Farm Food

In the rural area of southwest Texas in the 1950's, reality was a generation behind the rest of the world. Farm life had changed ever so slowly for generations.

flour bin, handy for serious cooking

On the farm, my grandmother baked bread every Saturday… 3–4 loaves of sourdough made from starter she kept going in a crockery bowl in a corner of the kitchen counter, covered with a cloth hand towel. Flour was measured from a tilt-out drawer in a low cabinet, filled from 25 pound bags that were saved for the cloth print.

Every day, granny would walk across the main drive, past the pigeon house, to a set of pens where some cows and calves were kept. She’d fill a big bucket or two full of fresh milk. When old enough, I could help carry a bucket back to the kitchen, where it would be strained through a cloth and made into many other home-made, hand-made products. I helped churn butter, a boring but oddly satisfying task. My favorite was cottage cheese. And rich whole milk. Unpasteurized.

butter churn

There is nothing better than warm, home-made bread lathered with country butter and a glass of milk. I was not fat, but I was a stout little kid.

We shunned “store-bought bread”.

I liked “picking the eggs” from the hen house. First you had to chase the chickens away from their nests inside the chicken coop, then take each egg and carefully put it in a bucket. Except the “glass eggs”. I don’t remember the details but some hens will only lay eggs in a nest where there is already one. So Granny would put a fake, ceramic egg in their nest. There were 3–4 of these out of a few dozen chickens. I suppose there is a psychology of laying hens.

By the way, Granny knew a lot of folk lore… and I knew her to be a credible person. For example, she said that — depending on the phase of the moon — you could dig a hole in the ground and immediately fill it back up… and you are more likely to have too much dirt or not enough dirt rather than exactly the same amount of dirt.

Eggs would usually be white or off-white or brown, but sometimes there’d be a speckled one. Granny said it was because of something they ate. There were also some half-size eggs from the bantam hens. They all tasted the same to me.

One wall of the kitchen was all cabinets, counter, and shelves… with a sink in the middle and a window above it. When preparing vegetables and such, she would toss the scraps out the window… reach up, unhook the screen, push it open, and dump the stuff. No garbage disposals back in the day. Outside, chickens would pick at the food scraps. That side was a shady area, under a huge mesquite tree, and just beyond that a septic tank was buried. Under that tree was where we would skin deer during hunting season.

Every once in a while, Granny would make a huge batch of molasses cookies and store them tin containers. They would last forever, slowly drying out but still somehow remaining a bit chewy weeks later. It was a durable cookie; you could put one in your back pocket and it would be fine hours later when hunger set in. They weren’t my favorite for taste but sweet and, lacking anything better, hit the spot.

There was always something to eat.

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