Pioneer Potluck: Reminiscing about things that used to be easier

Pioneer Potluck: Reminiscing about things that used to be easier

This week’s recipes: Red beet eggs, orange Julius and Russian tea

  • Tuesday, April 2, 2019 10:08pm
  • Life

About yesteryear

I am sure I am not the only one who has trouble with new gadgets that are supposed to make your life easier!

I love my cellphone and my computer because it put me in touch with the relatives and friends that I had not been in contact with for years. It has made me closer to my neighborhood and aware of my surroundings. It has kept me in touch with my kids and grandkids who live in the area.

When I first moved to Alaska in 1967 (no phones) I wrote a letter every week to Mom and Dad and sent tons of information and news from Alaska. I had a hard time keeping up with births and deaths in the family and some friends because my Mom once told me if I had not moved to Alaska I would have known what was going on! She sometimes wrote about a birth in the family but never told me about the demise of relatives and friends and neighbors. When I visited I got caught up on all the “news.” Computers and cellphones have changed that! And now that I am older and no longer want to travel, these gadgets come in so very handy!

Computers and email have brought me in closer touch with my sisters and brother who live in the Lower 48. I have found older relatives who are as brave as I was in teaching myself how to use the computer at 62 years old, because I wanted to preserve and write cookbooks from all the recipes of my Mom and Grandma.

My oldest relative who still communicates with me, Cousin Jim Nelson in his 90s who with his wife, Janet, live in Salina, Kansas. He published and printed papers and magazine for years and years for a ministry in Mexico. He just retired!! He is full of firsthand knowledge of my McClure family history. I so appreciate his master of words.

Son David spent 60 days on the North Slope building an ice road and grandson Arleigh works there too. It was so nice to hear David’s voice every morning as though he was just next door. Arleigh texts me or sends pictures also.

I have found friends who I went to school with. And enjoy the news of their families.

SO my frustration with both of these gadgets once or twice a day because I have to reboot, recall, redo, turn them off and on, or plug in to get them to work! I know I am not the only one that has this problem but our reception in this area makes it twice as hard and sometimes the engineer at the keyboard is rusty and old. I have to admit that I am not the handiest when it comes to the new technology that my grandson Grey and daughter Susan so patiently do for me. Trouble is my recall button is not as good as it was and I have to call them “again” for them to tell me again — PLEASE

I can’t help but think about the past and the fact that I wrote letters to my cousins in the Navy during WWII. And once in a while I wrote letters to my uncles stationed all over the world. It took three four weeks for them to get them and when they got time to reply it came in the mail, stamped, “opened” as it had been read to see if the writer did not disclose their locations during war time.. One time I had heard it was the “thing” to write a letter on toilet paper. So for about a six-month period I wrote reams of words on yards of toilet paper, until Mom discovered what I was doing — “WASTING TOILET PAPER! Do you KNOW who much that costs?” I am sure at the time it was not more than a dime! By the way, all receivers of my toilet paper letter wrote back, “That it sure came in handy!!” OH!!!!

I had gadgets and pots and pans in my tiny kitchen that spill over into a shed that we bought about five years ago to hold “my stuff.” I have about every kitchen gadget that has a certain thing it does better or is quicker or faster or more efficiently. I still revert back to my old cast-iron skillets and my big cast-iron pot with a lid and a handle to hang over a campfire, just in case I may need it again to cook over the fire or on the woodstove.

When Bob and I (with special neighbors) built our tiny house, I had a carload of my “junk” and Bob had a pickup load of his tools and precious memories. Now I joke we would need three dump trucks and a couple semis to move us. Then we decided we were not going anywhere, but here to stay, so Bob built (with friends) a Cave-tool shop to house Bob’s stuff —complete with big TV, fridge and microwave and a woodstove to keep him toasty. And a rescue Cave Kitty.

I have a sewing room (built by Bob) stacked full of my sewing stuff and on the other wall a ton of cookbooks and this computer and a printer to keep me busy. AND yes, the overflow is in the shed!! In the spring I organize and throw away or give away a “few things” but most of it I put back in containers just in case I may need it someday! Some of the “I may need” has been tucked in containers for at least 30 years!

Well, I started this to complain about the time it takes me to get in contact or to use my cellphone to get me connected to the outside world. Usually if there is truly a problem it may take an hour or a day — but now that I think about it — it took my written letters a week to get to the destination and another week or month or two for a reply.

So I have to count myself lucky. I have learned to use these gadgets or I would have time on my hands to go for walks or plant gardens, sew or talk to my neighbors, and not be frustrated that “the dang thing does not work” so I will have to try in about an hour to get my endeavor done. OK, not to mention that if I want to order something I am put on hold with the “gosh awful elevator music” in my ear! Well, now I feel better – how about you?

Talking about the past, I remember vividly about Grandpa and Dad killing pigs in the fall for winter bacon and hams, pork chops and sausage. I “helped” Grandpa scrape the hair off the hide. I “helped” Grandma render lard so she would have something to fry her wonderful fried chicken in. She put the pork fat in a big black enamel roaster pan and placed it in the oven for all day slow-baking at low temperature to render out the lard. She then carefully poured it into large 5-quart buckets to be stored in the coal shed where it kept cool summer and winter. That also is where the hams and bacon were smoked and cured. And yes, at one end was a stack of coal they used for the coal stove to keep the basement house warm. Later they modernized and put in a big “coal oil stove” and Grandma cooked on a kerosene white enamel stove. HOW times have changed! OH, I cannot forget the render cracklins (pork rinds) — leftover parts of the pork fat were so good sprinkled with a little salt.

Grandma spent days cooking up pork chops and slices of pork and making sausage, so they could be preserved. She poured hot lard over them in layers into a large crock jar. Then Grandpa would carry it our to the cool coal shed for winter keeping. No refrigerators in those days and if they did have one it was called an ice box and had to have ice replenished every week by the ice man who came by.


Now that Easter is around the corner, here is what was often done to color eggs for Easter.

Boil eggs gently for 20 minutes and peel under cold water immediately.

Add the juice of canned pickled beets. Let stand overnight or several days.


Another recipe for cooking beets until tender and remove skins: (I open two cans of sliced beets!)


½ cup brown sugar

1 cup water

3 or 4 cloves

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 stick cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Bring to boil and pour over sliced beets. Next day remove the beets and add hard-boiled eggs. However, some people just add eggs to beets in juice and serve that way. GOOD.


There are several recipes for this, but I think this maybe the original.

In the blender place:

6-ounce can frozen orange juice

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

10 ice cubes

Process for 30 seconds. Serve immediately

For breakfast: Use two cups milk in place of water and add up to 4 eggs.

RUSSIAN TEA, the old fashioned way

I love this and keep the modern version on hand.

1 stick of cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

1/4 cup honey

1 cup water

Let stand one hour.


Steep 1 minutes with 6 cups of boiling water and 2 tablespoons black tea.

Strain to get tea out of cup and add:

2/3 cups orange juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

Reheat and serve. Garnish with then orange slices.

All above recipes were published in the early 1930s.

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

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