Country Kitchen: Seed Catalog Time Forerunner of Spring

Country Kitchen: Seed Catalog Time Forerunner of Spring

By Mary Emma Allen

When the seed catalogs begin arriving in the mail, our thoughts turn to gardening and the season of planting. Even though the cold winds blow and snow still carpets the ground, that eternal spirit of new life and green and growing things springs anew and we begin to plan our gardens.

This was an exciting time when I was a child. On the farm, catalogs made up many of our sources of shopping. Even traveling to the nearby town, five miles away, was an event (yes, we did have a car, although my mom grew up in the "horse and buggy" days), so catalogs came in handy.

They furnished us with many of our goods including garden seeds, household supplies, clothing and shoes. On winter evenings, Mother and Father spread the seed catalogs on the kitchen table. Midst the warmth from the kitchen wood stove, we planned for spring.

Vegetables & Flowers

The seed catalogs displayed lovely colored pictures of vegetables and flowers. This set us dreaming about decorating the yard with more floral offerings, as well as trying some new vegetables. Although Father bought most of the seed for his farm crops at the local farmersÂ’ cooperative, he also began his farm planning at this time.

We lived on a dairy farm and grew alfalfa and timothy for hay, along with corn, and oats for cattle and chickens. Our vegetable garden was a large one because Mother canned many foods for winter fare.

During World War II, our planted plots were called Victory Gardens. Raising our own food wasn't something new on the farm, like it was for many families during that era. But we tried to raise even more food to make up for the rationing and to increase the spirit of patriotism with everyone helping out.

Gardens Over the Years

Jim and I have had various gardens at the different homes where we've lived from New York State, Texas, California, and New Hampshire. Some were large and others merely window gardens.

We soon learned in Texas that you planted your garden in February, not the end of May like New Hampshire and New York State. By May the ground was drying up and our plants withered as they came through the ground.

However, the next year we planted in February and had a nice garden throughout the spring. By summer though, when we'd begin eating from gardens in New England, the gardens in Texas where we lived were finished.

Foods While Garden Planning

So unless you're living where it is planting season, you'll only be thinking about gardens now and won't be using freshly picked fruits and vegetables. Casseroles, time saving and make-ahead, are handy this time of year.

MACARONI & FRANKS WITH CHEESE SAUCE comes from the Allen Family recipe collection. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a rolling boil. Add 6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) macaroni or pasta and cook uncovered, about 7 minutes; drain.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter or margarine in skillet. Add 1/4 cup chopped onion and 1/2 pound sliced hot dogs (about 4 large ones) to skillet. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes.

Stir into franks and butter: 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Add 2 cups milk, cooking and stirring until thickened. Then add, stirring until melted and well blended, 1 cup shredded American cheese.

Fold into this mixture the drained cooked macaroni and 1 cup cooked cut green beans (if desired).

Pour into 2-qt casserole. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded American cheese. Add some bread crumbs over this, if you like. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes.

(C) 2003 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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