It seems as if I spend a lot of time buying groceries these days. When I was a child I never remember my mom going grocery shopping. Oh, she went in the fall to buy material to make our school clothes, but I never knew her to buy groceries. All that we had to buy was sugar, flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Everything else was raises at home. We had corn and took it to the gristmill to be made into cornmeal. We had a garden and grew vegetables of all sorts. My mom would can tomatoes, peaches and make jelly and preserves out of blueberries, plums and mayhaws. We had fig trees, apple trees, peach trees – what was not canned was dried and preserved. We would slice apples and peaches and spread them on top of a metal roof to dry. Mom would put them in a clean bag and try to hide them to make fried pies – but I always managed to find them to nibble on. We had good old watermelons and cantaloupes. Daddy always wanted the melons to get ripe for 4th of July. We had a long row of grapes – we even sold them for 15 cents a basket. I think Mom bought some spices, like nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla from the Watkins man who peddled in the country.
We killed hogs in cold weather and hung the bacon and hams in the smoke house to cure. We also had stuffed sausage. Hog killing time was a lot of good eating. They cooked the fat to make lard (shortening). Daddy also grew sugar cane and carried it to the mill to be made into syrup. Did you ever bore a hole in the top of a biscuit with you finger and pour ribbon cane syrup in it? It might not have been very sanitary to use your finger – but we only had one silver handled knife and it wan’t always around. We had pecan trees, hickory nut trees and black walnut trees – and we didn’t have a nutcracker to crack them with. We used a hammer and sometimes cracked our fingers. I had friends who knew when the blackberries and mulberries were ripe. I had a blonde friend who was always there when mulberries were ripe. We washed them in the wash basin where we washed our hands – really sanitary, wasn’t it? But I got mad at her one day and poured that water where the mulberries had been washed on her head. You’ve heard of purple hair, haven’t you? Well, we set a new style that day but she wasn’t very happy. Can you imagine little old meek ME doing that? Well, maybe I wasn’t always meek, but I never got into too much trouble – serious trouble any way.
My mother grew peppers in pots on the front porch. She had all sorts of hot peppers, but one was called 7-year pepper. It had tiny little red pepper on it and was really pretty. And I’m not the only mischievous on in my family. My sister told her friend that they were some sort of berry and she put 2 or 3 in her mouth at one time. If there had been a fire truck in Junction City we would have call it. Mamma was proud of her chickens. She loved to go out and gather her apron full of big brown eggs. She raised fryers and we had fried chicken every Sunday. She used one fryer to feed 6 people. She fried the good pieces and made chicken and dumplings out of the bony pieces including the feet and the head and brains. There were always a little dumplings and the feet left. They really came in handy about 10 o’clock on Monday morning when we finished the laundry. We didn’t call it “doing the laundry”, we called it washing the clothes.
Sometimes in the summer or winter some one would butcher a beef and come around in wagons peddling it. There was no way to preserve beef like you could pork. We grew sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes and stored them in the potato shed for the winter. We even had our own onions. Dad planted lots of peanuts and put them in tall stacks to dry and we would “parch” them. Today they call them roasted peanuts but to me they are still “parched peanuts”. We canned cucumber pickles, beet pickles, made chow chow and tomato sauce. But mostly we used the canned tomatoes to make tomato soup. We had that many, many nights for supper along with corn bread and a glass of buttermilk. We had cows, so we had milk and butter. We even had a few customers we sold milk and butter. We dried the peas and butter beans to have in the winter when not much would survive the cold weather. Of course, turnip greens and collards were the cold weather vegetables. My mom even made hominy – from corn.
Umm – what better meal would you want besides the big old black pot full of turnip greens or collards, sugar cured smoked ham, hominy, chow-chow or pepper sauce with a big “pone” of hot water bread. Of course those fried peach pies were out of this world.
Gosh, I’ve got to go grocery shopping. I’m really hungry!