Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.
Hot air, hot breath, hot
skin, hot wind sucks every bit
of moisture from me.
My mom was a great cook. She was self taught, having cooked for her family alongside her mother, and by herself as grandma was needed elsewhere on the farm. Her cooking was simple and homey, yet she occasionally would try new things to the dismay of my father. She cooked almost all from scratch as I was growing up, only switching to convenience foods after her children were grown, though she bought the skim milk and margarine myths for a few years. We lived in a suburban area, but farms were still close enough to order half a beef to put in the freezer, and eggs and raw milk were still delivered by truck to many neighborhoods. She had live chickens delivered to her door and butchered them herself so she knew it was done right.
Mom made the best summer picnics. She fried the chicken the day before and made potato salad so the flavors would blend overnight. When she packed up she put in cans of black olives, her homemade pickled beets and dill pickles, and farmer’s pickles – thinly sliced cucumbers and onions in vinegar – along with lots of cut veggies like celery and carrots wrapped in the plastic bread bags she saved in the days before ziplock baggies, whatever tomatoes were ripe to slice and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a bag of potato chips for a treat. Watermelon was the dessert of choice but we often had homemade fruit pies. A jug of kool-aid with half the sugar was mixed up to take as well, beer being the drink of choice for the adults.
How I loved her fried chicken. Hot, cold, didn’t matter. She taught me how to make it her way but mine never tasted quite the same. The chicken we had when I was young was different than now; it tasted good. Farm raised chickens are not CAFO chickens. Chicken was an inexpensive part of her food budget; she saved money by butchering them herself. I lack her skill of knowing how to safely butcher a chicken without contaminating the meat with the innards. For me to buy a chicken raised the way Mom would have bought them costs me more than $30.00 a bird. Not in my budget by any means, even if it does taste better.
Mom cooked the chicken in an electric fry pan in a full 4 ounces of butter. She put the whole cube of butter in to melt while she dredged the chicken she’d just cut into sections in seasoned flour. When the butter was the right temperature (she set the dial at 350 degrees), she carefully put the dredged chicken pieces into the hot butter in a certain order, breasts first because they are thicker, then thighs, legs, wings, and backs. Yes, she cut two back pieces and cooked them along with all the other parts. They were often the only pieces left for her after she fed the rest of the family; she showed me where the juicy bits of meat hid. When hot, her chicken was crispy on the outside, juicy and done on the inside; when cold, it was tender and flavorful.
She tried to teach me how to cut up a chicken. To this day, I never quite get it right, my pieces looking like some insane hatchet crazed wacko attacked the poor chicken. I admit I am not safe with a sharp knife having cut ends and bits of my fingers off. I have a set of dull knives I am allowed to use which I make function well enough for me. The good knives are reserved for the hubster and the son who know how to use them. Family joke runs along the lines of “Oh, no! Mom’s in the kitchen and she’s got a knife!”
Being half the woman my mom was, by the time I put together a picnic, I am too tired and cranky to enjoy it. When we get to the picnic site I just want to lie down and sleep. Mom did everything with 4 children, 2 nephews, a husband, and her brother under foot at a minimum, and many times there were additional family members and friends in the mix as well. She probably wanted to sleep by the time she got to our picnic sites as well, but she had little choice in the matter, having kids to watch, our family’s division of labor being stereotypically male/female as many households were in the 50s and 60s. I wonder now if she slept much at all.
Then I’m a bit of a snob as well. I won’t buy a picnic to go these days. I’ve done that before and it’s not worth the money. The chicken is greasy and fatty, the salads and sides don’t taste good with all the artificial flavorings instead of spices. The watermelons aren’t even as sweet as the old days and fruit pie from a store has crust you could wear for shoe leather. Why buy it if it doesn’t taste good and feel good on your tongue?
July is that month I was in the habit of spending a week with my Mom. I’d pick her ripe raspberries and put them up in the freezer or into jelly. I’d make potato salad from the home grown goodies in her kitchen. I’d run to the grocery store for her to pick up fresh fruit and veg as they arrived. Fresh is always best. We’d eat and talk until our mouths were sore from smiling and sharing information and we’d close out the evening with a little bowl of ice cream.
Nobody ever cooks like your mom does. I’ve tried to re-create the flavors and textures of her dishes and I’ve decided the available foods to cook with are different. The potatoes and peas don’t come from my garden like hers did, the milk isn’t raw and the butter not from grass fed cows. I don’t butcher my own chickens. I learned so much from my mom about preparing food, but my hands produce food unique to me, a diluted version of food love coming from my hands, not hers. Her food love came full-bodied from the ground up, garden to table.
Color Watch – blooming attractions in my neighborhoods this week – pretty bright pink Sweet William; soft blue Bachelor’s buttons marching down sidewalks and street sides; glossy pastel pinks and yellows of honeysuckle; yellow, orange, and red firecracker day lilies and coreopsis.
Currently Reading – When Patty Went Away (2014, fiction) by Jeannie Burt; 5 Steps to Professional Presence: How to Project Confidence, Competence, and Credibility at Work (2001, business communications) by Susan Bixler; Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Hugette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune (2013, history) by Bill Dedman. Yes, concurrently.
This week I have been grateful for:
- Having a safe 4th of July. The illegal fireworks in my local neighborhoods came out after midnight and made noise most of the dark hours as if the police and firefighters would not still be alert to the dangers. My home and being remain intact.
- Avoiding a collision the morning of the 4th with an old man who ran a stop sign, didn’t see me, and came within inches of hitting my rig, and acted like he was oblivious to the entire event as I paralelled him for the next couple blocks. Didn’t get his license plate number as he turned off at the next road and I could not turn off safely behind him. Grateful I was able to see him coming, to still be an observant driver, and able to drive without mishap.
- Getting another corner cleaned. Dropping off a bag at Goodwill on my way through town.
- Remembering how hard change to my living space is.
- Really good fiction reading available this summer.
- Time to read really good fiction.
- Electricity, for the times I need to cool the house down and move the air around.
- Open doors after dark to capture the cooler air.
- Outdoor cooking.
- A recent episode of dizziness diagnosed as benign vertigo, no evidence of brain tumors, stroke, or heart issues (yay!). Ah, the aging body. One surprise after another.
- The smell of meat cooking. I don’t eat much, but enjoy it when I do.
- Pinning my hair up off my neck in the heat.
Hoping you have a lovely week.
Namaste. Peace. Blessings.
Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch