“Time does fly, when you are having fun!” I have spent the best part of the week, with Jenny and her family. I came home on Thursday and stopped by Mamas’ house , that afternoon. Delores and Dana were there. They had stopped by on their way home, from the beach. Since then, I have been working in flowers. What lovely things to do, I think.
One night, at Jennys’, Lyla and I watched the fireflies flashing. The night was silent, except for both of us, for we announced each sighting with enthusiasm. The next morning, I walked with Brynn, on her tricycle, to a mimosa tree, that is covered in fragrant, feathery blossoms. Such things as mimosa trees and fireflies (we used to call them “lightening bugs”) proclaim summer now, as it did so, many, many moons ago, for me. I walk many a mile down my memory lane. I do not want to forget, so I stroll often. . .and when I find some precious remnant that has survived -I take heart!
I was blessed to hear first hand the stories of my people. It makes a difference to know who I came from. I want my children and grand children to know too., and so I tell the stories.
We did not come from “saints” nor from what the world deems as “high society”, I suppose to any one else, my elders were quite an ordinary lot with their plows and goats and gardens. I know different.
In the first decade of my life, I was mostly around Mamas’ family . . all of them. I had my great grandmother called “Mama Hodges” and great aunts and uncles, third and fourth cousins (who seemed like brothers and sisters) besides the next generation of aunts, uncles and cousins.
The women were tireless “housekeepers” and tended to the children, hung clothes on lines, watered the animals, sewed clothes, tended the garden – and did all of this as food simmered in the kitchen. Not a one of those things was an easy task.
The men spent their lives in fields and barns, unless it rained -then they were confined to a shelter to fix whatever was ailing the tractors or an old truck. I knew early on, that picking strawberries or snapping beans were the sort of chores, I preferred. Oh, but those summers of yesteryear are etched deeply in my heart.
My cousins and I did a fair share of chores, but we also had a fair share of liberty, too. . .most especially with the adults so busy. We were mostly quite self sufficient as it was a tragedy to “be babied” in those days. We roamed the countryside and pretended impossible things. We were always on the lookout for kittens and four leaf clovers. . .and clouds in the shape of anything. We had contests -races and high jumping, broad jumping etc. We had a small herd of barely tame ponies. In the early summer, there were always new foals. The goats did their part and usually had twins. After a while, the littlest goats and ponies ran around the farm with us. What a sight that must have been! . . A flock of children and goats and ponies traipsing about in golden sunlight.
Thankfully, none of us had to adhere to any real schedule. We did not take tennis lessons or swim lessons. We organized our own ball games and made our own “clubs”. Siblings would argue sometime, but the cousins did not quarrel with one another. We all got stung by bees frequently. We all got cut with rusty things at some point. Once, my first cousin Chris got stabbed with a pitch fork! Somehow, we lived to grow up and tell about it.
There wasn’t a thing on TV weekdays, for children. We did not “talk on the phone either. We lived outside. Only rain kept us in. There wasn’t a toy box in the house, either. There was a set of World Book Encyclopedias, and a Sears & Roebuck catalogor two. Delores and I made paper dolls from the old ones, sometimes. . .but we all loved the encyclopedias best. A rainy day was the best chance of a cake too.
By July, we sat in the grass and ate watermelon or cantaloupe. Sometimes on Sundays, we had homemade ice cream. Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene came with “little Gena” . They lived about 25 miles away, and for us that seemed so far away, in those days. I can still see my little cousin running to keep up with her country cousins , golden curls bouncing from beneath a little white hat-I was sure she was a doll.
In the evenings of late summer, the adults sat around and talked til dark. Someone was always shelling peas or beans. We didn’t change the clocks in those days-but the days were just as long anyway. By the time we went in, we had found the first star, and made our wishes . The Bob White had called out and bats were darting about.
The dirt of the day was scrubbed off with a vengeance . We said our prayers and went to bed.
