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Pioneer Potluck: About Mothers

Posted: May 9, 2012 - 8:55am

Colorado 1940 to 1955

Whether you called your Mom, Mother, Mama, Mommy, I am sure she was very special.

My own mother, was called Mommy when we were little, Mama in grade school, and "Mom what's to eat?" in high school. She always had a snack for us after school, usually fresh-baked cookies. But sometimes it was graham crackers with frosting between them. When I think of my mom, I see her in the kitchen, a stern busy look on her face, spoon or a mixing bowl in her hand, apron on, giving out orders as to what we needed to do to get ready for the meal. Mom was the boss in her kitchen and we took orders well. Peeling potatoes was part of my job as I got older, "now don't cut her fingers off" to "don't cut half the potato away with the peeling!" There were no small paring knives in Mom's kitchen and they were never sharp. I usually peeled potatoes with the big butcher knife. I got good at it ...

Setting the table, putting the glasses to receive the cold fresh milk, above the fork, and making sure the butter plate and the salt and pepper were in front of Dad's plate, was another job of mine. I enjoyed folding the napkins and putting them in their proper place. I always did my job to the best of my ability, and always wanted a nod of approval. Now I know it was expected of me to help in the kitchen, and nods of approval were not given very often. I knew my Mom loved me she just was not vocal about it. She sewed and taught me how to sew. She told me to be polite and be nice to others. "You be nice!" was her parting words many times as I went out the door to school. She taught me how to iron but told me not to bother mending socks, "just go buy new ones." When I was in high school she shared some of her pretty clothes with me.

I was very fortunate to have had several sets of grandparents. My mom's parents lived not very far from us in a cherry orchard. My dad's parents lived in Kansas. My dad's great-grandmother lived in Kansas. My mom's grandparents lived in Fort Collins. So I had two grandmas, a great-grandma we called Tiny Grandma who lived with Tiny Grandpa in Fort Collins, and a great-great-grandmother who lived to be 103, in Kansas. My life is richer for having known them all. It was a big occasion when Mother's Day approached to send beautiful cards to the Kansas grandmas and deliver flowers to the Colorado grandma. Sometimes it was a big beautiful cake Mom made or her yummy cookies.

We would get to make a Mother's Day card in school, hide them until Mother's Day Sunday rolled around. Dad always proudly gave Mom a big bouquet of flowers. Sometimes when we were smaller she went to church with us and came home with a beautiful carnation. She cooked great Sunday dinner meals and Dad always told her he would cook Sunday supper. So with a smile on his face, he would get out the old cast-iron frying pan, dump a big spoonful of bacon grease in it, pour in some popcorn, shake and shake it, dump it into the big dish pan, smother it with slightly burnt butter and bacon grease, sprinkle it with salt and Mom would get the first dish piled full of warm popcorn. Fun days! Makes me smile.

My Colorado Grandma taught me many things, among them to be the patient. (I still have problems with that!) I got to learn to quilt, sew aprons on a treadle machine, and learn to embroidery and crochet. She taught me how to make bread, pies, and how to can peaches, cherries, apples and plums, and how to make apple butter. She also let me curled her hair with bobby pins that I am sure took a lot of patience on her part. I enjoyed her ever pleasant smile and her big hugs. She named me Edith Ann. I was not happy with that name in grade school and once asked her why she named me "Edith Ann." She replied "I could have named you after me - Freda Louise!" I settled on liking my name from then on. Tiny Grandma was 4-foot-7-inches, and my Tiny Grandpa was almost 5 feet tall. By the time I was 12 years old I was 5-foot-3 and taller than both of them. I am still 5-foot-3, only if I stretch. Tiny Grandma made sauerkraut and always baked bread. They had a big garden and all I can remember about that was how Tiny Grandpa loved his big Bermuda onions, thickly sliced on Tiny Grandma's homemade bread and a warm bowl of sauerkraut swimming in butter and washed it all down with a bottle of his home brew. After his meal he lit up a great big Cuban cigar. Tiny Grandma and Tiny Grandpa always had a distinct odor about them. Their house was the first place I saw a lawn and green grass. I always looked forward to taking my shoes off to walk in the green grass.

I did not know my Kansas grandma very well but talked to her for many years on the telephone about once a month. We always got an update about Great-great-grandma, and how all our Kansas relatives were doing. Of course on Mother's Day, Dad made it a special occasion to call her. I can remember writing "Lots of Love, Ann" on her Mother's Day card. Everyone signed her card and it got mailed in the mail box across the gravel road from the farm.

When I moved to Alaska with my three kids, Mom's weekly letters would end with "WHEN ARE YOU COMING HOME?" She wrote those words for 10 years and then at the end of one of her letters she wrote, "I don't suppose you are ever coming home!"

Years and years later, my mother developed Alzheimer's. I visited her several times, in Gingers home in Boulder, Colorado and at times she did not know me, and at other times she would tease and laugh. My friend Bernie made me a hat to wear on a trip we took to Colorado. When I arrived at Gingers, I put the hat on the dresser and Mom tiptoed around the corner, grabbed the hat with her crooked fingers, and shouted at me "MY HAT!" and ran down the hall giggling. I pretend-ran after her, she pulled the hat down over her ears, and repeated "My Hat!" We played that game several times a day until I left to go back to Alaska and then I left HER hat with her. The hat has been passed around to different relatives and then back to me and now my daughter Susan has it. That is the hat you see her wearing in the picture.

We all have or had mothers. The first idea of Mother's Day was in 1870 but did not really take off until 1908. And then in 1914 Woodrow Wilson dedicated the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. Many other countries have copied the Mother's Day Sunday after America. I hope you all pay special attention to your Mother on this coming Sunday or stop for a few minutes and think about your childhood and how your Mother molded you into the person you are today.

Happy Mother's Day!

Mom's Banana Bread

Everyone has a banana bread recipe.  This is my Mom’s.  She made tons of it
and so have I.  Serve hot with real butter, or toasted for breakfast.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Oil and flour a loaf pan, or use two smaller loaf pans
In a mixer bowl, mash
3 large ripe bananas-about 1 cup
3/4 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
When the bananas and sugar are mixed well, add:
1 egg
1/4 cup soft butter
Mix on low.
Then add:
1 teaspoons soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water.
Mix on low.
Add:
2 cups of flour
Mix until just evenly mixed and slightly lumpy.  Pour into loaf pans and bake for 45 min. Be sure to check with a toothpick after 40 min. to see if it’s done. For the smaller pans it will take 30 min. Turn out of the pan and cool on a rack 
Additions and variations: These are my additions at times.
1/2 cup of crushed walnuts
1/2 cup Crasins
Or 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Frost with powdered sugar mixed with orange juice. 
In place of butter-1 tblsp olive oil and 2 tblsp applesauce and 1 tblsp undiluted orange juice
In place of white sugar try brown sugar.

Cherry Bread Pudding with Chocolate Sauce

Are you licking your lips? This is a wonderful recipe. Takes time to make but well worth the effort. My Grandma and Grandpa Cogswell lived in the middle of by 80 acre cherry, apple and plum orchard in Northern Colorado. I loved to pick cherries and apples.
You can use frozen darks cherries for this old recipe. Read through first.
Assemble all the ingredients
10 oz of Italian bread sliced (or about 3 cups cubed)
10 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or canned milk
If you omit the cream, this makes 3 1/2 cups milk.  I used canned milk for the whole thing. 
1 1/2 cups sugar- divided
2 eggs yolks
1-12 ounce package frozen pitted dark sweet cherries thawed, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Chocolate sauce to follow
Cut Italian bread in triangles and brush with butter and set aside. Note: You can use 3 cups cubed bread and drizzle the butter.
In a medium saucepan combine milk or cream and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir on low heat milk until sugar dissolves about 5 min.  Take off heat and lightly whisk egg yolks and stir into the hot mixture.  Return to low heat stirring constantly until thickened. 1 minute. Set aside.
In a medium bowl combine cherries, remaining 1 cup of sugar, almond and orange extract. 
Arrange 1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs or half the triangles in bottom of buttered 9 x 9 baking dish.  Pour half of the custard over top of bread.
Spoon the cherry mixture over top of bread and custard.  Arrange remaining bread over top and pour remaining custard over top of bread. 
Let stand at room temperature for 20 min. for bread to absorb the custard. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 40 min. until firm and lightly browned. Cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and spoon chocolate sauce on top.

CHOCOLATE SAUCE
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream 
OR: 4 tablespoons of canned milk
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate finely chopped or 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon dark rum extract or almond extract
In a small saucepan combine all ingredients except chocolate and extract. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir in chopped chocolate or chips and the extract.  Take off heat.  Stir until smooth and drizzle over whipped cream and bread pudding.

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