Country Kitchen: The Days of The Country Peddler

Country Kitchen: The Days of The Country Peddler

By Mary Emma Allen

A question from a friend about the tinker of days ago who mended pots and pans and also carried household goods in his wagon triggered memories of the peddler of my childhood....Mr. Isner. He came periodically to our farmhouse with all kinds of goodies in his car, not a horse and buggy.

Usually he appeared about lunch time because he knew Father and the hired man were in from the fields or barn. Mother also often invited him to the noon meal. He became a family friend, one with whom Father and Dan, the hired man, discussed local events, happenings Mr. Isner learned about in his travels, politics, the weather, and national news.

The back seat and trunk of Mr. Isner's car were piled full with clothing for farmers, pens, pencils, notebooks, cooking items, incidentals that country folks needed but didn't want to take the time to go to the store for...which often was some distance away. It was fascinating to me as a child to see what treasures his car held. Would he have something new this time that I'd not seen before?

Goodies for Children

Our hired man always purchased something for himself, often his work overalls and shirts. Then Dan, who also was sort of a surrogate grandfather, would buy candy for us youngsters. One year he got me pencils and a notebook for starting school. Another time he bought us children combs.

It was always fun when Mr. Isner stopped by. During summer vacation from school, his daughter sometimes accompanied him. Then they didn't stay for dinner. I think they either brought a picnic along or Mr. Isner took her out to eat.

I can't recall just when Mr. Isner stopped coming with his wares. But it seems it was about the same time that Dan became ill and could no longer do farm work. However, as I look back on my childhood, both played a role in my memories.

Dinner Menus

What did Mother serve for our noon time dinner meals? The menu might include meat and potatoes of some kind...a stew, pot roast, pork chops, ham and gravy, with vegetables from the garden in summer and home canned veggies in winter.

There always was a dessert which might consist of pie, puddings, cake or cookies.

From MotherÂ’s store of recipes which I'm including in a family cookbook, I found:

SCALLOPED POTATOES - I always enjoyed this dish when Mother had time to prepare it instead of boiled potatoes.

Peel and slice thinly 12 large potatoes. Slice 1 or 2 onions. In a large buttered flat casserole dish, alternate layers of potatoes, onions, salt and pepper. Continue until you use all ingredients. Dot with butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Add milk until potatoes are just covered.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for about an hour, or until potatoes are tender and milk is thickened.

HAM SCALLOP - MotherÂ’s friend made a hearty meal by baking a large slice of ham, about 1/2 inch thick, either on the bottom of the casserole or on top of the potatoes and onion. Mother sometimes cut the ham into smaller pieces and alternated it with the potatoes and onions as she prepared the dish. Then bake as for regular Scalloped Potatoes. You also can serve the Scalloped Potatoes along with baked or fried ham.

(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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