It is no wonder, that I never wanted to go back to school. I found it dull and artificial. I had wonderful class mates and kind teachers, but my heart belonged to the back roads and my own people. I knew how to read and do the math, already. I had learned these things connected to life on the farm which was so natural. I actually mourned and would cry at the “drop of a hat”, at school. I did well though I had to sit in the “Lonesome Chair” on occasion, for yelling out answers to silly questions. “What color is the dog?” I could not comprehend that the class didn’t know and I did not see the need to waste my life waiting for someone to guess about it. So I would try to put an end to the misery. No one else was talking, so it did not seem impolite to answer.
Had it not been for the library, I am sure that I would have perished from the boredom. It took me three months to convince the stern librarian, “Miss Susie” that I could read the “third grade” books, for it was considered “trespassing” for me to go in that section of the library.
The school bus took the longest way home, but when I finally saw our house and the farm, and the door opened, I “hit the ground running”!
I have countless memories of those summers, and I think a lot, about what it felt like to be a child in those days. Weather was of utmost importance and dictated our actions, so even children learned to recognize signs. Light was our clock and even now, I know the hour according to the where the sun is. The only need to rush, back then, was when a storm was coming and clothes were on the line or the ponies got out. (That was always exciting.) How peaceful life is without schedules, I want to shout to the world.
I learned so many valuable lessons-a collection of “precious remnants”, that still make a difference and ring true.
Work and play are both equally vital -so we ought to grow tomatoes and flowers. Immersion in nature, is really like going to church for you will be humbled and grateful, all at once. Loyalty to family is valuable beyond measure, whether they are “saints or sinners”. . .You can learn a lot from both sorts. Do not become so tame and civilized, that even your thoughts can’t wildly ramble. Stay curious . Curiosity is the spark we must fan, to keep learning and rest assured, even life long learners never know everything. . . and for goodness sakes . . LOVE like your life depends on it, for in some ways, it really does . . . and it does “cover a multitude of sins”, after all.
I am not sure whether it was “Beginners’ Luck” or what . . . but I made apple dumplings that are good enough to brag about. I had never even eaten apple dumplings, let alone made them, but I am not a bit sorry, that I tried. I can hardly wait for my son Brant to visit, for I know this dish will give him one more reason to come home when he can. Brant loves apples.
Now the good folks in Pennsylvania, may not consider this dish, true apple dumplings, and it seems they are the experts, but this recipe was everything I hoped it would be. This is as good of a reason as I know of to cook apples.
1 and 1/2 cups of water
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tbl spoons of butter
a dash of salt
Mix all ingredients and slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently. As you do so, for you do not want to leave the stove- (Butter and sugar will burn if neglected.) -mix the following:
2 cups of self rising flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of milk
2 tbl spoons of melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract ( I tend to “spill” more, anytime, a recipe calls for vanilla.)
1 cup diced apples
Combine ingredients, saving the apples for last. Now, drop by spoonfuls in to the sauce. I turned the heat down a bit, so the boil was slow. Cover the pot and turn the dumplings after about five minutes. Cook about five more minutes and remove from heat. When they are cool enough to eat, do so -and be extra patient so you won’t burn your tongue.
I used a large skillet, to get the dumplings to cook evenly. All is not lost, if the dumplings, break as you turn them. Nobody will care, once they have tasted them.
I took some to Mama and Daddy, while my sweet cousin Sheila was there and a dear friend, Miss Edie. Nobody complained about anything after we ate . . .and besides, all dishes are really better, when shared with others.
My loyal readers of the “rabbit patch diary” know full well my plight with baking cookies. I have had all sorts of disasters. They have turned out as hard as rocks, or just burnt enough to taste bad. Other times, they spread into mush. They have crumbled, cracked and shattered at the first bite. Often, these catastrophes happened when all you had to do was slice the dough from a refrigerator roll of a pre -made concoction. I just stopped the nonsense and bought cookies. Then I became a grandmother- called “Honeybee”, and that changed everything. I set out on a mission to bake cookies that would melt in your mouth . . the kind everyone else made.
Currently, I can make two varieties. One is the “Scottish Short Bread”. Jenny, has a neighbor from Scotland, that in her words “lives the way the crow flies” from Jennys’ house. She gifted Jenny with a batch of her short breads, last Christmas and Jenny talked about them all year. When I met the friendly Scottish lady, I asked her about the recipe. The next day, she sent a batch and I too thought, they were the best short bread I had ever eaten.
