Kitchen aprons and clips | Voice
Grandmother wore an apron every day except for church and house extension meetings. She used it to wipe up spills, catch crumbs, remove hot pans from the oven, open jars, and occasionally wipe a runny nose.
On his back porch was a wringer washing machine and a laundry basket. Outside in the yard was a clothesline with a bag of clothespins hanging patiently for the next load. This was the extent of his “laundry room”.
Wearing an apron meant that clothes could be worn more than once, therefore this apron was a time saver, helped conserve water and minimized back pain. She was a practical woman.
Grandmother’s practicality and the sensible ways in which she lived her life on the farm can be found on page after page of a small black diary from 1941. It contains a poignant reference to her only son being sent to the war.
How to calculate the price of her pigs, how many chickens she dressed to sell in town, her preparations for the county fair, and the daily weather reports are subjects written in pencil on the pages that followed. Yes, she was a practical woman.
Among my cookbooks is his copy of “The Good Housekeeping Cook Book”, copyright 1942. With its signature faded red checkered cover, broken spine, food-stained and tattered pages, this cookbook is a testament to the life of his generation – lives frugality and economy, elegance and etiquette.
I was drawn to the “Cooking When You Live Alone (or have a guest or two.)” section. While interesting, I don’t think ‘Monkey Rarebit’, including the recommended menu of crackers and canned fresh prunes, will be on the table anytime soon. (It’s basically a cheese dip. Who knew?)
I also inherited a bound recipe file from “Cooking Clips” which is filled with torn pages from magazines from an era reeking of cigarette smoke and highballs. Among my mother’s and grandmother’s handwritten recipe cards, I found “Ida’s Tetrazene” – Rest in peace, dear Aunt Ida.
“It will feed your whole family,” Grandma scribbled.
Reading the recipe for “Grandma Clark’s (my great-grandmother) Ranger Cookies” brings to mind the many boxes of Quaker oatmeal she filled to the brim with cookies for our family of eight. We consume whole batches of his cookies in the big oatmeal boxes on our non-air-conditioned station wagon rides through Kansas.
The art of seasoning — in other words, Grandma’s sense of humor — and practical tips add flavor to the simple recipes she has saved. She threw away large handfuls of her knowledge of canning, baking, nutrition, sewing, and gardening. She stirred in faith and love. These faded “cooking clips” reveal domestic skills, esoteric knowledge, and an affection that my mother and grandmother shared.
According to the “Cook Book”, it is “ordinary cooking. But with good simple cooking – hot, floury, baked or boiled potatoes in their jackets and fluffy mash without ever a bite; satiny brown sauce shimmering with tiny sparkles of fat liberally spooned over steaming boiled rice, each grain coming off firmly molded but light and tender; the luscious stew kettle that belies its humble origin with its regal scent; crispy, golden waffles that melt in your mouth. We believe this world would be happier if it had more good ordinary cooks…”
And, maybe, more aprons.
Have a nice day.
Lesle M. Knop, MS, Journalism, is a Miami County resident who has written columns for regional publications since 1980.