Country Kitchen: Your Heritage of Food Lore

Country Kitchen: Your Heritage of Food Lore


By Mary Emma Allen

Everyone has a food heritage although they might not have recognized it has such. This generally refers to the foods you grew up with for family meals, recipes that have come down through the generations in your family, stories associated with festive occasions. Often through these memories and research, you can discover even more about your family.

Farm Family Foods

Food played a role in the lives of farm families, who raised their own. Their very lives depended upon this activity for their food and to sell for income. My grandfather, a newspaper columnist as well as a farmer, wrote about the food they raised and prepared in his boyhood during the later part of the 1800s. What fun to find this information now.

My grandmother thought her hospitality wasn't complete unless she invited friends at least to sit down for a cup of tea and slice of homemade bread and jelly when they visited. My memories also include the daily 3 o'clock break when she and my two aunts sat at the kitchen table for a cup of tea or coffee and cookies.

Other childhood memories revolve around cooking meals on the wood stove in our farmhouse kitchen. Much of this was done in the black kettle, iron skillet, and iron pancake griddle. (How interesting, several years ago, to find the griddle when I sorted things in the old farmhouse.)

German Heritage

My husband has a partial German food heritage. His motherÂ’s grandmother, Charlotte Thoman, came from Germany so passed along these recipes to her children. Also, the area where his mom grew up in Ohio was settled by numerous German emigrants during the 1800s.

Mum, at 94, reminisces about the foods of her childhood and those her mother made and passes along this heritage to us. She also recalls the family reunions when nearly 100 relatives gathered for a meal, visiting, and fun. Many foods here had Germanic origins.

My momÂ’s maternal and paternal ancestors were German Palatines who came to this country in 1710. Many Palatines settled in the Hudson River Valley of New York State where she grew up. And as I've become more aware of food origins, I see that some of those recipes handed down through her family had Germanic origins, although they'd become Americanized over the decades.

Sauerkraut Variations

One of the foods Mother served was sauerkraut, and my mother-in-law has talked about it, too. Sauerkraut has a long history because it could be made and saved in barrels.

In our country, the Pennsylvania Dutch, as well as the Germans of the Mid-West, and those in the Hudson River Valley often made and served this food. By the time sauerkraut reached my generation, Mother used it from cans purchased at the store and didn't make it and store in crocks like her mother had.

For something quick and easy, try a SAUERKRAUT SANDWICH: Arrange layers of Swiss cheese, sliced corned beef, and drained sauerkraut on a slice of dark rye or pumpernickel bread spread with mustard. Cover with another slice of buttered dark bread or serve as an open-faced sandwich.



(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 me.allen@juno.com

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