June 14 – I often tried to surprise Ma by trying to clean the house myself while she was out selling vegetables or eggs. She couldn’t always find everything I had put away, but I know she appreciated my trying. One day I tried to make my very first cherry pie so she wouldn’t have to make a dessert when she got back. While watching Ma, I always thought it would be easy to make pies, for she did it so quickly and well. I had no recipe, but I remembered the ingredients—Crisco, flour, salt, and water. The only trouble was that I had not remembered the consistency of the dough, and the crust that went into that pie pan was more like cake dough than the makings of a tasty, flaky pie crust.
Well, I opened the oven door a million times, only to see the concoction still steaming and sizzling away as the heat tried to dry out the cup of excess moisture. Suffice it to say that when Ma came home, the “pie crust” was still sizzling, the cherries were steaming, and the pie never did materialize. As I threw out the concoction that night, I was a wiser person. Ma figured I had learned my lesson too, I guess, for she never scolded me. I had done my best, and that was enough for her!
One job I enjoyed helping Ma with was making of enormous sugary doughnuts which she often made, especially in the wintertime. Sitting on every available space on towels on table and chairs near the living room heater, the doughnuts were left to rise and then put into the boiling Crisco, a few at a time. With a fork, Ma turned them slowly, letting them brown just right on all sides. Doughnut holes were also fried to a golden brown.
My job came next as I took the finished doughnuts and dropped them into a brown paper bag filled with plain sugar or with sugar and cinnamon mixed. Oh, the aroma that stole forth from that bag, and the aching tummy I had an hour later after eating a dozen or so of the delicious pastries.
The German raised doughnuts called grepples, took a good many hours of mixing and kneading and rising, but they were also delicious. Sugaring them was fun too, but eating them, just warm and light from the sugar bag was a delightful recreation. Everyone for miles around among our neighbors and friends knew about Ma’s grepples. She baked twenty dozen at a time for church bake sales, where they disappeared like the proverbial hotcakes. She had parties for our young church friends where another twenty dozen also disappeared, twenty-three being eaten by one girl! German kuchas often made their appearance at our house, some full of prunes, others custardy with egg and milk, others light and dry with cinnamon and butter smeared on top and lightly toasted. – CHRIS