Thursday, January 5, 2012


Back in the autumn of 2000, I was sitting in my sister's kitchen with Mom.  The three of us decided that since other whacky families had put together cookbooks, we could too.  That Christmas, I gave everyone binders with photos printed on the recipe section dividers.  The next year, I handed out pages to add to the binder, that included recipes, photos, and quirky food stories.  My plan was to give everyone pages to add to the cookbook every year.

Well, we all know how those things go.  Especially with me.  I think that lasted 2, maybe 3 years.

But one year the pages included a few little food snippets - sort of like "The Little Things" postings, but all food related.  Some you've already heard about - like chickens meeting their maker on our patio.  Here are highlights of some others:

Angel Food cake, cooling upside down, balanced on a Pepsi bottle.  Mom made awesome angel food cake.  She didn't ice it.  She served it with a sort of syrup.  I would say it was more like a sweet gravy that you poured over the cake, but that just sounds weird.  And why did she turn it over and set it precariously atop a bottle?  If I ever find out, I'll let you know.

Snow ice cream.  We made it after most big snow falls.

Having BLTs and corn on the cob every day for 2 months during the summer, and never getting sick of it.  This will not surprise anyone who knows me.  A meal consisting of bacon (from our own "stock"), tomatoes (grown in our garden) and corn on the cob (from our own field).  Who could get tired of that?! My mouth is watering just remembering those days.

Listening to the markets at lunch time, then watching "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."  Prior to home computers and 24 hour news channels with stock and commodity price tickers crawling across the bottom of TV screens, some AM radio stations announced what was going on at the Chicago Board of Trade around noon every weekday.  The only thing I understood about this was when the guy sounded off about the corn, bean, wheat and livestock futures prices - everybody at the table had to shut up.  I got shushed more times at the lunch table than I did in church.  And the Mary Hartman thing?  That was a spoofy soap opera that made fun of all other soap operas.  Most of the jokes were over my head, but I love the fact that my father liked the show, probably more than my mom.

Making "Pigs in Blankets" in my Easy Bake Oven, accidentally quadrupling the amount of salt in the recipe, and Dad insisting that they tasted great.

Mom molding hamburgers with my Easy Bake Oven pie tin for the next 20 years.

"Man" pancakes.  Pancakes in the shape of a person, and deciding what body part to eat first.  Good times.

Mom's pies.  One of her best was the China Clipper Apple pie.  It has instant tea in it.  Get it?  Tea - from China?  Anyway, Mom's pies were awesome and years ago, she gave my niece's husband a pie making tutorial.  Even though they are rarely made, it's nice to know her pie-making-secrets are still in the family.

The freezer.  The freezer in our "summer kitchen" was the largest freezer I've ever seen in a single family residence.  I used to joke that multiple bodies would fit in it, but it's true.  It would contain, among other things, lots of beef and pork (from our livestock), chicken (thanks to Sis), "freezer slaw" (vinegar coleslaw), homemade applesauce, and gallon tubs of ice milk (it was cheaper than ice cream - long before they started marketing it as "low fat ice cream" and jacked up the price).

Mom putting milk from our cow into containers from the grocery store so we would drink it.  Because, you know, milk from a cow is just gross.  Store bought milk was much better.  Mom was a sly one, she was.

Denny and I making Chef Boyardee pizza on Sunday nights, and all the popcorn we could eat out of a huge, dented kettle.  After I left the farm, I found out that lots of families had their major, weekly, all-the-family-gather-round meal on Sundays.  Not us.  Sunday = Mom's day off.  We usually had hamburgers after church (Dad grilled in the summer) and Dennis and I would whip together what resembled a pizza for dinner.

The "cheese" promoted on the box was granulated stuff in a little packet.  But I didn't know any better.  As far as I knew, that was pizza.  The kettle of popcorn was more than twice the size of any jumbo movie popcorn.  When Mom moved off the farm and had an estate sale of sorts, I made sure I got the kettle.  It's dented and not pretty, but every time I see it, I think about those Sunday nights.

I still have the binder and instead of re-typing recipes, scanning photos and making every page look fancy, I've been literally cutting and pasting.  My cookbook will end up looking much more like Mom's did - a notebook with recipes taped to lined paper, notes scribbled in the margins, complete with various colors of food stains.  And that makes it even better than before.

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