Vintage Eats

I love history and I love food, so I was thrilled to inherit the recipe files of my husband’s great Aunt Olive.

Since Aunt Olive and Uncle Torry had no children, many of their things passed to Jan’s parents, and some of those on to us.

As I sorted through the hundreds of recipes, I felt like I had stepped back in time! Vintage recipes that were clipped from newspapers offered everything from pie making tips from the “Lady of Rose Cottage” to prize winning molasses cookies that included hot mashed potatoes and raisins. (The prize was a princely sum of $5!)

Those yellowed and fragile clippings included practical house hold tips such as how to use kerosene to clean a copper vessel and how to quiet an alarm clock that is too loud. (You put a rubber band around the bell.)

I discovered multiple recipes for organ meats – including beef liver, pork liver loaf, and even one for ” liver and spaghetti en casserole”.

But the one that really made me laugh was the one titled, “Serve Tongue Saucily” with a recipe for beef tongue and horseradish sauce.

I won’t be making any of those any time soon!

I will also not be making any of the varied and abundant recipes featuring prunes. These include prune pudding, prune cake, prune bread, prune whip, spiced prunes and even – I kid you not – a handwritten recipe for “Ice Box Prune Ice Cream”.

No. Just no.

How about some Romance Cookies? Or Blueberry Boy Bait? There’s Spanish cake with Sea Foam frosting, Grape Catsup, Pumpkin Pickles, and Dr. Mayo’s recipe for Arthritis.

I found four identical handwritten recipes for Knute Nelson’s US Senate Bean Soup.  There’s a political joke there – but I’m refraining.

Then there are the family recipes: “Mother’s Plum Pudding” and a recipe for Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls that needed 3 cards to get the details down.

The other 3 card recipe was for Swedish Kringla. That along with the various recipes for Lefse, coffee cake and ginger cookies showed Aunt Olive’s desire to keep her Scandinavian husband happy.

But the treasures I enjoyed most were the little glimpses of daily life that somehow got caught up in the recipes. Like the note and receipt from her favorite blueberry grower.

And most of all the little handwritten note from Olive to Torry simple saying “I’ve been called to a neighbor’s. Back soon, Olive.”

It must have been picked up with a recipe that was out and ended up in her massive collection.

Which now, years later, has become a reminder that these aren’t a random assortment of recipes; these were all collected by someone. Hand picked, chosen for some particular reason. They are a glimpse into Olive’s life, a snapshot of her culinary tastes, her lifestyle, her memories.

I wonder what future generations will think of my massive collection of recipes?

But one thing is for sure – they won’t find any for organ meats.

Or prunes.

Just saying.


The Story Quilt

I’ve been working on a very special quilting project this winter.

I call it the story quilt.

I didn’t piece the top together – I don’t know who did. My friend Amanda discovered it at a craft show.

But as soon as I saw it – I knew how special it was and I volunteered to quilt it for her.

This is a vintage quilt.

A scrap quilt.

A quilt that my grandma would have made.

A quilt that tells a story.

Each square is a bit of fabric that holds a memory for someone – carefully saved bits of cloth that when sewed together become a piece of personal history.

It’s a quilt that spans generations – a time capsule of style and fabrics.

Vintage cotton from the 1940’s.

Checked gingham from the 1950’s.

Fun prints from the 60’s.

Polyester from the 70’s.

And even a few calico pieces from the prairie looks of the 1980’s.

All sewn together – with no rhyme or reason.

A delicate dotted Swiss next to a sturdy denim next to fake wool next to a piece of a work shirt like my grandpa wore – so faded and paper thin that I worry my quilting stitches are the only things that hold it to the quilt.

Bright 1970’s colored print next to a mustard and brown stripe next a pink floral next to a juvenile cowboy print.

Every square vaguely familiar as if I’ve seen it before.

These patches of fabric aren’t from my life – but I can see them in it. Their colors and textures and designs are all woven through-out the times and places that I’ve been.

Memories come flooding back as I hand quilt each square.  This Raggedy Ann print reminds me of my curtains as a child. My sister has a skirt in a plaid similar to this one.  That piece of blue cotton looked so much like Grandma’s house dress that I cried.

This quilt is special – a work of art.

Not because of how it’s put together – the squares are uneven and the whole thing buckles and curves – but because of what it contains.

Hundreds of stories. Millions of connections. A patchwork of history.

People don’t make quilts like this any more.

Maybe we should.

The Great Painting Mystery of Middlefork Township

At a recent trip to the “big city” Jan and I spend some time at our favorite thrift store.

While there, an oil painting caught my eye.

It was vastly different from the reproductions and cheap prints around it.

It had an old house and barn in the background, with a beautiful leafed out tree with a swing as the focal point.

DSC_0425Was it the bright spring-like colors that attracted me? Or the tree swing?

Whatever the reason, I walked across the aisle and picked it up.

It was obviously an original.

