Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Saturday, August 13, 2011

C: Vintage Recipes and Vintage Ways of Dining

wonderwomanaward I loved V’s post on vintage recipes.  I knew MawMaw—knew V’s other grandmother, too.  Elsie, I must say, was a character—a Wonder Woman.  She was a kind, intelligent woman who could have been really something in today’s world of more opportunity for women—she raised a wonderful son mostly on her own.  Now that I am “of an age” to appreciate what her life was, my hat is off to her.  V has written about her before and must again.

But the topic of recipes and meals with grandmothers is what I want to talk about.

Both my grandmothers came from country stock.  My paternal Grandmother, Lyda, was accustomed to cooking for farm hands.  She was a humdinger of a cook, too.

When we would go to Lyda’s house for Sunday dinner, theangel foodre would ALWAYS be these things:  Fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, a salad and angel food cake with canned peaches, homemade  biscuits (I don’t remember rolls) and a variety of vegetables.  Those were just staple dishes. (I never see Angel Food Cake without thinking of my grandmother).

What would be different at each meal would be the addition of some of these: ham (often served), pork chops, and what she called “beef roast,” which would be braised in gravy.

Yes, my Grandmother Lyda would serve up to four meat dishes and a groaning table of side items and desserts for Sunday dinner.  As I think back, it amazes me, but I realize she was still in farm cooking mode, harkening back to the days when she would have a bunch of hungry men crowded around her table.

My other grandmother, Gertrude, was also a good country cook, but she never served such a lavish table.  Gertrude was much, much poorer in her young mother days than Lyda was, and Gertrude’s meals were plentiful in quantity but not so lavish in array was were Lyda’s. 

turnip greens Gertrude would have a main meat dish with sides of vegetables—always potatoes included.  On her stove would be a BIG pot of greens of some kind, “cooked down real good.”  Ummmm.  And her green beans would be “cooked down,” too, with bits of bacon or ham and—yes, it’s true—seasoned with some of the bacon drippin’s (grease) she kept in a container on her stove, adding to it each time she fried bacon.  Listen, you youngsters, everyone, including my mother, kept a silver metal drippin’s container on their stove to use for seasoning back in those days.

Something both my grandmothers did is something you don’t see today.  Both these women were spotless housekeepers.  This was the day before plastic wrap.  I don’t recall either of my grandmothers having plastic containers.  They kept a big supply of “flour sack” dish towels, clean and folded.  When we got up from the noon table (the bflour sacksig meal was always mid-day, not evening), all the leftovers were moved, still in their serving bowls, to the kitchen table where they were covered with clean dish towels, awaiting  the evening meal.  I don’t remember anything being refrigerated for those several hours between meals.  The food just sat at room temperature until folks got hungry and helped themselves again.

And I don’t remember one case, even, of food poisoning.

Neither of these women would understand—nor care to—my grab-and-go lifestyle of Lean Cuisine in the freezer.  I don’t much like it, either, but what’s  a single girl to do?  I have MIL, who graces me with meatloaf and last night let me have the rest of her Stouffer’s lasagna, which was great!  But she’s in the same boat—we just don’t cook anymore. 

My Grandmother Gertie’s style of poverty cooking was reflected in some of the dishes she was known for.  One of them was bread pudding.  It was not chunky like bread pudding you see these days, but smooth and rather  thin.  There was no fancy-dancy whiskey sauce for it.  It was just plain left-over bread mixed with milk, eggs, sugar and cinnamon.  She usually baked it in a 9 x 13 pan, and it was served room temperature, cut into squares.  It was delicious.  It was a way to avoid wasting old bread—a delicious way.

Grandma lived about an hour south of us.  One time my Aunt N, who lived two doors down from us, made the trek to see her.  For sombread puddinge reason, my mother did not go with her.  A few days later Mom was speaking with Granny on the phone.

How’d you like your bread pudding?”  Granny asked.

What are you talking about?” was Mom’s answer.

They got to the bottom of it…It was Mom’s “turn” to get a pudding from Granny, Aunt N having had the last one.  When Aunt N visited, Granny sent Mom’s pudding by her….never made it.

I got it home and it just called to me,” was Aunt N’s confession.  “I sat and ate half of it by myself.  The boys finished it off.”

These octogenarian sisters will still occasionally say something like, “N, remember when you ate my bread pudding?”  Ah, memories.

