Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ramblings and Recipes, Part 1 - Remembering Way Back When!

 “We do not remember days, we remember moments” – Cesare Pavese 

My earliest memories of my childhood involved growing up with two older brothers and one older sister.  Yes, I was the baby.  My mother was a stay-at-home mom, which was quite common in those days in the 1950’s. 
Mom was a sweet mild-mannered lady who wore wrist length white gloves to church and read her bible nightly.  Profanity never escaped her lips, but I do remember her gritting her teeth and taking deep breaths from time to time.  She was by no means a wimp though.  If anything or anyone threatened her children, she could turn into Mama Bear in two seconds flat.
Although I was too young to remember, I was told about one of those Mama Bear moments she had.  It seems we had a pet skunk when I was a baby.  Yes, a pet skunk.  It had its stink sacs removed and acted more like a pet cat.  One day Mom caught this skunk climbing into my crib, hissing and clawing at me.  As I screamed and cried from the scratches, my mother grabbed the skunk and threw it off the crib, away from me.  Through the snarling and hissing (the skunk, not my mother), Mom tried to chase it out of the house with a broom.  When the skunk tried to get back into my crib, and in an act of desperation to keep her baby safe, my sweet, mild-mannered mother grabbed a shotgun, cornered the critter in the bathroom and blasted it… along with the bathroom tile and tub.  Don’t mess with Mama Bear.
When I think back to the battles she had to referee, I wonder how she managed to keep her sanity, although I do remember her most-often spoken words of “Just wait until your father gets home”.   Yes, dad was the disciplinarian.  He was a bit rougher on my brothers, but his threats of a spanking for us girls was enough to make us tow the line.
My sister and I had a nightly ritual.  Penny was three years older than me and slept in the top bunk of our bunk beds.  I got the bottom one.  She always had some snide remark to say to me before going to sleep, like calling me a baby or telling me to shut up.  So once she was tucked away in her bed, ready for sleep, I would stretch out my legs above me and position my feet to where I predicted her rear end to be and I would strike out, kicking her mattress as hard as I could.  She would yelp and routinely climb down to beat me up before climbing back up into her bunk again, at which time I would kick her again.  (I know what you’re thinking… and yes, I guess that was a rather stupid thing for me to do.) This would go on, yelling at each other and crying, until my dad would come up the stairs, yanking off his belt, smacking the belt on his hand to make a terrifying noise, and threatening to give us both a good whipping if we didn’t cut it out.  Of course he never actually did it, but that threat was enough to get us to stop acting up and go to sleep.
Note:  That's me in the lower right corner of this picture, all sweet and innocent!
Then there was the time Penny tried to dunk my head into the toilet.  I can’t even remember the reason why.  I just remember her dunking and flushing.  Sheesh!
My brothers got into trouble quite a lot.  I remember one day when my oldest brother, Bill, was building a tree house.  My other brother, Roy, who was three years younger than Bill, was watching from a distance.  When Bill invited Roy to come up to join him, Roy scurried up the tree and climbed through the make-shift door only to fall to the ground, breaking his arm.  Bill had somehow neglected to tell Roy that there was no floor.
Then there was the time Bill got a chemistry set for his birthday.  Out in the garage, he would mix the chemicals in a little test tube and pretend he was a mad scientist.  When nothing much happened, he would start mixing other substances with the chemistry set chemicals.  Substances like gasoline.  Yes, there was an explosion and a fire.  Thankfully, Bill was okay.  Not so much for the condition of the garage.
My mom always knew how to settle us down.  Food.  My dad used to tell us stories of how my mom didn’t know the first thing about cooking before they were married.  She learned most of what she knew from an old copy of The White House Cookbook, which was always within reach of the kitchen counter.  This book, originally published in 1887, held a wealth of information, with everything from how to carve meat, how to serve your guests, how to clarify soup and how to choose the freshest poultry.  Did you know that old turkeys have long hairs, and the flesh is purplish where it shows under the skin on the legs and back?  And young pigeons have light red flesh upon the breast, and full, fresh-colored legs; when the legs are thin and the breast very dark the birds are old.  Hmmm… when was the last time you cooked a pigeon?  There is even a recipe in there for head cheese.  If you don’t know what that is, be sure to have a strong stomach before you google it.
Perhaps growing up during the Great Depression is what caused it, but my mom hated to waste even the smallest scrap of food.  After every bit of meat was eaten from the turkey, she would boil those bones to make soup.  Even watermelon rinds were used!  Those made tasty pickles. 
Turkey Soup

·       Carcass from cooked turkey
·       3 quarts water
·       1 teaspoon salt
·       ½ teaspoon pepper
·       ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning or dried sage leaves
·       1 bay leaf
·       3 medium carrots, sliced
·       1 large onion, chopped
·       2 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced
·       3 cups leftover turkey, cut into small pieces
·       ½ cup uncooked pearl barley
·       2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Break up turkey carcass to fit into a 6-quart Dutch oven or large pot.  Add water, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and bay leaf.  Heat to boiling over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for one to two hours.
2.    Remove the bones and bay leaf and set aside to cool.  Skim off any residue that rises to the surface of the pot.  When bones are cool enough to handle, remove any bits of turkey and return them to the pot.  Skim off any fat that has risen in the pot.
3.   Stir in barley, carrots, onion, celery and 3 cups of cooked turkey.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat, cover and simmer for an additional hour, stirring occasionally, until vegetables and barley are tender.  Stir in parsley and serve.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Watermelon Pickles
·      Approximately 4 lbs. watermelon rind, trimmed with outer skin and all pink removed.
·       2 cups white vinegar
·       2 cups water
·       4 cups sugar
·       3 cinnamon sticks
·       1 teaspoon whole cloves
·       1 teaspoon whole allspice
·       1 lemon, sliced thin
·       A brine consisting of ¼ cup salt and 1 quart of water


1.    Cut the rind into 1” x 2” pieces.
2.    Soak overnight in the brine made by dissolving the ¼ cup salt in each quart of water.  Make sure there is enough brine to cover the watermelon rind pieces.  If not, make more brine.
3.    The next morning, drain the rind, wash in fresh water and drain again.
4.    Combine the remaining ingredients and boil together for 5 minutes.  Spices may be tied in cheesecloth bag if desired.
5.    Add the rind pieces a few at a time and cook until the rind is clear (simmer about 30 minutes).
6.    Pack the rind in hot sterilized mason jars
7.    Cover with boiling syrup and seal

#RamblingsAndRecipes, #ChildhoodMemories, 
#TurkeySoup, #WatermelonRindPickles


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