December 23, 2009

Mom's Kitchen...back when.......

  Mom's Kitchen

     Most folks now value a large kitchen with lots of counter space and even more storage. Much of our food comes prepackaged. We have lots of leftover containers. We like appliances for everything: coffeemakers, blenders, microwaves, toaster ovens, and mixers, just to name a few. The fridge stores condiments, plus the usual dairy products, meats, veggies, and leftover food. We like dishwashers, plus sinks that have at least 2 compartments. Many kitchens now have seating for at least 4 people, house computers and workstations, and sometimes even televisions. Food is bought and no longer are seen housewives busy doing their own canning of fruits, meats, vegetables or jellies. Many are out there working outside the home, though we all know we are super women...there come a limit to all we can do right??

Helen and I were talking last night, about what mom's kitchen was like and all she had to do just to prepare a meal. Somehow, I think having a job outside the home is a whole lot easier..and with pay!

Mom used to talk about coming to Lee Center with dad , as his "new bride". She was 20 years old when they eloped and stayed in Sandwich Illinois a year or so, then dad bought his grandparents house. This is where they would reside, run a post office and raise a family of five children.... their entire marriage well over 50 years. Mom described her horror of what the house looked like when she first entered it. It had temporarily been rented out and unkept for a few years. There were burdocks growing to the back porch that were "waste to shoulder high" but his grandmother's peonies were thriving in the front yard, as they are today..over 100 years later. She said the house was trashed by renters and took a lot of cleaning. The walls to the kitchen and house were not insulated, she described seeing frost on the walls in the winter time, and had to paste newspapers on her walls at first to help insulate them. she would later wall paper....a standing family chuckle as if it were to be known, my mom was a wall paper fanatic, I believe we could peel back many layers of paper from those walls! I remember her red asphalt floor and pink walls back in the fifties. sis and I have to agree, Mom was always one for new decorating ideas...this one didn't last long though!

She first had an old wood cook stove that dad brought corn cobs, wood , ect to burn and heat the stove up with. She said she would use "blackening" . she said stove blackening protected the stove from rust and was applied frequently and not overdone, so the range would always look like new. she didn't like hers as it was a very old one and the blackening was a mess to work with as it would rub off onto her clothing. I was reading all of what someone had to go through in using an old cook stove...a days job in itself.

For water to cook, drink and wash with...she had three options at first. The cistern gathered rain water and she used this to wash clothing, our hair, baths etc.. For drinking and cooking water, she would bring it from the neighbors house or town well, as the fold had no well of their own at first. Everyday she would carry a bucket of water home. I am sure it was an exciting day when dad put in a well! Like her mother, she liked to bake on Saturdays, and did so for many years, even after her family had grown and moved out. Her neighbors still rave about her sweet rolls and cookies. I remember when running water meant we would have an inside bathroom. I was about 4 years old and dad added a den, bath and extra bedroom on to the house. Before this baths were from a tub in the kitchen, heating water on the old stove. 

Baking a crisp, juicy pie or a browned loaf of bread or managing a Thanksgiving dinner is a worthwhile accomplishment. The kitchen range was close to the center of the home. It not only provided the main sustenance of life, but needed warmth for winter's cold and plentiful hot water to encourage the highly regarded virtue of cleanliness!

Dad put in a coal burning furnace, I believe in the 1940's it was cast iron and had a stoker that fueled coal into the furnace. this would go all day and burn out by early morning. Around five am Dad would get up and go to the basement to start a new fire to heat up the house. Karen and I slept on a feather tick, which kept us warm. Our bedroom had no basement under it, so the floors would be ice cold by am..I swear I felt my feet stick to the linoleum floor some mornings! the windows would be frosted over and we could see steam come from our breaths on very cold winter mornings when we would first wake when dad had the furnace going, we would run to the registers in he dining room and kitchen..and stand over them to get warm! ( I remember how my skirt would billow out as I stood over it. the register grate was extremely hot later in the day and could easily burn your skin. We also used to put wet gloves and socks on it to dry after playing in the snow outside.

Back to moms kitchen, it was long and narrow, had the usual furniture cupboards seen in kitchens back then and a door to the cellar where mom would keep the canned goods, potatoes, etc. She canned rabbit, beef, chicken and what ever they could hunt or get access to. they had their own cow and so she would milk it. she used the cream on the milk to make butter. She said she put it in a quart jar,added the lid and would shake it all morning until it set into butter...would do a dance around the house as she would pick up and clean..and shake the butter with the free hand. she didn't enjoy making butter though as with children to carry around and care for, she said it wore her out. Grandpa made her a butter churn once using gave the butter a bitter taste she said..they figured after the first time, it was from the walnut wood paddle and he made her another out of oak.

She made everything from "scratch" and never did follow a recipe until later years. At first had kept butter in a rain barrel to keep it cool but then got an ice box that ice would be delivered to keep it cool inside. As long as I remember, she had the electric refrigerator by the mid 1940s, perhaps sooner. I don't remember the old cook stove, so I believe she probably got a new stove before long as well. the folks had an orchard of apples,cherries,apricot, plum and peach trees. they also raised two fields of asparagus for the canners . they had a very large garden dad would  turn up the soil up by hand spading it, and then rake out the clumps.Mom canned everything they grew, including berries we would pick in the woods. Nothing would be bought from a store except fresh meat and staples. Dad picked dandelion  and mustard greens from the yard and a few other early spring leafy "weeds" said they were high in iron and nutrients...myself I never liked eating them! Dad would hunt and bring home squirrel and rabbits which mom would fix and sometimes can meat as well.

I do remember during power outages, using kerosene lanterns and candles for light. For Christmas cookies and not having access to cookie cutters, she first cut designs out ( snow white and seven dwarfs) herself without a cookie cutter and iced and decorated them to hang on the tree.

Coffee was made in a large pot that had a drip chamber. Dad added egg shells to coffee when he made it..( which was "strong enough to grow hair on your chest", he would say) I think the eggs shells were to mellow it out? Cast iron pots and skillets were often used before the onset of using aluminum. I have a cast iron skillet my dad made at the foundry he worked at and also a door stop.

Mom remodeled the kitchen in the 50's a big change since the days of no electricity, or running water. One thing was always a constant though...her baked goods were wonderful!
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