My Gramps holding Cousin Michelle, Grams holding me, and Cousin Billy in front.
I Remember Grams’ and Gramps’ house …
In the summer it was sweltering. The trees were so green and the air was so heavy and the blue jays were so loud. It was nothing like Idaho where we lived before.
My little sister Jessie and Cousin Michelle played house, while Cousin Dom and I climbed trees and shot our Uncles’ broken arrows with a cheap kids bow that Gramps bought us at the Pea Ridge Supermarket. Sometimes the four of us would meet together in the sandbox and play with little green army men. Some summers cousins Chris and Kevin would come and we would trek one after the other through the blackberry bramble, coming back to the house with blood welling up from deep scratches. Grams would sprinkle our bowls of blackberries with sugar and soon we would have black berry juice all over our faces. Sometimes we would all trek down to the creek and try our best to catch crawdads. I even remember Cousin Billy, who was SO much older than us joining us once or twice. Other times we would ride our bikes up and down the dirt road loving all the ruts and bounces. When we were really lucky our Uncles would take us for rides on their motorcycles. In that same dirt road, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and grandkids would play games of Frisbee.
We had a path we loved to run. Start in the living room (I remember the carpet even, rough and orange and black) and dash out the front door, letting the screen door slam behind us and then around the house between it and Gramps’ shop, through the backyard and up the steps of the porch, and then the steps into the house and then down the hallway, through the kitchen and dining room for a triumphant launching into the air over the three steps down to the living room. Only to take off again, as many times as we could until Gramps hollered “Stop slamming that damn door!”
In the backyard I posed for a picture wearing my first big girl long dress while I fumed that my little sister got to be the flower girl in Uncle Larry and Aunt Pam’s wedding.
In Gramps’ shop I happily nailed nails into wood and sawed pieces of spare lumber, while sparks flew over head as Gramps sharpened knives (Did Mom know?). I can still hear those knives sharpening, a sound like a hundred nails dragging across chalkboard. In the space between the house and the shop we would make long necklaces out of beer can tabs where other kids would have been making boring clover necklaces.
And the food … .Grams made the best breakfasts. Piles of eggs and bacon and toast that had so much butter it melted in your mouth. My mother was chagrined when I would slurp down Grams’ spaghetti—because I hated spaghetti and wouldn’t touch hers. At Thanksgiving and Christmas there were creaking card tables lined up in the kitchen piled with food. My mom would load up enough Christmas cookies in the car that everyone would be able to bring some home. There were so many of us that we had a Christmas present exchange. I don’t remember anything I ever got, just everyone tearing joyfully into their presents.
I remember getting there one night and we were all piled up in the living room watching either the Packers or the Hogs and Aunt Lisa had to climb over everyone when she got off work at Hi-D-Ho to greet me and Jessie and present us with candy bars. I also remember walking all the way with her to Hi-D-Ho where she would buy us ice cream cones.
In that same room we would watch Looney Tunes and American Bandstand with Uncle David while Uncle Jeff slept the morning away. That was the room where we would lay on the floor at night in sleeping bags or if we were really lucky we would get to sleep on the pull out bed. The clock would cuckoo every hour and tick through the night. Some nights we would fall asleep to the laughter and goofing off of all our uncles and aunts while they played cards late into the night. In that room we played with Uncle David and Aunt Donna’s two little dogs and were presented with the biggest Hershey kisses we had ever seen by Uncle Pat. It was there that Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Verna gave us grandkids Mardi Gras beads to play with.
Uncle Scott and Aunt Cathy got married on the patio outside that room.
I remember Aunt Vicki hiding outside in the camper and surprising Aunt Lisa when she showed up for Lisa and Rusty’s wedding. And was it the same trip that Grams thought Aunt Vicki was me getting out of the car and then almost started crying when she realized in was Vicki?
In the dining room was Gramps bar with the stools that we would twirl around in until we got yelled at by somebody or other. . .I remember sitting in those stools holding one or another of the babies: cousins Meranda, Jennifer, Kristy, Heather, and Michael. I have an image of Grams sitting on one of those stools drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. She had the darkest head of hair with white streaks. Behind the bar was Gramps’ beer can collection and the striped orange and white wallpaper with the two rows of graduation pictures of my Mom and her 11 brothers and sisters.
I remember crawling on the tiled floor in the kitchen after Cousin Meranda when she got old enough to crawl and playing with our old Fischer Price toys when we got old enough that they were transferred up to Grams’ and Gramps’ house for the babies to play with. There was a tall stool in that room that had fold away steps that we loved to flip in and out with our ankles—when there was room to get in the kitchen. Usually it was full the sisters: Mom, Aunt Vicki, Aunt Mary, Aunt Jeannie, Aunt Pam … and eventually some of the younger sisters. All of them drying dishes and hiding Grams from view as she washed. She was always surrounded by people who loved her.
When we would leave I would look out the back window as the dust blew up behind the wheels and hid the house from view and I would cry … . because I didn’t want to leave.
Now that I’m older I know I will never really leave, and none of my family will ever really leave me, because those memories will always be there. ____________________________
This article is dedicated to my Gramps who passed away 21 years ago this week and to my Grams who passed away yesterday.
After I got off the phone with Mom and then my maternal grandmother (“Granny”) this Mother’s Day morning, I was thinking about food—as you know I often do. Go figure!
