My grandmother  hadn’t wanted to be disturbed when she cooked. So my mother knew nothing about cooking when she married.  She could make lettuce sandwiches.  My dad ate lettuce sandwiches for three weeks and loved my mother enough not to complain. He admitted he hadn’t like lettuce when they married.

So when I, her daughter, was born, she determined I would know my way around a kitchen before I was married. Long before that, my mother had become an excellent cook.

At age ten, I joined the 4-H club with Mom as its leader. Somewhat like Girl Scouts, 4-Hers choose projects for the year. In my first year, I grew a small garden and made a tie-around-the-waist apron. In my second year, I won ribbons for canning fruits and vegetables. According to my “Achievement Book”, I also learned to make salads.

My homemaking skills improved as the years went on. I learned to demonstrate cooking skills. Carrot salad with apple was my first demonstration when I was 11 or 12.  By the time I was in high school, I entered the Dairy Foods Demonstration contest. I showed the audience how to make a custard pie in twenty minutes with time leftover to explain its nutritional benefits.

The first time I practiced making pie crust, it took the entire time. We were allowed pre-measured ingredients, but they had to be added and explained as my work progressed.  The key, I discovered was to work fast and get the dough just right so that it would roll out easily without sticking. The custard was easy. Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Mom bought  three new glass pie pans, which I filled every day for two weeks, until I had my demonstration with the explanation down to the minute.

No one escaped our house without taking some pie with them. My dad declared that he ate pie at least three times a day. He didn’t want a custard pie again for several months.

I won a blue ribbon at the county level. At the state level the judge felt the crust dominated my work and didn’t put dairy foods in the forefront. Since this was sponsored by the Dairy Foods Council, they noted it was an excellent demonstration, but couldn’t give me a blue ribbon.

Another year I demonstrated making Cheese Souffle. This is a main dish for anyone who wants to bring a special dish to the table. The trick for it is timing, so it is ready to come out of the over after everyone is seated. The soufflé stands high above the rim of the dish. Served with a mushroom or shrimp sauce, it brings a chorus of oohs and aahs.


Open for recipe for custard pie




                Yesterday, my daughter and I went to our local farm market/grocery for our weekly supply of fruit, vegetables, meat, and whatever we needed. The smell of fresh-baked cider doughnuts tantalized us we walked across the parking lot to the store.

                The smell prompted a memory.

All summer my dad worked tirelessly to fill the hayloft with enough fresh hay to winter the fifty to sixty animals that depended on him. In the fall he cut corn silage and filled the silo. Then satisfied that everyone would be fed, he could relax a little. There was always something that needed to be fixed or wood to be cut for the kitchen stove.

                Then on a cold rainy day, Mom and Dad would decide to make doughnuts.

                As a young girl, I remember coming into our farmhouse from school with the smell of doughnuts frying on the stove. My mother was at the kitchen cabinet rolling out the dough and punching them out with the doughnut cutter. Dad dropped them into the fat and flipped them over when they popped up with one side already brown. Done, he lifted them out and dropped them on a towel to absorb the extra grease.

By the end of the afternoon, there would be twelve dozen or more. Some stayed in the kitchen for eating during the next few days. The rest went into a large crock in the cellar where they stayed moist and delicious. Whenever my uncle came to visit or work (he was a plumber), he disappeared immediately into the cellar to come up with a couple of doughnuts.

                I loved the fresh hot doughnuts – crusty and so good. Just plain was fine, but I think Mom sometimes sprinkled some with confectioners sugar on some.

                Yes, as we left the market yesterday, the smell drew us directly to those cider doughnuts and we took some home with us.