This column is in memory of my mom, Loretta Edith McClure.
Born Dec. 19, 1915 Fort Collin, Colorado
Died Feb 3, 1999 Fort Collins, Colorado
As you can see by the above title, our mother spent all of her life in the same area.
This is what my mother wrote in her tiny handwriting in what I call my “Heritage Book.”
Loretta Edith Cogswell grew up near Wellington, Colorado with her parents on a farm. She attended school near Wellington and studied piano for several years by a teacher at the school… When the instructor was no longer available she studied by correspondence with the American College of Music in Kansas City, Missouri. Following two years of high school in Wellington she moved with her parents to a fruit orchard near Fort Collins. She assisted her father with the care and harvest of the fruit and worked various jobs around and in Fort Collins. On August 28, 1936 Loretta and John Melvin McClure were married in Greeley, Colorado. John, formerly of Westfall, Kansas, came to Colorado from Kansas in 1934 working for various area farmers. After spending a month in Kansas following their marriage, John and Loretta return to Colorado, where John was employed by a farmer and sheepherder.
The following year February 1937 they rented an irrigation farm east of Fort Collins and one mile from the orchard where Loretta’s parents resided. The owner of the farm Sam Kamp was well known as a producer of Japanese popcorn. He wished to retire. The corn was marketed as KempKorn which he canned and sold to Safeway Stores.
(Dad continued to grow corn for Safeway for a few years.)
That is all I know about my mother growing up. I never heard her play the piano. She did see to it that Elaine, Ginger and I received piano lessons for many years from Kathryn Sutherland. I inherited my dad’s tin ear and monotone voice. Playing the piano and keeping rhythm and timing were very difficult for me. Once in a while my mom would poke her head through the door while I was practicing and say, “Ann start over — or can you play something different?” I played Christmas carols all year long, just so I could get them perfect at Christmas. I am sure my mother tolerated more than I know!
There are five kids in the family: John Jr, Virginia, Elaine and Jim, and I am the oldest. We all were born in Fort Collins and lived in the farm house north of Fort Collins.
My first recollection of celebrating my mother’s birthday probably was when I was 6 or 7. Mom always baked her own birthday cake, chocolate angel food cake, and dad would give her a small present. One year he gave it to me to wrap, which I did with utmost care and great honor. I found real pretty wrapping paper and took a long time wrapping it. Those were the days of no Scotch tape, so it had to be tied with ribbon. I was so proud to hand it to her. Dad even said, “that’s real pretty, Ann.” As I gave her the present, she looked at me a little sideways, her chin down and her eyebrow up, and said, “This is Christmas wrapping paper; I guess I have to wait till Christmas.”
Dad and I both convinced her it was a birthday present and that she could open it now. So on every birthday, I would remember this and always look for the prettiest birthday paper I could find in the middle of December. In later years she was emphatic about “If you wrap my birthday present in Christmas paper I WILL NOT open it until Dec. 25!”
In earlier years she fried chicken, mashed potatoes, made gravy and made her own biscuits for her own birthday dinner. I do not remember Dad ever taking her out to eat, which she probably would have declined anyway. And in later years he bought her flowers — they did not have to be wrapped.
We had many birthday parties for her through the years and she was always a little embarrassed at all the fuss. And we never knew exactly how old she was. And she never told either!
If my mom was known for anything it was baking cookies. She baked cookies all year round. She baked tons of cookies for Christmas. Susan recalls when we moved to Alaska, she would send us baggies full of cookies, wrapped tightly with twist ties. Packing was crumpled newspaper, which we smoothed out and read. Then the shipping box was wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. Still no Scotch tape. How did we ever do without scotch tape? She would ship us cookies throughout the year.
Mom loved flowers and spent many, many hours irrigating her yard full of lilies of the valley, cosmos, iris, marigolds, pansies, and tending to the big lilac bush. As I have mentioned before, she always carried a hoe everywhere to clean out the little irrigation ditches — but most of all just case she saw a snake. Then she would do her “snake dance,” chop that little water snake into little bitty pieces, dig a little bitty ditch and scrape the remains of the little snake into the ditch. She would scrape some soil over the top of it tamp it down with the bottom of the hoe and then finish by stomping it with her feet. I still smile with this image.
Mom loved Christmas and she worked hard for us to have a beautiful Christmas tree, thoughtful presents, wonderful dinners and, most of all, her cookies. She would start the first of November making cookies and continue to bake them after Thanksgiving and a week before Christmas. She stored them gently and carefully in her big freezer. She doled them out carefully, and when the tray was down to crumbs, magically she would fill it again.
Her Christmas dinners were spectacular after the remodeling of the farm house. She worked even harder at her dinners and her baking. I can honestly say her most satisfying moments must have been when everyone seated at the dinner table complimented her on her dinners and her baking. She planned her life around baking and cooking.
My mom’s favorite cookbook was “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book” written by Fannie Farmer. I have this cookbook plus I have collected three more, one just recently.
