Monday, February 11, 2019

Grandma's Winter Garden (and Nannie's)

Jonah's Photo of my Winter Garden

It was a cold winter’s day in February. The drive to my grandparent’s house in Dunfee was a short drive, but nothing is short when you are six and four. Scraping the frost off the backseat windows was our only occupation unless we wanted to sing a dozen more verses to “She’ll be coming round the mountain…”

Arriving at the farm house on that day, the first thing we saw was the snowman on the front porch. With much laughter and glee, we climbed out of the backseat knowing full well (even at our young ages) that the snowman was our grandpa standing at attention with an old hat on his head and a broom in his gloved hand. We brushed off the snow and followed him into the house. Our grandma was waiting attired in her apron and hair held back in a small hairnet…the two signs of a good cook. She had to “tsk, tsk” our grandpa as we took off our winter coats and old rubber boots and set them on the heater.

Dinner was soon served in the dining room. The dining room was adorned with heavy long curtains to keep out the cold. Jessie sat on the huge phone book so she could reach the table…I was good on my knees. My grandmother was the best cook. There were always pot roasts and mashed potatoes and the typical meat, bread, and potatoes dinners that we were all accustomed to at the time. Sometimes meatloaf would show up full of green and red peppers which we picked out piece by piece.

Desserts were our favorites, especially on those cold winter nights. Everything was homemade…no mixes for our grandma. Brownies. Apple Pie. Oatmeal Cake. I can’t remember my favorite. Maybe there wasn’t one?

After dinner I put on my own apron to help wash and the dry the dishes. There was a small wooden stool in the corner of the kitchen on which to stand so I could reach the sink. Jessie was too little and played around at the back windowsill rearranging the African violets which my grandma called her Winter Garden. I didn’t mind helping with the dishes. The water was warm and full of bubbles and grandma kept my mind busy with stories. When the dishes were dried and put back into the cupboard until morning, I always admired the blue ribbons strung across the garden window. Each ribbon represented her win at the Airstream rally for her baked goods. I knew each ribbon, and I definitely knew each dessert!

After dinner we were allowed to build tents out of blankets in the living room, eat apples in the parlor, read our little white Bibles, or just climb up on the horsehair couch to watch it snow out the window.

Passing on these memories and stories is what is most important to me. Aaron brings his family over for dinner on this cold winter’s night. I make chicken and dumplings, which is one of their favorites. I light candles. I play music. I bring out my own Winter Garden which consists of flowering narcissus paper whites. These I started the first week of January and now they bloom and fill the house with the scent of spring. Jonah takes photos, and they are as beautiful as the blooms itself. The evening is filled with homemade apple pie (my signature dessert), games and a farewell as they all wrap back up in the clothes of winter for a quick walk home.

As I turn back to my kitchen, I see my grandma smiling at me holding out my worn apron. I tidy up, blow out the candles, and go upstairs. Before sleep I pull back the curtains to watch it snow upon my own world.

Grandma Luella’s Prize Winning Oatmeal Cake

(Exactly as she wrote it to me!)

Pour 1 ¼ boiling water over 1 c. quick Quaker rolled oats

Let stand covered for two minutes.

Cream together 1 stick oleo with 1 c.  sugar and 1 c. Br. Sugar

Add 2 whole eggs, 1 t. cinn. And 1 t. vanilla.

Add oat mixture.

Then add 1 1/3 c. flour and 1 t. soda.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

When nearly done top with the following:

2/3 c. Br. Sugar, 3 t. oleo, 5 T. cream and 2 egg yolks.

Bring this to a boil first and add chopped pecans and cocoanut.

Spread evening and bake another 15 minutes.

“Prize Winning” (she wrote that!)
Note: This was first published in KPC.