Our kitchen was small and narrow and only had a little counter space. It had built-in shelves on one end to hold pots and pan. Underneath the shelves was a chute that went to the laundry room in the basement, directly below the kitchen. You could easily get your dirty clothes to the laundry room but you had to carry them up the stairs to put them away. For a while, we had a Hoosier cabinet that contained a flour-bin with a sifter. Mama said she did in fact store flour in the bin and just had to walk over and sift flour into a bowl when baking. Today the cabinet would be considered vintage. The photo above is Daddy cooking in the Macon Drive kitchen. It doesn’t show much of the kitchen but you can see how narrow it was, as well as the shelves I mentioned.master perform her magic with self-rising flour, Crisco, and buttermilk. As many times as I did that though, I still can’t make biscuits. You would think I could whip up a pan myself, but that was not meant to be, and that’s probably a good thing. To go along with all those biscuits, we usually had a hearty breakfast that included some form of meat—bacon, sausage, streak-o-lean, ham, or pork chops. Mama needed to cook a meat so she had grease to make gravy for the biscuits. For a sweet treat, we mixed sorghum syrup with softened margarine (I don’t remember ever having actual butter), and spreading that on a biscuit. We ate lots of eggs—fried, scrambled, or poached. Sometimes Mama even made scrambled eggs and brains (yuk!). Grits was a staple but occasionally we had rice, probably leftover from dinner the night before. And of course, we sometimes had French toast or pancakes. I remember spreading jelly on my pancakes instead of syrup, something I’m not the least bit interested in doing today.
|Davis Grocery from our front yard|
Dinners included your typical southern fare—chicken, pork chops, roast beef, spaghetti, cubed steak, porcupines (meatballs with rice in a tomato sauce), pork and sauerkraut, liver and onions (yuk!), and ham. Mama bought whole chickens and cut them up herself. You wouldn’t know which piece you were eating if I attempted that! When Mama worked the late shift, she’d often start dinner before leaving and left it up to us girls to finish. Mama said she used to buy one box of frozen shrimp and everyone got one to two pieces each. I don’t eat seafood so she cooked a pork chop for me. On weekends, Daddy sometimes cooked. I remember him cooking things like spaghetti, baked beans, curried chicken, BBQ ribs, and deer meat. I especially remember him cooking a cow tongue on several occasions. He put the tongue in a Dutch oven and filled it with water. It didn’t take much water because the tongue was huge. At least it was to my younger self. I probably ate a pork chop those nights as well. If we didn’t have biscuits with dinner, we had cornbread.homemade creamed corn, something I still make. One of my favorite vegetables was fried okra. If I had to pick a last meal, it would probably consist of fried okra, creamed corn, and crowder peas, along with one of Mama’s biscuits. Mama made a lot of macaroni and cheese, but never out of a box. She once told me she made it because it was cheap and went a long way for our large family but everybody loved it and it became a staple. Cooked cabbage, coleslaw, squash, rice, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes were often on the menu. To this day, if I eat white rice as a side dish, it’s got to have butter and sugar on it. Mama made sure we ate good in the winter months as well. The chest freezer was filled with beans, peas, corn, okra, squash, and fruits. Mason jars filled with tomatoes, soup mix, pickled peaches, and jellies lined the shelves in the dirt side of our basement. My great-grandfather (James Stewart Shields or Pappy to the great-grandchildren) gave Mama several red plum trees that Daddy planted along the backyard fence. We always had good homemade plum jelly for our biscuits. An apple tree gave us apple jelly too. We had two cherry trees but they never produced enough to do anything with. Mama said we had a grapevine in the backyard when they moved to the house but Daddy took it down because of bees. And we had a pear tree, but it didn’t produce much fruit either. Luckily, Mama bought pears from the farmers market and then made pear preserves. Have you ever had pear preserves? They’re delicious! Another good thing to put on biscuits. carrot cake at Christmastime. Cobblers were a favorite—peach, strawberry, blackberry—whatever fruit was in season or she had stored in the freezer. I still love her apple pie. One of our favorites was fried peach pies Mama made using dried peaches. She added a little water to the peaches, cooked them down, and added a little sugar. While that cooked, she made a pie crust that she rolled out and then cut out circles of dough using a cereal bowl turned upside down. Fry that baby up, then while it’s still hot, rub it with a stick of butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top. Delicious! This was one treat that Mama and I made together when she’d visit me in Virginia years later. I was in charge of the butter and cinnamon sugar and she did the rest. I always remember divinity at Christmas. We made homemade ice cream in the summer and all had to take a turn at cranking the freezer filled with ice and rock salt. For a quick snack, Mama spread peanut butter over soda crackers, topped them with a marshmallow, and then toasted them in the oven until the marshmallow was golden brown. A great, cheap, sweet treat that I still make today.
|Marshmallow, peanut butter on soda cracker treats|
Such good memories!
- Hoosier cabinet; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoosier_cabinet.
- Cake photo by Kathy Osborne.