This may be the longest story Grace wrote. It’s a good one!
Grandma Fanny loved to cook. She never actually said those words, but given how much time she invested in baking and cooking, she had to love it. Some of Grandma’s stories took place in the farm kitchen, and involved cooking for the large number of hired hands that came through during harvest time. She talked about fixing lunch and taking a wagon load of food to the fields for the men. Then it was right back to the kitchen to start cooking the afternoon snack, which sounded more like a major lunch to me. Those men were working hard, so they earned their pies and scrapple sandwiches.
In Jamestown, when I lived with Grandma, she baked continuously. Often for us (the best caramel rolls ever), but more often to sell at Wolf’s Grocery, the little store a half block away. The grocery was small by today’s standards, maybe 2,000 square feet, barely a house size. Mr. Wolf and his family lived upstairs.
Grandma baked rolls, bread, pies, and kuchen. She had great recipes, and insisted on using the best ingredients. One day a friend of hers asked why her caramel rolls were so good. Grandma explained the recipe, and that she used butter. The friend said, “Well, I just use shortening because it’s cheaper.” Grandma was incensed that her friend wouldn’t consider using butter, even though that was the distinguishing ingredient. I’ve taken that lesson to heart, cutting cooking corners only when flavor, texture, and presentation are not compromised. I always use butter, never margarine. I blame Grandma for that.
I’ve been thinking about what Mama’s kitchen was like. In comparison to what we have now, she sure didn’t have much. With so little work space and no running water, electricity or gas it’s amazing how much she did.
The kitchen was a fairly large room and the first room you came into from outside. There was a front door that opened into the entryway at the bottom of the stairs and into the living room but we never used that door so the kitchen was always a busy place. The coal-wood range was the most important thing in the room. On it all the meals were cooked, wash water heated, bath water heated, meat and vegetables processed + canned. Clothes dryed by it in winter, the baby bathed close by to be nice + warm. All the bread, and rolls + cakes were baked in it and sometimes we warmed our feet in the oven. Even baby lambs or other little animals would be brought in when they were freezing outside to be warmed and nursed back to health by the warmth of that stove.
There was a small cabinet on the south side of the room for dishes. It had some drawers for silverware etc and also a large flour bin that held a 100 pound sack of flour that came in nice white cotton sacks. There were no counter tops like we have now so all the work was done on the kitchen table.
We ate in the dining room a lot when there was a lot of hired men or for the bigger meals but breakfast we usually had in the kitchen.
I remember one time in the fall Melvin was cleaning his shotgun in the kitchen and apparently had not unloaded it cause it went off and the shot hit the chrome skirt on the stove and made a dent in it. Luckily, no one was burt.
From the garden we had many quarts of peas and corn, green beans, carrotts, etc that were processed by boiling the jars in the big oval-shaped boiler on the stove. That was a hot job just like baking bread. On a hot summer day it could get rather uncomfortable with that hot stove going. I think it must have been 120° degrees in there sometimes when it would be 100 or more outside. Maybe it just seemed that hot!! We did have a pea sheller for shelling all those peas or snapping beans wasn’t too bad a job. Sure was better than washing and sterilizing the jars.
In the fall Mama should start baking fruitcakes to sell at Christmas time. She made several different sizes and she made both white and dark ones. We would wrap them all in waxed paper and then pretty paper and ribbons. She also made caramel candy and chocolate and bars that took about 2 hours per batch on that hot stove too. we kids would shell peanuts for the caramel and also make boxes and cover them with Christmas paper. Sometimes we would help pack the boxes providing we did it just right. She always tried to make them look as professional as she could. She sold a lot of candy for many years. Good stuff!!