But we live a freezer/fast-food lifestyle nowadays, don’t we?   I think back to Lyda’s huge meals and Gertie’s bacon grease seasoning and wonder at the fact that people were not any heavier than they are today—in fact, I think we have more weight problems today, don’t you? 

V’s theory is that, for all the “unhealthy” cooking methods, the food was at least “from scratch” and not processed (except for Lyda’s store-bought Angel Food Cake and canned peaches).  I remember both my grandmothers sitting on the porch shelling peas or snapping beans in preparation for the meals.  Those sessions of women companionably snapping beans (us kids helping sporadically) were comforting times for me, listening in on their chatter. 

peas snapped beans

Most everything was fresh, and what did come from the freezer had been frozen, “put up” from fresh state by my grandmothers.

I see in V’s vintage recipes the trait both my grandmothers shared—avoidance of waste, turning vegetables that would otherwise be unused into chow-chow and pickles.

But that style of life requires full-time homemakers, something becoming scarcer these days.  Different days, different styles.

Oh, for some of Gertie’s bread pudding….  C


Farmchick said...

We used to eat just like this at both of my grandmother's homes. We would visit them in the summer months and their cooking was always such a treat.

Vee said...

A pleasure to read this post. Both my grandmother's were good cooks. One a "country" cook and one a "city" cook, but the memories of both styles of cooking make me feel hugged.

Yes, we are much heavier today than folks were back then and here they were eating real butter, gravy, bacon grease, and all manner of "evil." I don't know what the cause of my weight issues, perhaps it's the sedentary lifestyle, who knows, but I don't like it.

Pondside said...

I really enjoyed this post - learning about your background and remembering my grandmother's cooking. My mum learned from her Depression-cook mother. I remember coming home from school on Fridays to the most amazing aromas - Mum would have spent the day baking - bread, molasses cookies, oatmeal cookies, cinnamon buns, date squares.....all day long, and everything cooling on opened brown paper bags on every flat surface.

Beverly@Beverly's Back Porch said...

Boy does this bring back memories. My grandmother cooked the same. One meat was just not something she would even think of doing. Angel Food cake and canned peaches, I can taste it now.

Debi@7Gates said...

This was the same at my Grandman's house. Those biscuits sat out early in the morning until dinner time along with the chicken from lunch. You're correct, we never got sick from bad food. This was interesting reading from the past.

Vickie said...

C, you could have written my own story. I've still got bacon drippins on my stove and we still leave out the food until supper time rolls around - at least at our big family gatherings. We've never worried about it, and none of us ever got sick.

I think the secret of eating that way long ago was that they didn't sit an office all day long. My grands were farmers and they were out working hard all day long. Even the grandmothers worked hard inside and in the garden. We can't eat that way nowadays.

Loved this post! Miss my grandmothers' cooking...

Thistle Cove Farm said...

We have similar memories!
About that angel food cake...try it grilled and then topped with fresh fruit...let me know if you like it.
We grew up working, doing physical labor - the gardens, chores, house cleaning, laundry washed and hung on the line...makes a difference to work off consumed calories. Sitting at the computer doesn't use many calories; wish it were otherwise but, no, it's not.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

There was a lot of love and comfort in those home cooked meals, and lessons still valuable today in thrift and no waste. There's lots still be learned and passed on.
Cowgirl V

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

Your grandmother Gertrude reminds me of my Maw Maw. Just a simple, country cook, but lots of good home-grown veggies, beans with ham hocks, etc. I also remember leaving food out until supper without any incidents. Sometimes I feel guilty for not having big Sunday dinners for my own kids. Everyone seems to be off doing their own thing and I don't push it. Maybe I should!

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennesssee

Just a precious post. My grandmothers could do as you described with one hand tied behind their back! And we always put the majority of our leftovers in the oven, including left-over fried chicken. Some things were put in the fridge, but it was the oven. The first time I did that waaaaaaaay back in the days when I attempted to cook, my husband about stroked out on me ...LOL. HIS family ALWAYS put everything in the fridge....LOL

Sandra said...

C' -- My mother was more of your grandmothers' generation (because I was her late life baby), so many of your grandma memories are one's I have of my mom. The bread pudding you describe is exactly like that Mama made. However, I don't remember food sitting out on the table between meals. But when I started dating Hubby, his farm family did it that way. I remember being surprised, but as you say, there never seemed to be a problem with that practice. Thanks for sharing the great memories. (Mama had a bacon drippings can too and used it in the beans.)

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