Our kitchen was small, but the size of things is not important when there is warmth, literal and figurative. Even in California the mornings can be chilly. Before the heater warmed the house Mom would turn the oven on and leave it open. The stove was a Roper and gas. The refrigerator was a Frigidaire and small like the kitchen. I donít ever remember being underfed even though the freezer part was too small even for a carton of ice cream. We had a cold storage locker downtown where frozen meats were kept.

Santa Clara Valley is flat, the kitchen window faced east. The minute the sun broke the plane of the horizon, it flooded through the windows, an urgent wake up call - time to rev up and make the most of a new day.

In the summer, if the breeze was drifting from downtown San Jose the air smelled of stewing tomatoes from Hunts cannery. If the wind was coming from the Gilroy southeast from us, the aroma of fresh garlic wafted through every nook and cranny of the valley.

We didnít grow up on a farm, but we were surround by orchard farmers. I was too little to remember the who and the where of it, but one of them nearby sold fresh eggs and chickens so recently killed they still had their feathers and Dad would pluck them over the sink. Chickens donít taste like they did then.

I remember the grinder that always came out the night before Thanksgiving. It was very heavy and it had a vise that was screwed snugly into a wood cutting board that slid out like a drawer. First the dry bread was ground up and then the turkey gizzard, heart and liver. Grinding bread was one of the first cooking tasks I was entrusted with, while the ground pork was browning in a frying pan on the stove. Stuffing was Momís specialty.

Two cast iron pots, a frying pan and a roaster served us well for as long as I can remember. The aromatic memory of a pot roast searing in bacon drippings is making my mouth water as I write this. Chicken and dumplings, corned beef and cabbage come March 17th, lamb, veal roast, even tongue and heart when the budget needed squeezing. We were persuaded to be thankful for tongue and heart as one of Godís blessings. Heart wasnít so bad, but tongueÖI was never convinced it was a blessing.

Sometimes a thick dark beef gravy that we poured over sliced bread would be served the next evening. It was really a treat back then, now I feel heavy just thinking about the calories and the trans fat.

My mother had an electric turkey roaster. It was not unlike the crock pot of today. It was oblong with rounded corners, it plugged in, the stuffed and trussed turkey was placed on a rack and would cook slow, no need to baste as it was like a pressure cooker and the steam self basted the turkey. After a time we would open the vents to give the bird a chance to brown.

On holidays the good linen and the good china, the sterling silverware and crystal were released from drawers and cabinets. Sometimes the silver needed polishing and the linen ironing. Holidays meals are a lot of extra work but everyone is in a festive mood so even clearing and cleaning is done in a cooperative spirit.

After we washed and dried the china and the crystal, we didnít put them away immediately, but left the dining room table open to itís full length, still dressed in fine holiday linen and stacked the waterford and the china there for a day or two so the good feeling of that gathering lingered awhile.


By Diana Mercedes (writerworks@live.com)

 




 






 




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