Sunday, September 11, 2011

Foods We Used to Eat

I just came home from a pot luck dinner after church. How I love the wonderful variety of foods the members of our church prepared. It made me think of a conversation my sister and I had recently about the foods we enjoyed as children. I hadn't realized that foods can go out of style. Or maybe families have their own particular eating habits that change over the years.
One of my favorite foods as a child was fried chicken. Try as I might, I just can’t get my fried chicken to taste as good as Mom’s. I suppose the product itself had a lot to do with it. What Mom called “spring chickens” were chickens she raised on grains grown by Dad on our farm. We’d help her butcher them in the morning, and she cooked them for dinner at noon. They were tasty and tender. I suspect the reason I can’t duplicate that delicious, crispy delicacy is that Mom fried those chickens in home-rendered lard, something we don’t do these days.
Back in my childhood, when Sunday evening was spent visiting friends and relatives in their homes, the lady of the house always served “lunch” before the visitors went home. Sometimes that consisted of sandwiches or a freshly baked cake, but the lunch I remember most clearly was a dessert made by crumbling graham crackers into a sauce dish, plopping a home-canned peach half or two on the crackers, and topping it off with a dollop of whipped cream - the real stuff, not the kind that comes in a plastic tub. Does anyone ever make that anymore?
One of our favorite “foods” when we played house as children was crackers crushed up and soaked with water. It doesn’t sound very good to me now, but we had many a tea party with that simple fare.
Sometimes, as Mom prepared supper, we’d snitch a slice of raw potato, put it on a salty cracker, and munch on that while waiting for the meal. I wonder if I’d like that today as much as I did then.
I really miss the chocolate cake I used to make as a girl. It had a moist velvety texture and deep chocolate flavor. I topped it with egg white frosting made with brown sugar to give it a caramel flavor. I still have the recipe, written in my own youthful scrawl, in a notebook Mom used for her best recipes. I’ve tried to bake it many times in recent years, but I just can’t get it to turn out right. I think I know the problem. Back then, I would make it with a cup of sour cream I’d get from our cream can down in the basement. All week long, we’d add the day’s cream to that can until it was full and ready to take to town on Saturday night to sell. By the end of the week, the cream had soured naturally into a product so thick you could almost cut it with a knife. I’ve tried everything I could think of to duplicate that cream - cultured sour cream, buttermilk, butter, plain yogurt, or any combination of those items - but that cake just doesn’t turn out the way it did with sour cream from the cream can. Oh, well, at least I have the memory of it.
Maybe our eating style is more healthful these days. We don’t fry in lard, we drink only pasteurized milk, we have access to fresh fruits and vegetables all year long. But, healthy or not, I could go for a crispy fried chicken wing followed by a piece of that chocolate cake right now. I think I’d skip the “cracker soup.”