As I turned it over I was surprised to see that that the subject of the painting was “the Stedman farm near Delphos”.

We live 10 miles from a town named Delphos!

That sealed it. The painting was mine.

But the entire trip home I kept wondering about the Stedman farm. Is it still there? The house? The barn? The swing tree? Is it really just a few miles from our house? How many towns named Delphos are there anyway?

DSC_0427And the artist – the name sounded somewhat familiar. Who was she? When was it painted? Why was it at a thrift store in the city?

Hot diggity dog! I think I bought myself a mystery!

I googled the name of the artist. Nothing.

But I got a few hits when I searched for Stedman’s from Delphos.

It seems there were several in Delphos in the late 1800’s. One owned a restaurant and barber shop and another owned the Stedman store – the largest building in town.

And one L.B. Stedman bought two Poland-China pigs named Long Girl and Smooth Katie in 1915.

Maybe not so helpful – but at least I know there were Stedman’s in the area and at least one might have owned a farm.

Maybe some locals might know something.

So I call my friend Bobbi. She grew up in the area and is a fount of information.

But she hadn’t heard of either the farm or the artist. But the last name sounded familiar. She told me to call Chaz, another neighbor.

While he didn’t recognize the artist’s name either – he was able to give the name of a 85 year old women in nursing home who lived here for her entire life and shared the same last name as the artist. Best of all – she’s still sharp as a tack.

Next step?

A trip to town for what I hope is an informative talk with this lady and maybe a stop at the courthouse to check out some abstracts.

I’ll let you know what I discover.

Nothing like a little mystery to brighten up a long winter!


I Knew It Was Coming

It finally happened this morning.

I knew it was coming but it still made me sad.

My Bible finally split in two.

I bought this Bible my last year of Bible college. It wasn’t very fancy or expensive – I was pretty broke at the time.

It’s big and heavy and …  precious.

For over 20 years this Bible has been my constant companion.

It was the Bible I was using when I was in the classroom as a brand new teacher, dealing with students, and other teachers, and difficult parents.

It was my Bible as I got my first apartment and began navigated the adult world with it’s responsibilities, privileges and budgets.

It was the Bible I was using during that exciting time when I met and fell in love with Jan.

It was the Bible that I read when I got engaged, then married, and as a new bride.

It was the Bible that carried me through 5 pregnancies, 5 births, and then taught me to be a mother.

It’s pages are rumpled and full of underlined verses and notes in the margins.

It’s been there in the every day of life – giving me strength for the good days, and encouragement during the bad.

This is a book full of God’s promises that I claimed – and God kept.

It’s not just a Bible – it’s a record of my spiritual journey – a history of my faith.

I’m not at all sure that I’m not ready to retire this one – at least not yet.

I know there are smaller, prettier Bibles out there, the words are the same and just as powerful. And in time it would become as priceless  as this one.

But I’m just not ready – at least not today.

I wonder just how long I can hold it together with tape?

This Bible is like a good friend and I really hate good-byes.

A Long Trek and Some History

SunsetWe’ve had a touch of Spring in the middle of February with mild temperatures and sunshine.

We took advantage of this glorious weather on Sunday.

After lunch we took off on a family walk. It was a time of discovery and fun.

Trekking through the deep southern ravines we found large patches of blackberries that we never knew existed.

We saw the ravages of the spring flooding close-up.

We traced an old road on the backside of the property that my husband had discovered on an old map.

He also climbed to the top of an old windmill tower and gave the kids a science lesson. (Thankfully it wasn’t a lesson on gravity!)

We walked through an old cemetery and read the gravestones.

We tried to trace another abandoned road that lead us down to the river.

In the back of the property we found an old well pump and again my husband taught another impromptu science lesson before he and the boys pulled it out. It will someday be the centerpiece of a flower bed in my front lawn.

Three hours later we made it back to the house.

A little history, a little science, a lot of walking and fresh air, I would call it a great afternoon!

Peanut Butter Creams

Chocolate Peanut Butter Creams
My nephew Justin sent me a some peanut butter creams today. Bless his heart, he knows they are my favorite!

Now these are a cookie with some history! The original recipe was in the cookbook that my class made years ago in third grade. Each child brought in a recipe and we compiled them into a special Mother’s Day cookbook for our moms. I think we even had them in for tea.

A kid named Jimmy brought this recipe. My mom still has the mimeographed cookbook with the original recipe handwritten in Jimmy’s 3rd grade handwriting. It also included my recipe for Spamburgers, at least my taste buds have matured since then.

Anyway…the recipe had stood the test of time and has become a family staple. Justin is required to make them for every family gathering or else he can’t eat. (Well not really, but we still give him grief!)

Fast, simple and really yummy, these are a perfect treat for those who love chocolate and peanut butter (like me!)

Thanks Jimmy and Justin!

Peanut Butter Creams

1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
1 c. peanut butter

Form into balls. Drop on wax paper. Refrigerate and eat.