Childhood


Recipes

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

My mother brought me my grandmother’s cookbook. It’s one of those parish cookbooks where the women contributed their best recipes and household hints and sold it as a fundraiser. Paper cover and plastic ring binding, and complied by the St. Andrew’s Altar-Sodality of Tennyson, Wisconsin in 1946.

The first section is titled “Household Hints”. Gems.

Cut very fresh bread with a heated sharp knife.

When rendering lard put a little hot water and a little soda in the kettle before putting in the lard. It renders faster.

Large potatoes will take much less time to bake if left to stand in hot water for 15 minutes before putting in oven.

A discarded pocketbook makes a dandy first aid kit for the car or barn.

An inexpensive but most amusing rattle for a baby is crumpled newspaper sewed in a gauze bag.

The bloody water left over from washing fresh meat is very good for house plants (no salty water).

Throughout the book, Grandma made notes here and there. Sometimes dating them as she tinkered with each recipe. One such was updated in 1966, ’67 and finally in 1975. Most were corrections about the amount of this or that to use or to change the baking temperature. One cookie recipe has the warning “no good” in the margin.

Ice cream, pickles and soap – these women could make anything. In the section on sandwiches, they explain how to make the peanut butter itself before giving directions for preparing the sandwich.

One of the household hints involved thickening gravy. “Remove it from the fire before adding the thickening.”

“Remove from the fire?” I said to Mom.

“Oh yes, we were still using a wood burning stove then,” she said. “My mom used to bake bread three days out of the week and she always managed to keep that wood burning oven at an even temperature.”

It’s the dedication I love,

“… is dedicated to the housewife, the greatest contributor to the happy home. The recipes have been given by ladies from a thoroughly American Community, founded by our German ancestors, a hundred years ago. Our mothers, our grandmothers and great grandmothers, have all enjoyed the reputation of being good cooks and bakers. In this book we give to you the treasures they have bequeathed to us.”

Obviously there was still more than a little anti-German sentiment following the war, but I love the pride they take in their skill sets. Sure, at the time, housewifery was the female path, but they see themselves as important and what they contribute as worthy of sharing. It’s a legacy that’s been passed on to them and now passes through them to others. Very cool.

Dee decided we’d take a stab at the chocolate angel food. Helluva lot of eggs need to sacrifice their whites for this recipe, and there were a few too many bakers today, but chocolate is good regardless of how the cake turns out. And it was more than a bit flat. Whipping egg whites is an art. I can’t imagine how my grandmother whipped eggs by hand. These women must have had forearms like steel bands. I gave up and used the mixer.

Tomorrow, date pinwheels. A Christmas treat that when I mentioned it not long ago to Rob, his reaction was,

“And you haven’t made these ever because?”

Because I didn’t have the recipe and couldn’t remember all the ins and outs that Mom used. It’s one of those that requires making and refrigerating things in advance. It also calls for “shortening”, which leads to “rolling” at some point – this I remember from my childhood when Mom would give my sister or I a baking chore every Saturday morning. Things that needed to be rolled were never my favorite, and I suspect they weren’t favorites of mom’s either because at some point, we only had pie whenever DNOS or I made one.

1946 is a long time ago. The hundred years of cooking is closing in on 170 fairly quickly. I am glad I have the book. It would have been a shame for those ladies of St. Andrew’s to have put so much love into a book that wasn’t still being used.


Erica Kane

Image via Wikipedia

ABC announced today that it was canceling two of its remaining three soap operas. All My Children and One Life to Live, shows that have been on the air since 1970 and 1968 respectively will wrap up in early fall of 2011 or in the new year of 2012. Perhaps the Mayans were right after all and the world as we know it is slowly winding to an end.

At one time or another, I have watched every soap opera ever filmed during the course of my life. Just ask me about one. I can probably remember something about it. And I place the blame squarely on my mother. She watched soap operas while she folded or ironed laundry in the afternoon when we were supposed to be napping. I qualify because I was a non-napping child. Something, to my chagrin, I passed on genetically to Dee, but by the time she came along, I was no longer a regular viewer of any soap opera though I doubt she would have been interested. She is only just beginning to prefer live action in equal portions to her animated fare.

The first soaps I ever watched have already been canceled. The Guiding Light and As The World Turns ceased to be last year. But they are hardly the only ghosts of soap operas past that I watched. My first brush with cancellation was Dark Shadows. It was also the first soap I watched because I wanted to as opposed to simply picking up my mom’s viewing habits. I was five and I would sneak across the street to the neighbors to see it. My parents thoroughly disapproved because it gave me nightmares. I would scream the house down regularly and woe to anyone who tried to wake me. I was a bruiser to the point that I had to warn my first college roommates not to try to touch me if I woke them with my dreaming.

Do you remember The Edge of Night? Sky and Raven? Geraldine Whitney? Just thirty minutes right after General Hospital and long since gone.

Loving? Watched it. Renewed my crush on Randolph Mantooth. Or Santa Barbara? Some of the best dialogue ever.

I peeked in on Another World here and there. That was the Frame family, I believe but I don’t remember the name of the town.

