Country Kitchen: Grandpa's Cooking Philosophy

Country Kitchen: Grandpa's Cooking Philosophy
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As I browse through my grandfather's writings....yes, my grandfather, was a columnist, too...I discover his interest in food and philosophy of cooking. In a collection of his columns, "Fifty Years Ago - Rural Life From 1875," I came across many interesting references to the food grown and prepared in the 1870s,
He had firm thoughts of the merits of the food in the latter part of the 1800s versus that which folks were eating in the 1920s when he wrote these articles.

"I think the foods of 50 years ago were more nourishing and better adapted to the needs of the body than what we eat today," Grandpa Burton announced.

According to his philosophy, "It is just as irrational to eat summer vegetables in winter weather as it is to wear a straw hat. Cold weather calls for heat producing foods. (He lived in a northern climate with snowy winters.)"

He further recommended, "Don't fill up on lettuce and spinach and green peas and beans in January. Better to eat pancakes and sausage. And when summer comes, cut out the heating foods and live out of the garden."

Corn a Staple

Farmers in those days raised corn for their animals and also for their family's use. "When the corn was sufficiently dry, we used to shell off a bushel or two and take it to the local mill to be ground into meal," Grandpa Burton explained.

He added that some would be fine and some coarse. The cooks used the fine for pudding and the coarse for samp. The family ate both with milk.

"This was a great dish, " Grandpa Burton continued, "and often made up a large part of the farmer's menu."

Rye Bread a Favorite

Grandpa Burton also had some thoughts on the merits of rye bread versus wheat bread and the "lost art" of breadmaking.

"A boy raised on rye bread was thought to be stronger and healthier," he said. Grandpa Burton felt "there was no doubt that it had superior qualities." Because it was ground at the local mill, it didn't lose the nourishing parts of the grain, he maintained.

"Rye breadmaking was a fine art," according to Burton. The best way to make rye bread was from a sponge set with wheat flour over night, then mixed and molded with genuine rye the next morning.

When made this way, "It became an article fit for a king - the bread that mother used to make."

Now when I see pictures of his mother, my great grandmother Mary, I visualize her making this rye bread. In later years, in that same kitchen, his daughter (my aunt) taught me to make my first bread.

Recipes from Grandpa Burton's Era

EGGS WITH TOAST - (Often used as a supper dish.) Toast slices of bread light brown. Poach eggs nicely and place on a piece of toast. Pour melted butter over each before serving.

CABBAGE PUDDING - Boil a head of cabbage with some bacon, salt pork, or ham bone for flavoring. When cooked, chop fine and add 1 large lump of butter, 3 beaten eggs, 1 teacup hot milk (about 3/4 cup by today's measuring cups), 2 teaspoons mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour this into a buttered baking dish; dot with butter and sprinkle over it crushed cracker or bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees F. until light brown on top.

Article (C) 2004 Mary Emma Allen

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About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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