During World War II, Mom helped Dad in the fields and then cooked meals. She sewed for us, washed clothes in her ringer washing machine in the basement, and carried the wet clothes in the basket up the stairs, out to the clothesline. They were hung on the clothesline in her orderly fashion so the occasional neighbors would not see our underclothes.
We would wait for the gentle Colorado breezes to dry them. She taught me how to carefully fold and place them in the basket. After we carried them in the house, we put the towels, sheets and pillowcases away, also the underclothes. Then the clothes that were to be ironed were laid out on the table. We would sprinkle them with warm water and fold them so they could be ironed the next day. That was done every Monday and Tuesday. Mom taught me how to iron so as not to have one wrinkle because “what would the neighbors think” if we had one wrinkle in our nicely starched clothes.
I find myself doing more and more things like my mother did, however, I do not iron clothes because my neighbors do not care if I have wrinkles in my clothes and neither do I. We have a simpler life compared to how it was in the olden days. I am not so sure it’s the best.
Happy Birthday Mom! I bet she is in God’s kitchen baking cookies!
BANANA BREAD: NEW, DIFFERENT, GOOD
Two eggs well beaten
3 large bananas mashed
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped nuts
2 teaspoons vanilla
To the well beaten eggs, slowly add sugar. Add bananas to egg mixture. Add the oil. Mix and add flour, salt and soda. Blend well. Add vanilla and nuts. Pour into small greased loaf pans. It will take three small or a large loaf pan. Cook it 350 degrees F until tested with a toothpick — about 45 minutes for small loaf pans and 60 minutes for large pan. (I mixed this all by hand — not with a mixer.) Great texture and great flavor!
STIR-FRIED CASHEW CHICKEN
This tasty dish has the flavor of orange and ginger.
Prepare 4 cups of boiling water with 2 cups of white rice according to package.
1 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs, or boneless skinless chicken breast, partially frozen so you can cut in thin strips.
2 large carrots, cut diagonally
2 ribs celery, cut diagonally
1 medium onion, cut in small chunks
½ red pepper and ½ yellow or green pepper, cut in chunks
½ bag stir-fried frozen vegetables
1 small can sliced mushrooms or 1 cup of fresh sliced mushrooms.
Cut and slice chicken — set aside. Slice vegetables — set aside.
Combine the sauce:
3⁄4 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or according to your taste
1⁄4 cup corn syrup — I used honey for better flavor.
1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon grated ginger or more — depends on your taste (Keep ginger in freezer and grate it frozen.)
Combine and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in large skillet or wok. Add carrots and celery. Stir and then add onions and peppers. Stir-fry 1 minute and add the half bag of frozen stir-fried vegetables. Stir-fry to desired crispy tenderness. Take out a skillet or wok — keep warm. Add 1 more tablespoon oil. Stir-fry in small batches, until sliced chicken is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Push aside in pan and add the orange juice, ginger, and soy sauce mixture — stir quickly until sauce is cooked clear. Add the vegetables. Stir in. Place in warm bowl with 1/2 cup crushed cashew pieces sprinkled on top. Serve in individual bowls over hot rice. Four large servings. NOTE: To expand this: add 1 cup pineapple chunks, drained. If you do not have orange juice, use the drained pineapple juice in the sauce.
MEXICAN FIESTA BAKE
I found this on the back of a can. I have often thought I should name a cookbook “I Found This on the Back of a Can or Box.”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1 pound ground beef, moose, venison or elk (I used to combine ground turkey half-and-half with the wild game.)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chunky style salsa
1 dry package taco seasoning mix
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup corn
1⁄2 cup sliced ripe olives, drained
Cook your choice of meat with the onion in a skillet until no longer pink. Drain off grease. Stir in salsa, taco seasoning, and water.
Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes until thickened. Stir in corn and always. Spoon into an ungreased 8 x 8 inch baking dish.
1 box of Jiffy Corn Meal Muffin Mix
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies — about 1⁄2 cup
Prepare the batter for the corn muffins according to the directions on the package. Stir in cheese and chilies. Spread over top of meat mixture. Bake uncovered in preheated oven at 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes, until crust is golden. Top with more cheese and bake 5 more minutes. Cut in squares and serve with salsa, sour cream, chopped onions and shredded lettuce. I have another recipe similar title “Enchilada Pie.” Great company-coming dish!
SOUR CREAM LEMON PIE
I love lemon pie and this is especially good.
You will need one 8-inch baked pie shell
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon lemon peel
1⁄3 cup lemon juice
1 cup light cream (I always use canned milk)
1⁄4 cup butter
Slowly bring to a boil on LOW heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and clear. You have to watch this because it burns easily. Cool to room temperature. Add 1⁄2 cup sour cream. Fold into lemon mixture until well blended.
1 cup Cool Whip
1⁄2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, fold in until well mixed
1⁄2 teaspoon almond extract
1⁄4 teaspoon lemon extract
Fold in. Spread over pie and garnish with thin lemon slices. Chill 1 hour.
• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, For the Peninsula Clarion