As The World Turns was Oakdale and The Guiding Light was in Springfield.

Ryan’s Hope starred Kate Mulgrew, so I watched it for her because she came from my hometown in Dubuque and I went to school with her bratty youngest sister, Jenny.

Pine Valley was a place I never cared much about though until everyone was watching it in college and I couldn’t avoid it any longer. It was the Greg and Jenny era. Tad was bedding Liza Colby‘s mother, and Opal wasn’t even a twinkle in Palmer’s eye because of his weird and creepy obsession with his daughter, Nina. Erica Kane was herself always but it was long before the skin-crawly molestation thing revealed she’d had a baby at 14 who grew up to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

One Life to Live was a guilty fallback. I watched it with a far amount of regularity for about 25 years. A time period that spans most of high school, all of college and a good chunk of my single adulthood. Asa is dead now. For real. They didn’t recast him when the actor who played him died a few years ago. Everyone else is old and the one thing I love about soap opera is how many of the female characters are allowed to age like real women do. Sure, a few are scary thin and obviously botoxed and tucked, but waists thicken and age drapes over them like actual skin.

I guess it’s sad that soaps are on the verge of extinction. The genre goes back to the days of radio and the continuous story evolution allowed viewers to watch characters grow up and cope with life – albeit in a melodramatic fashion – in a way that felt familiar to the way real families grew and moved through time.

ABC is replacing the shows with reality crap. One of the new shows will be a cooking/weight loss themed horror that follows women as they struggle to get thin because that’s what women need – more poor body image propaganda for entertainment purposes. The other show is one of those annoyingly condescending fashion make-overs where highly irritating people criticize normal folk’s wardrobes and dress them up for realities they don’t actually live in.

Not that it matters. We don’t have a television that accesses the world of network or cable tv anymore. But, it’s a shame when a performing art form passes away in preference of soul-killing garbage designed to sell audiences questionable values and crappy products.

R.I.P. Todd Manning. There’ll be no more resurrection days for you.


Child labor, can't we try to stop it?

Image via Wikipedia

“I was coming home from kindergarten–well they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later I had been working in a factory for ten years. It’s good for a kid to know how to make gloves.” – Ellen DeGeneres

It’s not just women. The Right is equally at war on American children as well. They’ve been strangling the public education system with a steady pressure and two hands around its neck for nearly a decade though the campaign itself began with the over the top alarmist Nation at Risk in 1982.

Currently, our Congress – already a year overdue at setting the budget for the current fiscal year –  paper cuts what’s left of the K-12 budget in an attempt to bleed it to death so slowly they won’t be suspected of murder when it finally keels over. As their minions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana work to destroy what little influence over educational practices and curriculum teachers have left by stripping unions of their right to provide input into the profession they’ve earned university degrees to be allowed to practice, Congress ignores the real budget issues and the public goes along with it.

“Of course you are right,” they nod sheepishly. “How foolish of us to think that it was Social Security or a bloated Pentagon at fault? It’s those greedy teachers and our free-loading children of elementary school age. They are the root of this financial nightmare that prevents us from shopping at will and ignoring public policy issues. But what to do? If not school, where can we warehouse our kids during the day while we hunt for work or pretend we love our mind-numbing, ever lower compensating jobs?”

Missouri stepped up to the plate first with a proposal to lower the age at which a child can apply for a work permit from 14 to 12 and eliminate the need for 15 year olds to have a work permit at all. At fifteen, one is certainly old enough to work at will.

Utah followed with an inane state’s rights ploy* that doesn’t question the awfulness of child labor, just the federal government’s right to forbid it.

The states should be able to decide for themselves**.

Really.

A state like Michigan, perhaps? Where the Governor is asking for the right to declare martial law and replace duly elected school boards, city/town councils with anyone he deems fit – whether that be his out of work brother-in-law or some shill of the Koch brothers?

Do you trust the states to act in the best interest of the people or themselves and those who bought them their jobs through campaign contributions?

In other parts of the world, where women have no rights and children are sent to work instead of school (when they are not being sold outright into some form of slavery) and governments pretend to hold elections but the people are not actually represented – we, the self-righteous people of America – point an accusatory finger and say “Bad totalitarian regime.”

Did anyone ever notice that only one finger points and every other is waving back at us?

*Let’s not forget the states were just fine with slavery, Jim Crow, rules that forbade a married women from having her own bank account as late as the 1950’s and weren’t as keen on ERA as they were for the incredibly unnecessary amendment to forbid flag-burning. The states also are big on the whole idea that women need to be treated as though they are retarded once they are pregnant. Let’s not place too much credence on their ability to do the right thing without federal incentive.

**The states will argue that they are rightly giving control back to parents. My maternal grandfather and the husband of one of my cousins were farmers and worked their kids as though they were hired hands from a young age. Not chores. These children were not just helping out a bit. They were farm laborers on par with adults. One of my cousin’s sons actually died because he was given work to do that outstripped his age and size. Even now the exceptions for agriculture border on abuse when they don’t completely cross the line. Do we want to move the line to ensnare more children?