When I was little all the women in the family would travel from kitchen to kitchen to help each other with the canning. At the lead of this tireless brigade was my great-grandmother. I can still see her clear as day. She was a tiny little woman with snow white hair, bright blue eyes, a soft voice and a will of iron. She organized the canning schedule and only God could help you if you interfered with or upset that schedule.
I don’t remember ever hearing her raise her voice, but she could utter one little “A-hem” and silence a room in no time flat. Then in her broken English she would quietly admonish the offending person while everyone else quaked in their shoes hoping they would not be next. As a child I always found it entertaining. There was just something about watching your grandmother get in trouble with her mother…..
Oma Katie was quite a woman. She had experienced things in her lifetime that you would only read about. It was from her that I learned my love of food, cooking and baking. I loved her kitchen and the things she taught me. In my minds eye I can see it still. She had lace curtains at the windows and rag rugs on the floor. Her table always had a table cloth with matching linen napkins. At 3 in the afternoon she had tea. It was served in a china teapot with matching cups and saucers. Afternoon tea was not complete with out “a little bite to eat”. It was not uncommon to have cake, pie, cookies and biscuits with butter and jam served at tea.
She always said that the most important ingredient was love. If you don’t love to cook you will never do it well. Modern nutritionists would have had heart failure in her kitchen. Pie crust was made with lard, butter was used in ample quantities, along with a host of other things now frowned upon. She always insisted on using “real food”, a thing I find myself doing as well. Nothing was ever from a can, jar or cardboard container. Unless it was something she preserved herself.
Her vegetable garden was a thing of beauty. Patiently tended daily to keep out any weeds. Chemical weed killers and fertilizer never touched the soil. She would say that if you want to eat chemicals just open the container and help yourself . The only fertilizer she ever used was well composted manure.
She was very strict about keeping her kitchen (as well as the rest of her house) sparkling clean. The kitchen floor was scrubbed everyday with hot water and lye soap she made herself. This was always done before she went to bed, so she could prepare breakfast in a clean kitchen.
I hope that a part of that remarkable woman lives on in the things that she taught me, and that I tried to teach my children. Some of my fondest childhood memories are centered around her. I dearly wish that I could once again spend a day with her in her kitchen, what a time we would have.