There are but three ingredients in these delicacies. This in itself is a wonder, if you consider the ingredients in the store bought varieties. I can give testimony, that the cookies keep well, for at least several days. I have a vintage ceramic cookie box, not air tight, and I ate the last one this morning for breakfast.
*Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together,then add flour. The dough may be a bit sticky, so I floured a surface to roll them on. I made mine every bit of a 1/4 inch thick and used a cookie cutter. I suspect you could simply cut them in squares, as well. I cooked mine on a lightly floured stone, but I am a novice and need all the help I can get. The recipe says to bake for 14-16 minutes. I took mine out a few minutes early, before they were a “golden brown”, for I was terrified I would burn them. At the first bit of golden I saw, I snatched them out-and they were fine.
I made heart shaped cookies, that were a good size and the recipe yielded about twenty cookies. It was hard to tell, as we sampled as each batch came out of the oven.
Cookies,like everything else, are better when shared, so take some to your neighbors, who live “In the way the crow flies”.
Some of my favorite hours have always been in the kitchen. As a small child, I spent a good deal of my childhood in fields and woods. If I wasn’t there, I was probably playing in a barn . . .If I was in the house, I was most likely in the kitchen.
The women in my family cooked. In those days, processed food was in its’ early stages. I never saw things like “instant potatoes”, cake mixes and “Hamburger Helper”. Of course, this meant someone was usually in the kitchen . . . peeling potatoes, often.
The yellow and chrome kitchen table, in my grandmamas’ house, was the best place I knew of to tell secrets or to solve a mystery. I also could count on someone being in the kitchen, in the circumstances of bee stings and skinned knees-or when I couldn’t button a dolls’ dress. “The heart of the home”-was always in the kitchen. Maybe my love affair with kitchens spawned from those days. . . when Mama, Grandmama, and Aunt Josie were making things like banana pudding or rolling out dough for chicken and pastry.
Why cookies, of all things, have remained such a plight for me, is beyond me, but for the love of a grandchild, I will not give up. I can at least say now, I can bake “tea cakes” . . .and Lyla loves them.
“Tea cakes” are a shortbread type of cookie, but more “cake like” in texture. They are often paired with iced tea, in the south, but they go very well with coffee, too. They are a simple concoction of a very few ingredients, unlike “store bought” cookies, that lists dozens of artificial substances, and do not lend the heavenly aroma to the kitchen, as the tea cakes do.
1 cup soft butter
1 1/2 cup of sugar ( I tend to spill just a little sugar more, in the bowl)
1 tsp vanilla ( I spill vanilla too)
1/4 cup of milk
3 cups self-rising flour
Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together. Add flour and milk, slowly. Form dough into 2 loaves, and chill in freezer for about 20 minutes. By hand, form the chilled dough into small balls. Bake at 375 degrees, on a lightly floured cookie sheet-(I use a pizza stone), for ten minutes. Do not brown the cookies. This will make about forty cookies. I have halved the recipe, successfully. The cookies keep well for several days.
You will not need to ring a dinner bell, when tea cakes are cooking.
Some people call them cheese “straws”, sometimes they are called cheese “biscuits” If you pipe them, they are straws, if you make them into little cookies, then they are biscuits. Whatever you call them, they are are a simple concoction and taste delightful.
Years ago, these biscuits were served at every bridal and baby shower, including my own. What sweet memories I have of small gatherings in church fellowship halls or in the dining rooms of neighbors, celebrating a new baby or the union of young fresh faced couples.
Neighborhood ladies made bowls of chicken salad and pimento cheese, to be served in little sandwiches. Someone made tiny cake squares. There were always nuts-usually peanuts or pecans, homemade mints, that were so creamy, in pastel colors and a bowl of punch. Often the same lady came to be known for a certain dish and provided that-but the legend in the Old Ford community, that I grew up in was Shirley Cherry. Miss Shirley could do it all and eventually catered the affairs altogether. She also branched out into weddings.
Keep in mind, that these occasions were a far cry more simple, than the current trends, when I was young. They were very personal gatherings with little variation from one another. Somehow, as grand as these events have become, I think something beautiful has been lost.
Pleas note, that this recipe for cheese biscuits should not be confused with the large fluffy biscuits, southeners are apt to eat for breakfast or with fried chicken for supper. This recipe yields small “cookie like” wafers.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup rice krispies cereal (any rice cereal can be used)
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
a dash or so of crushed red pepper
Combine all ingredients, by hand and form into balls, to be flattened, with a moist fork. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-14 minutes.
Now, Miss Shirley did not put the rice cereal in hers, and they were good anyway. . .also they are always better when shared with a loved one . . .or when it snows.
This is no ordinary day at the rabbit patch, for snow blankets the territory. School was dismissed early, yesterday-and so all afternoon, I waited for snow. It has been more than five years, since I have seen more than a scant dusting. By around four o’clock, it was sleeting and I feared we would have to settle for an icy rain. Around nine, it started snowing at last. I was sorry not to be able to watch it fall as that is such a lovely sight, and so very rare in these parts, but I consoled myself that “Joy would come in the morning”. I was up by four am .
Snow was everywhere. There was wind and it caused the snow to swirl wildly. Such conditions are unheard of here . . and so I woke Christian. I could not stand thinking he would miss this event. Christian has stopped me from kneading bread to see the moon rise and so it did not seem the least bit odd, to wake him under the circumstances. We stayed up a while, and then went back to sleep until morning light.
Temperatures are supposed to remain just below freezing until Monday, so I am prepared to stay on the rabbit patch for a while. Of course, snow does not come without a cost, it seems. I will need to replace a pipe in the laundry room, as a chunk the size of a large egg, broke off, due to ice. Today, the hot water is frozen up and the washing machine works when it cares to.
Christopher Robin, does not share the enthusiasm for “the winter wonderland” that we do. His curiosity is satisfied by peering out the windows. Cash, on the other hand, dashed madly about and even rode a snow board! (left over from ski trips). Boxers are known as “eternal puppies” and Cash was living proof of that today.
It is my great pleasure to announce, that I made cookies this morning-soft cookies, that tasted good enough to warrant second servings. I made “tea cakes” , an old southern variety. They are like a shortbread cookie and for a while, the kitchen smelled, like quite a baker, lived here. I so hope, it was not “beginners’ luck”. It just seems shameful that a “Honeybee”, (or a grandmother) wouldn’t be a good cookie baker.
It was still snowing in Elizabeth City, when I talked to Jenny, in the late morning. They are likely to get some snow every winter, but not by the foot, as they had so far. Lyla was determined to build a snowman and so Will helped her out. I am trying to muster the courage to make snow lanterns, but the wind is something fierce and very uninviting.
I did collect snow for snow cream. It snowed very few years in my childhood, but when it did, we made snow cream. Snow cream is a simple concoction of snow, vanilla, cream and sugar. It is made according to ones’ taste and can be made by the bowl or in a batch. Powdery snow is the best kind and we were not short on supply of that, today. I suppose all sorts of variations would work . Honey could replace sugar-so could maple syrup and I am sure you could really add whatever your heart desired . . . but I made mine just like the kind I grew up with, today.
I always think of Frosts’ Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, when t does snow, and I did so today. I understand “stopping to watch woods, fill up with snow”. It is as good a reason to stop, as I know of.
Fried cornbread is a staple in the south. It may be elsewhere too -and masquerading by some other name, for all I know. If you serve barbecue, you have to fry cornbread, too. It also pairs well with cabbage and collards. . .and ham. Many readers asked what fried cornbread was. The rabbit patch does it this way.
The recipe is quite simple, but cooking cornbread is not for the “faint of heart”. Do not even think about leaving the stove once you start-and you can not make this ahead of time, either. Cornbread does not keep. I I have yet to find any use for left over fried cornbread. Do not think this particular cornbread is ideal for stiffing a turkey. . . it is not. It does not crumble and is likely to toughen.
I do not know that cornbread is healthy, but I do know it has never killed anybody. It is a comfort food and sometimes that is the biggest benefit of a meal.
I will go ahead and state, I rarely measure anything-unless I am baking bread. . .so good luck. In a skillet pour vegetable oil so that it covers the bottom graciously. There should be enough oil so that some of it will rise above the batter. While the oil is heating, mix about a cup of corn meal-I like stone ground, but have even used self rising. Thin cornbread is very desirable and most likely to occur using stone ground. Some of you will be in a bind right now, as I hear this product is not found every where. I add a good bit of salt, as cornmeal is bland, and a generous amount of black pepper. You should be able to see the pepper when you have mixed these dry ingredients. Now you add hot water and stir as you do so. The consistensy should be more loose than cake batter and fluid enough to easily pour. Do not concern yourself with doubt about this-Whatever the appearance, the batter will fry. I usually add an egg now, so the concoction binds and does not shatter into pieces when cooked. The oil should be hot, to the point it about worries you, when you pour the batter. I make mine like the size of small pancakes. I look for bubbles to form, to know when to turn it, just as if it really were pancakes. This should be a quick process -and do not answer the phone, while you are cooking. Drain on paper towels and call everybody to the table.
My mama can bake cornbread that turns out about as crispy as the fried. I can not, though I aim to learn. Mamas’ turns out thin and full of flavor and gosh it is probably easier on the nerves. When I do I will let you know . . .you just have to find cornmeal. In October, when it is dark by supper, and the air is chilled . . corn bread is especially good.
I am still biding time in Elizabeth City, the original “Rabbit Patch”, so named because I am certain, there are more rabbits than people, here. The days pass along sweetly-some sort of beauty unfolding on every one of them. One needn’t have a keen eye nor a sixth sense to find a friendly face, an old fragrant rose or a laughing river. Such things are far from rare, in this town.
Most days, I take Lyla for a walk around the Riverside Village. Lyla remembers where every dog and cat live-and where the rabbits are likely to be. We usually stop at the banks of the river and when we do, a sense pf peace and quiet descends upon us. We watch the river roll by while light twinkles upon it. The river has been very blue, the last few days. It is hard to be concerned about much else, when you are watching a river tumble by.
I am glad for the river and the quiet moments we spend by it. It gives me the fortitude I need in the midst of the commotion , of this season in my life. The rabbit patch is officially up for sale, after all. The summer is waning and by the time the August moon rises, I will be back at work. I have not seen my sons nearly enough to suit me, this summer and I miss them terribly. An Endless Summer is clearly a myth. When my thoughts become jumbled with too many notions, I remind myself of what is constant and steadfast. This consoles me, and so “my heart is not troubled” nor melancholy-but instead joyful at the prospects, for only love is constant and I am not short on that.
Today is my maternal grandmothers’ birthday. I grew up in her presence, and I am not sorry for it. She has been passed over forty years, now. She died quite suddenly in the middle of a cruel night. I was ten years old, and I am just shy of sixty now, yet I remember clearly the details of that July. I loved her so very much, that my eyes still sting, when I remember her. I doubt she ever realised that her influence would remain so mighty. She was after all, a farmers’ wife who collected eggs, watered livestock and kept house. I don’t suppose, she ever considered herself as valuable as she really was-to all of us. How could she have known that those trips to the “Dime Store” would be etched in my memory, and still a delight, decades later? We made cakes if it rained, a long spell. I still do that today. I wonder if she realised that the set of “World Book Encyclopedias” we referred to often, spawned my life long love of learning. Grandmama made a difference in my life-and actually in Lylas’ too, and all the grandchildren, to follow. From “Edna Hodges Haddock”, I learned what grandmothers do. They tell stories and teach rhymes, while they are snapping beans. They save pocketbooks and shawls in a chest, for dress up . . and they sing “You Are My Sunshine” while you sit beside them in a swing on the front porch. They love your freckles and call you “sugar”.
So it is true, as it is written, that ” some things will cease, and some be stilled-and some pass away” but “love does remain” and maybe, that is what makes”it the greatest”.
Jo Dee is one of my dearest friends. She is dependable, trust-worthy and does not mind my flaws-She is also a good cook. Ever since, I bragged on her barbecue chicken, folks have asked for the recipe. I believe when you find something good, you ought to share it-and in that case, this chicken recipe should be shared. Everyone who has tried it, agrees that this is the best barbecue chicken, they know of. Thank goodness Jo Dee wrote her recipe down for a friend that we both love- so I can give the proper details on the preparation. Jo Dee used leg quarters.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Salt chicken on both sides and place in a casserole dish. With great generosity, sprinkle lemon pepper and crushed red pepper over the chicken. Jo Dee drizzles worcestershire sauce over each piece, next. Use about a 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup vinegar and pour over the chicken. Bake an hour, then turn chicken over and bake another hour.
The sauce will cook into the chicken and not “sit on it” as most sauces do. This chicken reminds me of the barbecue chicken from my childhood, when sauce did not come in a bottle. I remember eating my grandmothers’ barbecue chicken at a yellow chrome kitchen table in a small farmhouse . This recipe brings back those fond memories, in the sixties, when all I had to do was come when they called me, to eat a good meal. Jo Dee did not cover her chicken, so neither did I. It turned out moist and is fit for Sunday Dinner or anytime you are having company. Remember, that any dish, when shared with loved ones, is always better .
My great Aunt Agnes could play the piano like she was born to do so. It seemed as natural to her as breathing. Her daughter, Faith can too. Aunt Agnes loved flowers and she was as pretty as any flower she grew. Her trademark smile and dangling earrings charmed everybody. My mom inherited Aunt Agnes’ good looks.
Aunt Agnes was quite a cook, too. Her recipes are about sacred in the family. I ate many good meals in her big kitchen. She fed her five children and the farmhands every day at noon. Do not think for minute, we ate sandwiches. She filled the huge table and the top of the “deep freeze” with all sorts of southern delicacies -all made from scratch. . . At Christmas she made an apple salad.
My mom had a notion for it this year at Christmas-so I attempted to concoct one like the one Aunt Agnes made. I will tell you the ingredients sounded like a terrible combination and I just knew it would spoil my own reputation as a decent cook. Still, mama wanted it-and it was Christmas, after all- so I gathered the ingredients and hoped for the best . . and let me tell you it worked.
Of course, I had to taste as I went along with it. What a pleasant surprise I had, when it was better than “fit to eat”. It was good. It was so good, that I have made it since and plan to again tonight. Of course, as always, I do not measure ingredients (unless it is a new bread). The good news is that it turns out anyway. The quantity is easily adaptable. I sent Miss Claudia a single serving and have not heard a complaint, so I suppose , measuring is not of necessity.
4 or 5 large red skinned apples one stalk of celery, diced very fine large handful of raisins-depends on your taste large handful of roasted pecans ( you could use walnuts-maybe almonds) a good dash of brown sugar
Cut unpeeled apple into bite size pieces. Mix ingredients and brace yourself. Use a heaping tablespoon or more of mayonnaise combined with about a cup of whipped cream to coat the mixture. It sounds awful, but do it anyway -you won’t be sorry. I do not make this too much ahead of time, because of the apples turning brown, and me being out of lemon juice.
I would think a number of variations could work with this salad-maybe cinnamon or maple would be a nice flavor addition-and some may try yogurt instead of mayonnaise. I think this would be a good side served with pork, especially. I also think it could be considered a light dessert.
I will tell you from experience, that dishes in general, taste better in the company of loved ones.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was born and I had a grandmother named Edna. She lived in a small house on a small farm-and she loved me very much. Today is her birthday.
In all of my first memories, Grandma is there, and wearing a ” house dress”. She is in the kitchen, the yard, or the “packhouse barn”-and always wearing a simple cotton dress. In those days that was the way.
I was the first girl grandchild and for a while, the only one that was with her. It was a grand position to be in. I come from “sensible folks” and no one was willing to “spoil me” -I remain thankful for that. It would not have served me well. I do know that from the beginning, I was loved by this grandmother in a way that I haven’t forgotten though she died just short of a half century ago.
There weren’t “playdates” back then-nor preschools and no one took lessons for anything , especially if you grew up on a farm. My childhood was spent with my people and I am not sorry for that. The farm was the only playground I knew of and cousins were the only friends. I did not even go to kindergarten, in fact, hardly anybody did.
I spent my days with grandma, “running the house”. Everybody else was out working on the farm. I counted eggs and knew early on how many went in an ordinary cake and how many went in a special one. I helped her make grocery lists for the A&P shopping. If I asked her questions, she sent me to the World Books. They were heavy for me, but I would lug them to the kitchen table. I really believe that is how I learned to read, because I don’t hardly remember not knowing how. Grandma was a collector of little glass figurines and had a book case full of them. When I learned how to be careful, she let me remove all of them and dust. She also had a button box with fancy buttons that I sorted and a box of old photographs. There was one relative that looked scary to me and she used to laugh about that. Most of these things happened on rainy days-if it was fair weather, I was outside.
I only remember getting in trouble a few times. I was a repeat offender about climbing on the packhouse. A packhouse was a huge barn used for dried tobacco , hay and corn to feed the animals-and also for storing furniture that wasn’t needed, but still fit for use just in case. They were two story with massive A-framed roofs. All the farms had one and they all looked the same. The roof made a wonderful slide and the pasture gate acted as a ladder to get there. The rust on my clothes acted as evidence of the crime. The view of how the fields layed out is still in my memory-it was beautiful.
My little sister was born, and my cousins from Kansas moved back to the farm. Aunt Josie had a baby. We all stayed with grandma. I remained devoted to helping grandma run that house. I rocked my little cousin, Carolyn for grandma. Carolyn was my living doll baby. I would swing her to sleep on the front porch and fuss with the others if they dared to play in the front yard while I was doing so.
After chores were done, we all played for hours uninterrupted. Grandma was a perfect grandmother for me though she broke rules as she saw fit. I ate candy just before supper if I needed too. She told me secrets about what I was getting for my birthdays-and she ruled us kids with fear. If you played in a ditch after a rain, you were liable to get the “ditch itch” which was a horrible disease, so we didn’t track mud from a ditch on her floor. The devil lived under the house-I never went there and if she needed, she would tell a story of a terrible fate that happened to a child breaking rules such as hers.
Grandma left us suddenly, when I was ten years old. It was the middle of the night and caused a big commotion on the farm. Aunt Agnes, her sister, came to get the kids and grandma went to the hospital. I knew she had died before I was told.
One thing I know, is that the power of love is mighty and does wonders for a child. Christian asked me a few years back if I still missed my grandma after decades-I just cried, and in that way he knew though I hadn’t spoken a word. I grew up with confidence that I was lovable. I knew how to learn and how to play. I knew I was needed and valuable to her and the world.
I make my journey looking out for ditches and cold dark spaces. . . and have mostly stayed off the top of barns. I make special cakes on occasion and Lyla loves a swing. In the beginning of my life, I knew a love that would span the decades-and that has made all the difference.
Pimento cheese is well known in the south, though it’s origin is in New York. It seems that Georgia started a large canning facility for the sweet red pimentos in the 1920’s and the south took full advantage of that. All I really know for sure is that the rabbit patch loves it-and pimento cheese is as easy to make as it is to eat. There are many variations-and you can add what you see fit. Bacon bits and pickles are commonly used add ins, but we like the basic recipe below-
16 oz. of sharp shredded cheese
8 oz. diced pimentos ( you can lessen or add more as you prefer)
mayonnaise, salt, pepper, garlic-all your preference on quantity
a dash of mustard
This spread is great on crackers for a snack or in a sandwich, it makes a meal. If there’s a chill in the air , serve it like a grilled cheese-you won’t be sorry. At one time, before occasions got so fancy, little pimento cheese sandwiches were served at every bridal or baby shower I ever went to-including my own. And beware-store bought is not the same thing.
The rabbit patch serves this when good friends come by-and it’s always better that way.. . of course, it is great for a picnic too.