MAMA AND THE KITCHEN; AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD #13

Mama and the kitchen, went hand-in-hand, I’d say;

There’s where you always found her, almost any time of day,

She’d be kneading dough or stirring up a pot of ham ‘n’ beans,

Or maybe washing up a bowl of fresh-picked dandelion greens

she might be baking cookies, or chopping apples to make pies,

Or making doughnuts  that might have inside some kind of small surprise;

She could be drying fresh-picked parsley or the tops of celery leaves,

we would welcome them in winter when the garden patch would freeze;

Or she might be drying noodles on the backs of kitchen chairs,

or fixing to can ripe fruits such as apples, plums, and pears.

In the morning  you could smell the coffee boiling in a pot,

along with fried potatoes and a slice of ham cooked hot,

then mama would get busy baking bread or shelling beans,

And send me to the garden to collect the freshest greens;

We butchered hogs late in the fall, though papa did the most,

but mama made the sausages of which she’d proudly boast;

No one around could make a sausage quite as good as she,

And she cooked down the strained-out lard, as white as it could be,

the pantry shelves were lined with jars with food that we could savor,

the cellar filled and overflowing with the fruits of mama’s labors;

Living on a country farm was hard and rough at best

and it took someone like mama to stand up to the test;

throughout my life I saw her there, always in the kitchen,

And you never knew what next mama might be fixing.

 

My mama died as she had lived, her apron still tied on her;

we found her on the kitchen floor, coffee beans spilled all around her.

SANDY’S FOODNOTE:  fyi – the mama in this poem is actually based on my paternal grandmother; she was the one always busy in the kitchen and it was  she who dried noodles on the backs of kitchen chairs. I remember that well. She had sour cooking apple trees out back from which she made the most delicious strudels. In the fall, grandma & grandpa had a hog to butcher (I have no idea where it came from; my sister Becky remembered how the men made sausages down in the cellar; it was a good thing I never saw any of that; I would have become a vegetarian for all of my life. my grandpa also had a crop of grape vines and made his own grape wine.. I’ll have to nag my brother Jim for other memories; he is the only other sibling older than me and all the aunts and uncles are gone, now. – sls

Originally posted June 28, 2010

Updated September 21, 2018AN

WHEN MAMA BAKES A CAKE #7 AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD

Sometimes when breakfast dishes

have been washed and put away,

Mama looks at me and says

“Lets’ bake a cake today!”

From a peg she takes her apron,

while from a lower peg, I take mine,

We tie the strings behind our backs,

and don’t we look just fine?

Mama’s largest yellow bowl

sets on the kitchen table,

And I step up onto a stool,

to help, because I’m able;

Mama cracks some eggs fresh from the barn,

I take a fork and stir them up,

You have to beat those eggs a lot,

Before you can add a cup

of sugar, butter, flour, too.

and soda for the risin’

And mama grates some nutmeg in

for a taste that’s right surprisin’

It’s my job to butter up the pans

and dust them both with flour,

and then the cakes go in to bake,

and that takes near an hour.

While they bake, we tidied up,

and tiptoe across the floor,

’cause you don’t want those cakes to fall,

and have to make some more;

The kitchen fills with spicy scent

And I can hardly stand the wait

It’s always something special, when

my mama bakes a cake.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

 

Originally posted June, 2010

Updated September 5, 2018

 

 

WASHING DISHES #2

It has never been unpleasant to me,

Washing dishes after dinner,

Hot soapy water in the sink,

My Fiesta Ware rinsed and stacked

On the counter to my left,

ready to be washed,

leftovers put away

in little plastic containers

and the table cleared.

There was an orderliness about it all,

The final ritual of the evening meal.

In Arleta, the kitchen sink

Was in a corner overlooking

the back yard where I could see

the bird feeder and the many

feathered friends that visited us each day.

There was a triangular ledge above the sink,

where my blue glass was on display,

It was a time for contemplation

and deep thoughts,

While I washed and rinsed the dishes

and put them on a rack to air-dry.

I still have the Fiesta Ware dishes

and the blue glass is above the sink

But there isn’t a window looking out

into the yard anymore.

I do miss that.

 

Sandra Lee Smith,

first written July 22, 2009/updated June 23, 2018

 

 

 

A BIG YELLOW BOWL

My  mother had a big yellow bowl

In which one mixed cookie dough or muffins,

and when I was eight years old, she said I could make muffins

and she placed the ingredients and the big yellow bowl on the

kitchen table.

My mother admonished me not to try to pick up the bowl

because it was heavy, filled with muffin batter –but I insisted on

holding the bowl in the crook of my arm while mixing with the other–thinking, perhaps, this is what I had seen my mother and grandmother do.

I dropped the yellow bowl and it shattered on the kitchen floor.

I ran away in tears, leaving my mother to clean  up the mess.