Several years ago I was reading a book about ethnic food traditions in America and the foods we inherit through our mothers. I remember quizzing Mom and Granny to death on the foods that they both grew up on. I have tons of notes somewhere that I took, probably buried with my genealogy stuff that is a come and go hobby, but some of the things I remember them talking about was the huge gardens (Granny was raising twelve kids on Grandpa’s small salary) and all the potatoes down in the cellar, about night-time smelt runs, and kolaches, the Friday fish frys at Grandpa Thibodeau’s ice cream parlour, and my mom’s paternal Grandma Hazel Marlow’s frosting—which was evidently something amazing.
You may have gathered from the above description that my Mother’s family is not from the South! Mom is mostly descended from French Canadians who immigrated to Wisconsin at the turn of the century. Except my Great-Grandfather married a half Scottish lady (the other half, of course, was Canadian French), Hazel Caldie, whose grandfather Thomas Caldie had hacked their farm out of the wilderness in 1862 near what would become Stiles, Wisconsin.
I never did get the frosting recipe, but Mom managed to track down some of Grandma Hazel’s other recipes from my Great Aunt Bev, who still had an old recipe box of Grandma Hazel’s. My Aunt Mary evidently requested this recipe, which she had childhood memories of:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup poppy seed
1/2 cup sugar
Dash of salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
6 TB sugar
Mix crumbs sugar & butter. Reserve 1/2 cup for topping.
Mix poppy seed, sugar, flour, salt & 1/2 cup milk to smooth paste.
Scald 1 1/2 cups milk, add the flour mixture slowly.
Boil 5 minutes (turn the heat down if necessary)
Beat egg yolks & vanilla, add slowly to custard white stirring rapidly & cook five more minutes.
Put the mixture of crumbs, brown sugar & butter in pyrex pan. Pour custard over. Beat egg whites stiff , add 6Tbls. sugar, beat until thick & holds peaks.
Put over top and sprinkle with crumbs. Bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees.
Like most of the family recipes from Wisconsin, this is not Scottish, or French Canadian, but Eastern European! Which, I always find rather amusing, since it is actually on my Dad’s side of the family (Nebraskan pioneers) that I’m descended in part from Moravians (the Tesars).If you are interested in Wisconsin cuisine visit Wisconsin food writer Terese Allen’s web page (My mama’s step-cousin).
This is a post that I did several years ago. Talking with family this week around my Granny’s bedside reminded me of it.
This week is a week that deserved some comfort food! So this post is for all my Sanborn relatives who love this Mac N’ Cheese and for all my Marlow relatives who could use some comfort.
This is my Mother-in-Law’s ultra simple, ultra yummy homemade mac’n cheese recipe. When she showed me how to make it I really couldn’t believe how basic it was. She is requested to make this for every family event from the 4th of July to Thanksgiving. And to be fair, she got it from her Mother, so I guess I should say this is my Grandmother-in-Law’s recipe. This recipe may go back to when my Mother-in-Law wore hot pants.
12 oz elbow macaroni
1 LB cheddar cheese, shredded
1 can evaporated milk
paprika, salt, and pepper to taste
Cook macaroni according to package directions.
Layer the macaroni and the cheese in about three layers, in a 9 x 12 inch casserole.
Pour condensed milk evenly over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
If it starts to get to crispy on top cover with foil.
In the Old Icelandic Calendar, winter begins on the Saturday between October 11th and 17th. This year that is today, Saturday, October 11th. And it almost seems possible even here in the Southern U.S. It is in the fifties today (around 14 celsius), which for us is pretty chilly. And it is wet and gray.
Vetrablot is one of the “three greatest blessings of the year” mentioned in the Icelandic YnglingaSaga, written by Snorri Sturluson in the 1220s. Historically the festival marks the beginning of winter, and involved sacrifices to the elves and the dísir. It is also associated with celebrating the harvest.
Disir literally means either sister or woman or lady. Historically in the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Norse religions they were the female ancestors, mothers who remained on Middle Earth to guard their descendants. They are worshiped singly or collectively and are sometimes referred to as the mothers.
"The disir provided luck, helped in childbirth, gave warnings and protected the individual/family they watched, helped them in battle and otherwise watched over the family. However: In the tales, you’ll find mention of disir becoming ill-tempered (whether due to a lack of sacrifice, some anger provoked by the individual or family, a dramatic or sudden loss of luck, or for no apparent reason) and this bodes ill for the person/family, sometimes resulting in the death of a person."
So today think about and honor your female ancestors and those females close to you who have parted.
Every morning I sit down at the breakfast table and inhale the aroma of my food for a moment before I begin eating. The fragrance is nutty and exotic. I close my eyes and hear the muffled murmur of the lunch crowd at Layla’s, where I first tasted za’atar on soft flat bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and seeds. Thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, sumac, salt—za’atar comes in many combinations, depending on the country, the region, and even the household. It is the flavor of the Levant and Arabia, and of Northern Africa. It has been a staple in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean since at least medieval times. Traditionally dried in the sun, the mixture is then spread on dough and baked as bread, or used as a seasoning for meat and vegetables, or sprinkled onto hummus and yogurt or labneh.
I enjoy it every morning sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt swirled with olive oil. I dip in cherry tomatoes and pita and … . Heaven.