When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, then they often become items that are tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.
Friday Night Family Heirlooms: telling their stories…
Grandmama McKinley’s Kitchen Must Haves…
In the “old days” a kitchen was a necessity to ensure the daily must of cooking for the family – and there were “must haves”; these are a few that belonged to my maternal grandmother Ola Askew McKinley.
The biggest “must have” in a country kitchen, especially in the South, was a bread bowl. Why you ask? Well every Southern woman cooked biscuits and I’m told my grandmother made the softest and tastiest biscuits ever! I never had the chance to stand beside my grandmother and watch her make biscuits as by the time I was old enough, she had become a changed person; today it would be said she had Alzheimer’s, although at that time it was often referred to as just losing their mind; they didn’t seem to have a name for it in those days.
Grandmamma made biscuits from the wheat that granddaddy grew in the field; after taking it to Sander’s Mill, he brought home bags of flour to ensure that grandmamma could maker biscuits all winter. And in those days, she made biscuits at least three times a day. I can’t imagine having to just rise early in the morning to light the wood stove, and what a chore on the cold mornings. But I’m told the kitchen was the place you wanted to be when it was cold, as it was the first room warmed up. My mother was an expert biscuit maker and that’s who I learned from, but not as a child – I had no interest in cooking. Who wanted to cook when they could ride bikes, climb trees and go kick the can on Friday nights. I learned how to make a Southern biscuit on my trips home and begging mama to make biscuits for breakfast and dinner so I could watch. I think I’ll hold the biscuit making for another story….
Grandmamma’s large bread bowl was always kept full of flour and she worked her biscuit dough on the top flour. Mama said that by the time she worked down to the bottom flour, it had the softest feeling. That’s one thing I could never do, actually make my biscuits in the flour bowl and not measure out what I actually needed. Now that I’ve become better at making biscuits, I will have to give it another try.
I’m wondering what grandmama used that big rolling pin for as she never rolled biscuits, she pinched off a piece of dough, rolled it into a ball and patted it down on the baking pan. Who knows, maybe she kept it handy for a weapon – it would definitely lay a goose egg on someone! I’m told that pinching off the dough is really the old-fashioned way of making biscuits – I make mine the same way. It’s really much easier than having flour all over the counter as you roll out.
My mother told me that she hated the sight of this butter churn more than anything as it was her “chore” to churn butter. She must have churned a lot of butter as the handle has quite a bit worn off. Even today when mama sees the butter churn, she instantly says “I always hated that thing, as I spent more time churning butter than I wanted to. Anything to do with cooking was not of interest to me, I’d rather grab one of my True Romance magazines and climb up in daddy’s car shed loft. I could spend all day reading my magazines.”
The fancy round butter mold was often used for company butter, while the plain one, along with the regular butter dish was for their everyday use. Another staple on the breakfast table was the syrup pitcher holding sorghum syrup made from the cane stalks granddaddy hauled to the syrup mill. I’m not particularly fond of the heavy taste of sorghum syrup but that was all they had, so they didn’t know any different. I’m sure there was syrup in the store to buy, but my grandfather only bought what they absolutely did not grow, there wasn’t money for unnecessary things like bought pancake syrup when you grew your own cane stalks.
My mother raved about her mother’s cooking for as long as I can remember and often today many foods will spark a memory and I’ll hear …“boy I sure wish I had a piece of my mother’s blackberry pie, I’d give almost anything to have just one more piece.” Makes me wonder, what exactly did grandmama put in that pie to make someone remember it so well. Lots of love and hand-picked blackberries might be the answer! Mama also talked about the difference in the blackberries picked vs the large ones bought in the stores today. The ones grown in the wild are usually smaller and sweeter – another reason grandmamma’s pie was better; and maybe it was that big rolling pin of hers that rolled out the crust on that famous blackberry pie mama remembers so well…
Blackberries grew in abundance around the farm and grandmama often took a few buckets and walked up the road to pick the more easily accessible ones to her growing on the fence. Granddaddy always told her to take the yard dogs with her when she went as they were great sniffers in alerting her if there were snakes nearby wanting their morning fruit also. Rattlesnakes have a love for blackberries and that’s one thing that always made me afraid in picking them; once there was a snake laying in wait on the bushes when I was picking – luckily my mother was with me and yelled to stop and walk backwards right away; I’m still here so I guess I listened to her without an argument of why, what’s wrong, or in a minute!
Grandmama McKinley was one of my grandmothers which I wrote about in Heirloom Recipes – my first published paid piece.
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© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco