Nature’s Recipes: Living off the Land in Missouri - Page 2

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Right now, we are finishing the Strawberry Season. Our Patch has produced in abundance. We shared with family and friends. Plus, we took 2 gallons into the nursing home where my Mother is for her and all of her friends there. Enjoying the produce of the season and sharing it are deeply satisfying.

What’s ahead? My Cabbages of which I am very proud are “heading up”; many are suggesting: “Pick me!”  I shall be making Sauerkraut soon which would please both sides of my ancestry.  Melanie and Richard gathered Mulberries today. In fact, Melanie is putting lids on the jars of Jam as I type away at this text. Melanie found a few Black Raspberries which means we will be on the alert for them. They are among our favorites. My brother-in-law Hollis and sister-in-law Deleta are headed to pick up Gooseberries which sister-in-law Connie and brother-in-law Gerald have set aside for us.

Do you feel it is important to pass down and preserve family cooking traditions?

In this modern fast paced era, people have left much behind in our adoration of the “new”. I find this really sad. Family cooking traditions have been left behind by all too many. “We’re too busy.” “It’s too ordinary.” “I don’t know how to cook.” Instead, we seem smitten by Foods and Menus from exotic places just beyond our reach. While such practices do spice things up a bit, they leave behind some things that are important, even essential.

If Family Food Traditions are remembered, they are often prepared by the Older Ones in the Family. Historically, the younger Ones would work side by side on smaller tasks until they knew the Culinary Craft by Heart. In our society, when the Elder is gone, often the Younger Ones have no clue as to how to prepare it. Over time, the memory of Food Traditions is faint. Yet, I think they are imbedded in our cells.

Family Food Traditions open widely the door to Family Story. They invite us into direct connection with our Ancestors. They tell us who we are and what is important. The more I am involved in this, the more I am convinced that we need to bring back and preserve Family Food Traditions. I have written about this and have discussed it with many over the Years. Every time I talk about this with another, the frozen façade of western culture just melts. Folks talk about their own Recipes. Right beside the Recipes, they spill out Stories about People, Time, and Place. You can see a deep connection; they laugh and they smile. I wonder if it is reconnection with the heart. In particular, Family Food Traditions are a means of reconnecting with the stories of Women, since most recipes were prepared by Women.

One of my 1st adventures into this area was reclaiming the recipe for Spiced Peaches of my Great Aunt Lula Myers Hart who passed in 1982. She would often speak fondly of Spiced Peaches when I was growing up, but I never had them. Early in this last decade, I asked Mother if she had Aunt Lu’s recipe. She didn’t, but she got on the phone with any relative who might. Between us, we came up with a recipe and a whole entourage of Family Stories. I made the Spiced Peaches and sent them to those who helped in the process. Somehow that recipe rewove our family back together in a new way.

My 2nd major adventure in this area was reclaiming the recipe for Povitica from my Croatian Grandmother Dragica Budiselic Blaskovic who passed in 1966. Povitica is a Croatian Nutbread, typically rolled up with a walnut filling in very thin layers of sweet roll dough. Over the years, I had many experiences discussing this with Elderly Aunts and fixing it with my Father, who had never prepared it before. Now it has become “routine”. My daughter and I fix it at Christmas and Easter which are traditional times. I even wrote about it on our Blog on the Farm. I was able to track “hits” on our Blog. Just before Christmas of last year, we were getting as many as 50-75 hits a day for this recipe. They were coming from around the world including locations where my Grandparents relatives settled in the U.S. and the area where they were from in Croatia. Grandma would be pleased. Dad would be talking about that with everybody in town.

A 3rd adventure in this area is probably the Granddaddy of them all. Richard’s family has made Molasses (or Sorghum) since at least the early 1900s and through his Grandfather Jesse Sherman Crawford. This is not to be confused with Molasses you buy in the store; that’s a byproduct in the making of Sugar. Molasses (which is the name the family has used for it) is made from Sorghum which is a grass brought to the U.S. from Africa in the mid 1800s. Molasses is a sweetener that families throughout this region could make for themselves. In my husband’s family, the practice laid idle for about 25 years with the ageing and passing of Richard’s parents. The brothers and their families made a decision to reclaim it which we did beginning 2004. This is a big process including growing the crop and using all the original equipment in its production. Molasses making is a community endeavor; it is next to impossible and probably not fun to do it alone. It has been a real family bonding activity which we all love and enjoy. With this return, we began digging around for family recipes: Ethel Crawford’s Molasses Cake, Minnie Slover’s Cookies, Lula Hart’s Molasses Momentoes, Molasses Taffy. Melanie updated them for our family by reducing sugar, using whole wheat flour, using butter or buttery spread.


If you had to pick the most important feature of a recipe, what would it be?