I see significant differences between my kitchen and mom’s. Though not really just MY mom’s but most moms as I was growing up during the 50’s and 60’s. They did more with less. Mom never owned a matching set of pans. She had a tall white, chipped enamel stock pot she used for soups. If she were making pea or bean soup, she’d fill the pot with packed snow from the backyard, let it melt to use for soaking the dried navy beans/whole peas overnight. She used an oval blue & white speckled enamel roaster when she made a roast (almost every Sunday she didn’t work).
Her most frequently used was a heavy aluminum pan for spaghetti sauce, potatoes, fudge and penuche. I can’t ever remember that pan with 2 solid intact handles. They were stubby handles to begin with on each side but year after year chunks of the black Bakelite handles crumbled away. What was left years later were 2 long embedded, protruding screws on each side. Mom thought nothing of this and simply had a set of gnarly (but clean) potholders nearby when the pan needed to be lifted out of the oven or off the burner. It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford to buy new pans, she never felt the need.
She never used a thermometer. Cakes were baked until a toothpick inserted near the center came out clean. She cooked with terms like, “bake in a moderate oven until done,” “simmer until noodles are done,” “soft ball stage, hard crack,” or “when dropped by a spoon leaves a long, thin thread.” After she’d beat eggs whites really stiff, she’d boil sugar, white Karo syrup and water together until the long thin thread appeared, then drizzle that boiling mixture ever-so-slowly into the egg whites until it “started to lose its sheen.” Add nutmeats (one of her favorite words) then started scooping out buttered teaspoons full of perfect Divinity onto her most frequently used kitchen helper, Waxtex wax paper. Followed closely by Reynolds Aluminum foil. (She never called it aluminum foil, it was tin foil).
I have a half dozen various thermometers, just got my 4th KitchenAid mixer, yet I’m unable to duplicate her Divinity or 7-minute frosting. Mom didn’t start buying Tupperware until the early 70’s, so growing up we had no sandwich keepers, insulated lunch bags with freezer packs, salad containers, leakproof lidded cups to transport fresh fruits or fruit cocktail, plastic leftover containers, air tight canister sets and no snack, sandwich, pint, quart or gallon sized ziplock bags. Wow.
Mom used wax paper for numerous duties. Dad’s black lunch pail was filled with semi-transparent waxed paper everyday. His American cheese sandwich was wrapped between 2 pieces of Hillbilly buttered bread. Folded like a gift package it sat in the fridge after supper until Mom packed his pail the following morning. He ate a banana every day so mom wrapped it in waxed paper too, twisting the ends leaving it on the table so it could be added in the morning. She thought this lessened the banana smell seeping into the rest of his meal. Epic fail. I bet dad’s coffee in his thermos tasted like bananas. As soon as she opened his lunch pail after work the whole kitchen smelled like banana. But he loved them.
Growing up my family ate supper together every night-at the same time. This ritual was non-negotiable, also including asking God to bless our food before, scripture reading and a closing prayer after. Dad was the only one who ever offered a valid excuse. He worked for the State Highway Commission and we lived in Iowa. Weather extremes. Hot humid summers when the highway would literally buckle up around supper time (the hottest time of day) and dad would get a call to fix the pavement before dark. Frigid below zero temps, massive snow storms accompanied by westerly gusts causing huge drifts. Dad would be plowing for hours between Rock Valley and the South Dakota line or to Sheldon and back.
When dad missed supper what did mom do with his meal? There were no fast food joints along the highway (and he’d never stop at a restaurant if he had to work on Sunday) so he’d be famished by the time he got home. Warming up his leftover meal was tricky. No quick zap in the microwave and who wanted to make more pans dirty after mom cleaned up the kitchen? Sometimes he’d give mom a call from the state shop if it wasn’t too late before he headed home so she could get a jump on his food.
After he missed supper, mom would make his meal in a glass pie plate. Maybe a pork chop, boiled potatoes which she forked kinda flat, then gravy and green beans or corn. (Mom and I ate cranberry sauce with every supper-dad did not partake in our cranberry obsession). She’d cover this plate with tin foil and set it in the fridge. If he called before he left the shop, she’d light the gas oven (with a match igniting the pilot light), set the temperature on low and pop his meal in to warm up.
Mom usually sat across from him while he ate to hear how bad the storm was or just catch up on the day. Besides he did this weird thing while he ate. He’d lift his index finger toward the cupboard if he needed something, never saying what he needed, like she was supposed to magically know. Used to drive mom crazy, yet she always got up for whatever was missing. Sometimes it would be butter. Mom bought butter by the pound not sticks, and would cut off about a fourth of it, place it on a small saucer and leave it in a cupboard because she hated trying to spread hard butter. Most often she had neglected to put the salt and pepper shakers on the table because she used neither. Think mom got him back when she gave him hard boiled eggs in his lunch pail. She’d actually sprinkle about 50 grains of salt, never pepper onto a piece of (you got it) waxed paper, roll it up like a hard piece of candy with twisted ends for his eggs. That wasn’t enough salt for one bite-hahaha.
I’m not a water drinker, never have been. But I know I’m supposed to drink water. Enter the lemon. I’ve discovered if I put a slice of lemon, add 40 ice cubes to a double wall insulated cup and fill it up with tap water I can gag down a couple glasses everyday. (Hubs says our tap water is good. I’ve got nothing to compare it to since I so rarely drink the stuff). So I buy 2 or 3 lemons at the store, rinse off one and slice it. Grab a ziplock baggie and throw the slices in it and stick it in the fridge. Lasts me about a week. This how mom would have preserved the lemon. She would have used a small, shallow dish to keep it in the fridge covered with waxed paper folded under the bowl. (She never liked Saran Wrap).
When she baked a cake, she’d stick about 20 toothpicks down in the cake, just past the frosting, then cover it with waxed paper (of course). She’d been a wealthy woman had she invested in wax paper stock after she got married…