conference to bring statewide community to central Kenai Peninsula

Most Read