February 26 – As I have said before, Ma was a good cook. I can still smell the crusty raw-fried potatoes sizzling in the pan. I can see the chewy white sauerkraut in the huge white crock, with the plate on top, weighted down with a big stone. I can smell the tangy fried green tomatoes and again savor the crunchy appeal of the outside crust. And those crusty fried summer squash! The tangy sweetness of those crispy bread and butter pickles and the cool goodness of the watermelon rind pickles will not be forgotten. Homemade tomato juice strained off the thicker puree that made tangy steaming hot sup for winter kept us well, with its abundance of vitamin C. Tomatoes and fried bread blended together were one of Ma’s special dishes.
Coleslaw, rich with salad dressing and creamy canned milk, disappeared at our house by the bowlful. Huge platters of corn on the cob sprinkled with salt and dripping with butter, made a whole meal, along with a big plate of sliced tomatoes. Spicy hot applesauce made from McIntosh or Spy apples warmed our hearts as well as our stomachs. It is no wonder that I don’t like cold applesauce to this day. Ours never lasted long enough to get cold! And that rich red and tangy rhubarb sauce made in the early spring when the tall crisp stalks of rhubarb were cleaned and cooked for just a short time before being mixed with sugar and poured into our waiting dishes.
Pineapple or peach upside down cake, just warm and crumbly right from the oven, finished off many a meal. Or big slabs of warm gingerbread with a spicy aroma, made childish hearts jump for joy. And those mincemeat filled cookies, as only Ma could make them. I can still see the big round circles of dough with the spoonful of mincemeat in the center and then the top layer pinched tightly all around the edges, keeping the goodness in while they baked. And when the oven door opened and the delicious cookies came out, how nice it was to be handy just at the right time to be given one of those prizes, a treasure of eating goodness.
Thanksgiving time brought creamy mounds of mashed potatoes, candied sweet yams baked to a delicate crustiness, sweet-sour coleslaw, huge Hubbard squashes baked in the shell, homemade whole cranberry sauce, and in lieu of the turkey the others had, the special vegetarian stuffing prepared just for Rich and me. To us, that was the highlight of the Thanksgiving feast. Ma would mix just the right amount of herbs, chopped-up celery, and onions and blend them with soaked bread and eggs, before the mixture turned into a loaf and was baked till the crust was chewy and good.
Hmm, I think I’ll go have some lunch now… – CHRIS