Monday, January 26, 2009

Of Fond Food Memories

Aunt Amy is compiling a family cookbook and asked us to send her "food" stories or memories to include. Following are a few of the memories I have e-mailed her and which I thought I would also post on my blog.

I remember when we were youngsters, canning with Mom when we lived in Farmer City. Mom would usually set up an assembly line and assign each child a particular task in the canning process. (Because of this, I am just now learning how to do the whole process--I'd only done parts before!) Anyway, one time a neighbor offered to let us pick her concord grapes to make grape juice. Mom, as usual, set up her assembly line in the kitchen, which included a board between two chairs. She had set a 3 gallon vat of juice on the board to finish straining, and then she sat down next to it. Unfortunately, the board broke, splashing dark purple grape juice all over Mom's newly painted (light blue and white) kitchen! We didn't can any grape juice after that that I can recall.

Another time, a farmer friend of the family invited us to come to his farm and pick up all the walnuts that had fallen from his trees. There were hundreds, so we spent a good several hours gathering walnuts and putting them in large trash bags. When we returned home, we dumped the nuts into a large kiddy pool, whereupon mom and dad proceeded to put us older kids to work hulling them. We probably spent a good couple of weeks on that project, and the resulting stains on our hands took weeks to come off! After that, of course, the nuts had to be shelled, which also took a ridiculous amount of time. Mom and Dad could tell us kids were becoming disgruntled with this task which we had never wanted to begin with, so in an attempt to motivate us, they carefully pried open a few of the nuts and inserted coins, then glued them back together for us to find when we cracked them open. By that point though, none of us cared how much money was in the nuts, but we knew we would have to finish the job anyway, so we carried on, until finally, all the nuts were hulled and shelled. There was one small problem. The farmer we had gotten the nuts from had neglected to tell us the walnuts were Black walnuts (very bitter) as opposed to the English walnuts which most of us are used too. Mom tried every way she could think of to make the nuts palatable, but to no avail. We ended up feeding all of them to the local squirrels.

I remember one of our favorite books to read when we were young was "Chancy and the Grand Rascal." Dad would read this to us as we sat by the fireplace cracking nuts or roasting hot dogs. At one part in the book, the Grand Rascal is floating down the river on a raft. The rule aboard the raft was that if you complained about any of the cooking, you inherited the despised job of being the raft's chef. One dinner, a bar of soap inadvertently fell into the pot of beans. As everyone ate, no one said anything for a while, until someone piped up and said "These beans are soapy!" Everyone turned to stare at him, sure they had their next cook lined up, until the fellow continued, "But I like soapy beans!" We were highly amused by this, and from that moment on, it became our family's rule as well, only we modified it to be that whoever complained about the food got to do cleanup for that meal. There was one time when we were in Wyoming visiting Grandma Christiansen, and one of the kids had cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast. Unfortunately, not everyone has my amazing scrambled egg cooking abilities, and the eggs turned out quite burnt. Nevertheless, in following Grandma's rule to not waste food, they were served. One of the kids, after taking a bite, and with a disgusted look on his face made the obvious statement, "These eggs are burnt!" Quickly realizing his mistake, he continued, "But I like burnt eggs!"

Another memory I have of the farm is when Heidi and Ben were asked to wash a bunch of potatoes for dinner. Rather then washing them normally in the sink, they decided they would have a little fun with the task and float them down the irrigation ditch to wash them. We were all quite impressed by their ingenuity (this was back in the days before germs were an issue) and wished we would of thought of that!

One of the things we loved to do as kids was to bring Mom breakfast in bed on special occasions such as her birthday and Mother's Day. I remember we thought it was so cool to color her milk with food coloring, and we would do so every time we brought her breakfast. In retrospect, I am sure the milk looked revolting, and I suspect she would dump it down the drain after we had left the room, since her glass was always empty!

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