411 Focus

In those days, nothing -- except what my folks couldn't produce themselves -- came in a box, and few things from the two grocery stores "in town"

Contributed By:Dorothy Nevils maslivend@sbcglobal.net

Christmastime in the country

When I think about Christmas, I think of food. Christmas was about “free” food, not from a distribution site, but from nature’s bounty, dictated and enabled by tireless work in the “out-doors-able” time of the year. Tireless doesn’t mean “never tiring.” It was very tiring – unless you had a shaggy, golden-haired dog named Dasher to share your feelings.

I use the term “free” because it was made possible by hours of hard work in the sun, planting, hoeing, and gathering! We spent, not a lot of money, but goo-gobs of time and energy to have food “to be reaped in due season.”

My stepmother, born in the bottom of the 1800s, was five years older than my dad, born also in the 1800s, and worked for people with money. As a result, we ate food that most of our fair-skinned con-temporaries in the area couldn’t. She. Could. Cook! Daddy was diabetic, but even with saccharin, her pa-stries went “to the top of the class!”

Living in the country with an orchard full of a near-endless supply of apples, peaches, pears… we as kids had not a clue what “fine dining” we experienced! Wherever one looked, there were fruits that Mother turned into sumptuous desserts: Blackberries, goose berries, mulberries – for wine, but not for kids. I remember papaya, and persimmons… We never knew we ate like kings. We just took good food for granted. It was everyday fare at which other kids, especially today’s, probably wrinkled their nos-es.

With the bounty of food exampled above, and Mother’s skill at lifting even the most common fare up to regaled status, it is no wonder that the table fairly groaned when Christmas time arrived! We didn’t have turkey: Goose was our fare… and Mother could prepare a goose to perfection, making me for-get how utterly stupid they were: They never looked down, so a favorite sport was to hold a stick in front of one and watch the whole train tumble over it, one at a time.

In those days, nothing – except what folks couldn’t produce themselves – came in a box, and few things from the two grocery stores “in town.” Fluffy “Irish” potatoes (I never saw the term spelled out, but everybody called them “I-ish-p’tadus”) , green beans, and other vegetables Mother retrieved from the shelves Daddy had built behind the door to the boys’ room, completed the main menu.

Surrounded by dressing with pops of color, the goose that had given up its life, unwittingly, to the very folks that had taunted it just days before, filled the long kitchen with an aroma that all but called each person by name. It lay there, its shortened legs tucked demurely and trussed over its absent tummy, golden brown, a delectable aroma rising toward the heavens, and its tucked tail holding everything in place, almost too regal to eat!

The whole kitchen – dining room? We ate in the kitchen! – was filled with aromas vying for recognition! There was blackberry pie, its latticed top allowing steam, but not taste, to escape; lemon meringue, one of the few pies Mother didn’t make from scratch; perhaps a cake – lemon, caramel, or another made from scratch; and one dessert I’ve looked for for years before giving up, mincemeat! None that I’ve purchased met the standard, so I’ve just given up!

Christmas was a day when it was hard to wait… as Daddy gave thanks for seemingly every solitary fortune, no matter how small. I can understand now, as an adult, why starting life south of the Mason-Dixon line… any freedom is a cherished one!

And so, we bowed our heads, and almost closed our eyes, and waited. It seemed a long wait, but thanks to parents that taught me what it means to have what’s important, waiting comes pretty easy for me…

And I hope I have passed that learning on, even beyond my own children.

Story Posted:12/29/2018

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