Country Kitchen: Growing Up With A Country Store

Country Kitchen: Growing Up With A Country Store

By Mary Emma Allen

A younger person I talked with recently couldn't believe there once existed the country stores that seemed to carry most everything a farm or small town family needed, from farm supplies to basic clothing and food. Occasionally I come across one now, more often to attract tourists than to supply the local population.

However, in my childhood and young adult years, the country general store was a necessary fixture of the community, along with the mail order catalogs. In my early years, the general store in the village, about a mile from home, furnished our needs.

Mother Acquires a Country Store

Then during my last year of high school, Mother became a storekeeper and brought the general store right into our family.

When the former manager of this little country store that my dad built had a heart attack, Father decided to put it up for sale. It had been an investment which now needed an experienced manager. However, Mother insisted she would operate it.

Mother expected my sister and me to help her, to smile when customers might grumble, to be pleasant when we were tired, to stock shelves when we'd rather stand behind the counter.

We learned to cut meat, dip ice cream, plan orders, keep books. Along with this was school work, helping Father and brothers on the family farm, preparing meals and cleaning house. As a farm family, we knew about working together with all pitching in. But Mother's Town and Country Store was a new dimension to our lives.

Lifelong Lessons Learned

I realize now the lessons I learned because Mother decided to become a country storekeeper. She insisted that a shy teenager, who would rather hide away on the farm, help her at the store. There I must to talk with customers and come out of my shell.

I also learned to work at a job, even when it became monotonous. I had to help take responsibility when my sister and I managed the store if Mother and Father were away for a day, then two or three, and finally a week.

Even after I married and left home to live across the country, my ties to the store remained. Mother asked me to write recipes and menus she could post in the store to promote food sales. When a newspaper editor noticed these, Mother suggested I write a cooking column for his weekly paper. (My "Country Kitchen" column has appeared in newspapers and magazines for more nearly 40 years.)

Baking for the Store

Mother also made bread, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, cakes and pies and provided her customers with fresh baked goods. She'd get up at 3:00 AM and begin her baking so it would be warm and fresh for her customers.

Father complained that he couldn't sleep with her rattling around in the kitchen. But he was proud when someone complimented Mother on her baking...and he enjoyed sampling the results.

MOTHER's CINNAMON ROLLS - This is a recipe her grandchildren remember and asked me to write down.

Make up your usual white bread recipe. Instead of forming it into a loaf for the second rising, roll one or both loaves (most recipes make two loaves) into rectangles about one-inch thick. Spread with butter; sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture (sometimes Mother used part white sugar and brown sugar); spread raisins over this - about one half cup of raisins for each rectangle or whatever you desire. (Currants can be substituted.)

Roll up as you would a jelly roll. Then cut in 1-inch slices. Place on greased cookie sheet. Let rise, as you would bread or rolls. Then bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes until they are golden brown and test done.

When baked, remove from cookie sheet. Frost, when cooled, with vanilla confectioners' sugar icing or glaze, if desired. Mother never put icing or glaze on hers.

(C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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