I loved visiting Mamaw and Papaw on the farm. While Papaw spent his days out in the fields, I would spend my time with Mamaw, usually in the kitchen. As I mentioned in a past blog, Mamaw was a great cook, but she hated it! Since part of the farmwife job description includes cooking meals, she took on the challenge and did it well.
All the meals took place at the kitchen table. Mamaw woke up early to fix Papaw breakfast before he went out for the day. The meal usually included a small bowl of cereal and glass of orange juice (or Tang) to start, then eggs, bacon, and toast. (Farming requires a lot of fuel for the body!) She would fill up an insulated jug with ice water for Papaw to take with him out into the hot summer fields to keep him hydrated while he plowed, harvested, or fixed fences to keep in the cows.
The main meal of the day was dinner at noontime, so the preparations began early. The menu always included meat (chicken fried steak, roast beef, and hamburger patties are the ones I remember most--they ate a lot of beef since they raised the animals), a starch (either potatoes, bread, or elbow macaroni cooked in broth) and a vegetable or two from Mamaw’s stash of home-canned vegetables from the garden, which she kept on shelves in a corner of the basement. The meal also include some of her homemade pickles or pickled beets. Dessert was often a dish of ice cream, a piece of banana bread or spice cake, or a piece of pie (usually for Sunday dinner.) Iced tea was the beverage.
Supper was usually a simple meal of sandwiches (peanut butter and tomato, anyone!) or hamburgers. The real treat about supper was getting to eat potato chips and drink pop (soda for your east coasters.)
Mamaw died last December. She was 96 years old and had left the farm long ago—in the early 1980s when Papaw’s health made living so far outside of town a bad idea. After Papaw passed away in 1986, she moved into an assisted living facility that provided meals. No more cooking! She was glad to leave the food preparations to someone else.
Mamaw gave me what is one of my most prized possessions—her recipe box. It is full of her best-known dishes, and some I don’t remember ever trying. They are written in her neat a flowing handwriting, of which she took great pride. Most of them include short notations on what she thought of the dish (good, very good, excellent, etc) and usually the source of the recipe, such as a friend, relative, newspaper, or product packaging.
The box also contains other interesting tidbits, such as a list of all the fruits and vegetables she and her friend Velma Drake canned and froze in 1971. The list includes 114 pints of green beans, 42 pints of strawberry preserves, 40 pints of dill pickles, 32 pints of applesauce, and 19 pints of tomato juice.
I’ve decided to work my way through the recipe box and try them all—and share her and the results with you.
I started with this Banana Bread recipe, which I use all of the time. Mamaw notes it came from Mrs. L. F. Raabe, who I don’t remember meeting but probably did. She also wrote that the recipe was “good” and underlined the word—a sign she really liked it! Michael was happy I made it, since banana bread is one of his favorite things.
1/2 cup Crisco [I used unsalted butter]1 cup sugar
3 ripe bananas
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nuts
Cream sugar and shortening. Beat eggs and add to sugar and shortening. Dissolve soda in a little warm water and add to above. Add flour and salt. Mash banana and ship until light and fluffy and add to batter. Add nuts. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees in a greased pan. (Bake at 325 degrees in glass pan.) [Mine didn’t take an hour—more like 50 to 55 minutes. You can cover the pan with foil if the bread begins to get too dark.]