Remarkably enough, I was not discouraged. from learning how to cook and bake but it to ok me at least a y ear to save up enough money to buy another set of Pyrex bowls–red, blue, green and  yellow — because you couldn’t buy just one bowl.  They came in a set for $2.98 (plus tax!) at Pete’s Camp Washington 5&10 in Camp Washington.

Whenever I see any of these bowls in an antique store, I am instantly carried back in time to a kitchen on Sutter Street where I am 8  years old and learning how to cook or bake

IF HE ONLY KNEW

if he only knew how much that she cared,

When they were young, starting out,

How much that she loved him,

Worshipped the ground that he trod on,

Would he have had any doubt?

But he had set his sights on those other young things,

with their ruby red lips and long legs,

Proudly he sought them, incautiously taught them

All that he knew about passion and sex (never was

he one to grovel or beg).

They were his for the taking, women to break in,

While his wife sat at home, all alone,

Nothing would stop him, no one could top him,.

Not children nor pleas of his wife,

His heart was as callous as stone.

When finally she told him she’d had quite enough,

He suddenly knew what he’d lose,

He begged her don’t leave me,

You know it would griever me,

It’s always been you I would choose.

But she knew that he lied, even while she cried,

His pleas fell upon deaf ears;

She told him she knew, how he’d been untrue,

And now she must get on with her life.

And shaking, turned her back on his tears.

“Who will want you?” he asked, his face now unmasked,

Taunting with words now aimed to cause pain;

“You’re not a spring chicken, your face took a licking,

There are lots more girls prettier than you!”

“It no longer matters” she told him again.

if only he knew, would he have been so untrue?

In the end he was left all alone,

While she made a new life and lived without strife,

and raised the kids all by herself

Leaving him with his sins to atone.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Composed August, 2009; retyped June 17, 2018

 

THANK GOD FOR DIRTY DISHES

THANK GOD FOR DIRTY DISHES,

THEY HAVE A TALE TO TELL,

WHILE OTHERS MAY GO HUNGRY,

WE’RE EATING VERY WELL,

WITH HOME, HEALTH AND HAPPINESS,

I SHOULDNT WANT TO FUSS,

BY THE STACK OF EVIDENCE,

GOD’S BEEN VERY GOOD TO US.

–AUTHOR UNKNOWN 

 

WASHING DISHES

When I was about four years old, my brother Jim would have been seven and

my sister, Becky eight-going-on-nine. It was one of our chores to do the

dishes after dinner every night.  Becky washed, Jim dried and I put away the

dishes, pots and pans and silverware.

My sister bought song books for ten cents each at the drug store on Carl

Street (in Cincinnati).  In them all the popular songs  for the month were

printed. My  sister propped the song book behind the faucet so we  could memorize all the words to all of the songs being sung or played on the radio.

We must have memorized hundreds of songs and it made the timer go by

quickly. (It just occurred to me that, at four, I couldn’t read so I was

memorizing the lines as my sister and brother told them to me.

I have wonderful memories of the three of us doing dishes together.

 

KITCHEN MAGIC

The magician had a book

and the book was titled

“The Service Cookbook

by

Ida Bailey Allen”

And I knew that this book

contained all the secrets

of the Kitchen Magic.

I held my breath

As I opened the pages

Many of them stained

And darkened and shredded

from use.

But I knew

It contained the Magician’s Secrets;

Shortening+sugar+egg+vanilla+flour

+baking powder+salt+raisins+milk =

Old Fashioned Raisin cookies

or

Sugar+milk+baking soda+additional sugar+

pecans=pralines and

Milk+tapioca+cornmeal+molasses+sugar+butter+salt = Indian pudding

Although I was a very young child, I studied the Magicians book, determined to learn all of the secrets and when the opportunity presented itself, I stole the book of Kitchen magic now it was mine and I could perform all the magical things that happen only in the kitchen.  And I did.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

March 2oo9

SCRIBBLED NOTES ON THE MARGIN ON A PAGE IN A BOOK

It was a most unexpected find,

When I least expected it,

Years after my mother had passed away,

And I was searching, one day,

For a recipe of hers,

In her Ida Bailey Allen cookbook,

the only cookbook she ever owned

And from which, I, in turn,

Learned to bake Hermits and Old-Fashioned

Oatmeal cookies and brownies, and Peanut butter cookies,

When I discovered scribbled notes on the margin

On a page in a book–this book

Mommy’s Ida Bailey Cookbook–

My mother’s distinctive handwriting,

I recognized it immediately and a warm flush enveloped me–

It was alongside a recipe called Hungry Man’s cake

The page itself was stained and scorched

from being too close to the stove,

but on the margin, she had written

“Pete’s Favorite”

and I was like a hungry man myself,

leafing through the book, page by page,

Hoping to find more  scribbled notes,

but, more to the point,

What I wondered was,

Why didn’t I ever know that it was

Daddy’s favorite   cake?

Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted 2009/updated May, 2018