Lifestyle

TOP O' THE MORN: Men should become good cooks for family and for survival

Just as every woman in today’s world should prepare herself for the possibility of eventually supporting a family, men should become good cooks for a family, if not his own survival.

Our boys are good cooks. They grew up at a time when they weren’t sure just who was cooking supper, Mom or Dad. At a time when Mom was busy putting the local paper together or was out getting pictures of a wreck just south of the bridge or covering the citizen of the year banquet, it was up to Dad to see that the family was fed. He said he learned to cook in self defense!

But whatever happened, he became the best. To this day we have never tasted barbecued salmon so delicious, a more flavorful roasted turkey or clam patties more spectacular.

And we will never forget the Christmas Day when the electricity failed and our Doug took over the duties of chef with a spectacular stir-fry cooked on the wood stove.

Our Jim relaxes while cooking supper and we recall a phone call: “Mom I’m making slumgullion for supper. Now do you use tomatoes or tomato sauce?” “Slumgullion” is a family word for macaroni and meat casserole and is Jim’s favorite recipe.

With Christmas approaching, memories warm the heart.

Among the memories is our grandmother’s kitchen. It had a big, black wood range, with water reservoir attached. It was the latest thing in water tanks. A tea kettle furnished tea water and sang continually. The little kitchen, dominated by the wood stove, had one white-curtained window looking out on Grandma’s garden … a row of red King apples on the sill.

Grandma’s rest period in the afternoon included smoking her little brown clay pipe and peeling a King apple.

Our grandmother was always “Minnie-my,” the Scottish term for grandmother, and it fit her perfectly. Why is it that Grandma’s cooking is always the best remembered? Done with a pinch of this, a dollop of molasses, a little flour, a little sugar and Grandma’s special touch. Her pie crust was always very pale, very flaky. She didn’t use a measuring cup, it was just know-how.

To this day, our pie crust never gets brown. We are still trying to emulate one of our childhood’s greatest cooks.

We came to the farm as a bride, with a job in town — a working wife. There weren’t many of those in the Great Depression when there was little work, little money and married teachers had to give up their jobs to the unmarried.

If you were married, your husband was there to support you. Everyone was poor but we took it in stride. There were lots of clams and fish, and people had big gardens. Living in town at the top of the hill, we rented the Ely farm, and our house was within the city limits.

We kept a cow, a pen of chickens and we made our butter and baked our bread. But in a farm kitchen we learned to cook under Grandma Neil.

Our own mother was a wonderful cook. With the holidays in mind, she raised turkeys the hard way, putting up turkey eggs under setting hens and reaping the rewards.

She baked angel food cakes which became a legend in Oak Harbor. She had a discerning and elite clientele who paid her $1.50 per cake: an unheard of price in the mid 1930s.

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