Happy Birthday, Beth!
I found Beth's contribution in Cynthia MacGregor's great newsletter. Cynthia describes her newsletter: "Beth Linehan's reminiscence is just one of the many interesting pieces of reading in the latest issue of EZINE DOES IT, the eclectic EZine that's FREE, published weekly, and contains everything from reminiscences to recipes, from humor to advice to wordplay, and lots more. But why not see for yourself? It costs nothing! Subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to: http://www.cynthiamacgregor.com/html/ezine.html
Word Play, Country Cooking and Tomato Soup
Because it takes special expertise and a bit of
experience to operate the old fashioned coal-wood cook stove, and because
several persons took turns at the cooking and baking with, sometimes, inexpert
help, we occasionally took something out of the oven overdone, or even burned.
My dad took this in good spirits. He would tease me, "It's done brown like
your pretty brown eyes, Sister." (My eyes are hazel). Or he would
jocularly call the dish, "Singed cat."
My brother, two years younger than I, and I stayed in bed (when we were still preschool age) until after the grown-ups had eaten breakfast. We had "puppy ice," and "puppy heat" with cream, (Yes, real, rich cream), and sugar, at a small table, placed in the living room. The "puppy ice and puppy heat" came in a colorful box with a picture of a Quaker gentleman on its side. (Dad groused that the box was worth more than the rice and wheat from which our cereal was made, bringing on another tirade about the "costly and utterly superfluous" middle man, but that's another story).
One of the things Mom fixed for us when we were recovering from a bout of indigestion was homemade tomato soup. I still make it for myself, occasionally: it's delicious. She often made milk toast, and I still like it. I did, however, once work for an unhealthy individual who was disappointed that I didn't make a thin white sauce of the milk I poured over the toast in the "bread and milk toast" he had ordered.
Also available when we were recuperating was "cornstarch pudding." It was listed as "Blanc Mange" on the Argo cornstarch box, and Mom who, pronounced it as she had been taught the French would, made it from whole milk exactly as the recipe on the box, except she added a beaten egg to the milk before cooking. (She winced when someone pronounced "Blanc Mange" in phonetic "Americanese").
It was a sacrifice for Mom to make us the tomato soup, for she began very young to suffer with arthritis, and there is/was extra work to preparing it. (I know few cooks today who bother, and many never even considered it was possible). A #2 can of tomatoes (20 oz.) was forced through a sieve, heated with a bit of butter, salt and pepper, and a tiny pinch of sugar. An equal amount of milk was heated in a separate pan. When both were hot, a tiny dab of baking soda was added to the tomatoes, which were then poured slowly into the milk, stirring gently all the while. (To measure this tiny dab, just moisten a teaspoon, dip the tip of it into the soda box, and use only what clings to the wet spoon. (This project is simpler now: just eliminate the sieve, and use the blender instead). Only the appearance is affected if it curdles, the flavor is superb. Mom used to thicken this mixture with a bit of cornstarch, calling it "creamed tomatoes," and serve it over toast.
Well, my brother and I did manage to grow up, and as soon as we could handle the required tools for a particular job, we were "really put to it" in regional parlance, and days in bed while the grown-ups ate breakfast came to a halt. My brother became a first-class farmhand, and breakfast became my responsibility. At that table, in that era, breakfast had to be "stick-to-the-ribs" fare, in like quantity. (Remember, the men at this table had already put in a good bit of time and work tending livestock, milking cows, grooming and harnessing horses, and cleaning up after them; they were hungry)!
The table groaned under the load upon it. Oatmeal was the first course, and was eaten while I prepared the pancakes (which my dad considered essential always and all ways), the fried side-pork and soft fried eggs.
My brother liked both bran flakes and oatmeal, and devised a way to have both, and to save time over fixing/eating them separately. He tipped up the Post Bran box over the bowl, and got it over with. He endured a lot of teasing about having an oatmeal sundae on Tuesday, or whatever day, and one or two of the hired men (of which there was always at least one) over the years, became an oatmeal sundae convert.
I recently decided I needed more fiber in my diet, and tried my brother's gambit. I LIKE IT!
Beth also contributed the following humor: A few years ago, I drove up behind a car stopped at an intersection (country road, sparse traffic). The car in front of me would usually have been all alone, but, as the driver got out to come around to the driver's side, his companion slid along to the passenger's seat, and the man outside the car glanced up and saw me. He looked both apologetic and alarmed, and, hastening to get out of my way, made a hasty entrance into his car. I'll never forget the look on his face, when he reached for the steering wheel, and discovered he'd entered the back seat! Since I had no deadline to meet, I was not inconvenienced, and enjoyed the whole episode.
And a joke: The man stood patiently back while the customer ahead of him investigated a pile of head lettuce, one after another. When she had finally chosen the one she would take, he tapped her gently on the shoulder, and asked, "Lady, would you mind pointing out second best for me?"
Note from Bess: To thicken the tomato soup, mix cornstarch with a little water or milk - very little liquid just until dissolved - and then drizzle it into the boiling soup, stirring like mad until it is thick enough. It doesn't take much, you want it creamy.