Lost Arts

I have always been fascinated by the way that people lived, survived, ate, and lived in the past. Maybe it was too much Little House, but i have always been amazed at the things that people knew how to do. Baking, and sewing, candlemaking, fire banking, farming and building things with their hands.. . these have always been things that interested me in a way. I often think of how far removed I have become from those skills in just two generations. My grandparents did not have tvs, cars, electricity and running water when they were small. They had no heat or air conditioning. No malls, target, or Walmart. They had the rolling store. They had Grandma’s Singer sewing machine. They had lathes and planes and saws and mills and plows. They had mules, horses, and wagons. They had chickens and eggs and pigs. They knew how to wring a neck and kill a pig. They made hoecake. They had gardens, and wells. They canned. They made their own clothes.

All of this is becoming lost to us. Sure, I can remember my grandparents talking about these things, but talking and doing are not the same thing. So, sometimes, I like to try and learn little skills such as the ones they knew.

No, I didn’t kill a pig. I made Grandma Palmer’s banana pudding.

This may not seem like a lot. But i didn’t even know that the stuff in the pudding is actually custard. Until i made the custard, I did not even know what was in custard. That fluff on the top is meringue? Huh. I had no idea that was just egg and sugar. I made that bitch and it looks damn good, too. Haven’t tasted it yet, but i don’t know how it could go wrong with ingredients like that.

Not sure why i wanted to make the pudding, except that it makes me think of my grandma Palmer, and i have been thinking about my grandmas a lot lately, and my mom, too. I don’t think that growing up as a tomboy and a daddy’s girl I ever realized just how hard my mother and grandmas worked to put meals on the table, or to make holidays as wonderful as they were. And I never heard a complaint from them.

Rollie and Tiller will not such peaceful memories of their own mother at Christmas time.

Fucking custard and meringue, sugar cookies that look like blobs, and fudge that won’t set up . . .

  6 comments for “Lost Arts

  1. Lauren Shankman
    December 22, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Seriously– how DO people make sugar cookies that look like holiday shapes? Last week I pulled a lazy-mom card and got ready bake dough with good intentions….thought the girls and I could cut out cute shapes with the multitudes of cutters we have.

    End result– the menorahs look like upside down chemistry flasks, the stars (both christmas as well as Star of David) are abstract flowers, and forget about the snowmen or angels.

    It got funnier when the girls decided to mix up all the sprinkles regardless of shape so they all look a bit 4th of July (blue and white hanukkah sugar stars mixed with red sugar).

    But I felt redeemed as they told me that this was just THE BEST TIME– since they’d never made cookies with mommy.

    I think that’s all that counts, right?

    How did the pudding turn out after all? If it was anything like my gingerbread trifle — it doesn’t matter how it looked– it all tastes good together!

  2. Anonymous
    December 23, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Yes, how did it taste?!

    Me? I’d rather buy store bought cookies than bake them. But I do keep threatening to get some chickens for the back yard. I’m totally serious – there are city chickens classes here in Seattle. How cool is that? And one day I will probably take on canning, even though I’m afraid of killing my family with botulism.
    - Nikki

  3. manunderstress
    December 25, 2008 at 12:11 am

    I remember in college a friend was talking about butter coming from milk and I disagreed thinking that butter was a separate dairy entity. Being the days long before google he demonstrated by shaking some milk in a cup until it turned into butter. I thought it was black magic.

  4. Dogwood Girl
    December 25, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Okay, better late than never. According to my mother, the trick to non-blobby sugar cookie cutouts is thinness.

    Pudding was excellent, and really tasted just like grandmas. Not difficult, just kind of time-consuming.

    A lot of folks in Atlanta have chickens in the backyard. I would also like to, although i am not nuts about eggs. I really, really want a goat, though. But that is not going to happen.

    I canned pickles one summer. No one died. I used to help my grandparents can fruit (peaches, pears, figs.) So yummy.

  5. Zach
    December 29, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Hey there Anne! Its been a while since I’ve been to Dogwoodgirl. Hope you had a great X-mas! Check out this trumpeter from Poland – amazing. I thought you would dig him. Hope all is well!

  6. Dogwood Girl
    December 29, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    For some reason, comments aren’t showing up here. Zach, email me! I don’t have your addy anymore!

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