Tuesday, September 23, 2008


My Grandpa K was a world class gardener, and a generous man. He encouraged his neighbors to plant gardens on his rich bottom land along the creek that ran near the edge of his property. Mostly they were vegetable gardens, but some planted flowers and he had his own nursery of trees and prize-winning dahlias. We ate very well during summers and harvest season.

One summer NC and I were swinging from the hanging branches of the Willow tree that sprawled on the side lot by the house. We broke off branches and whipped each other. Grandpa was appalled that we had torn branches from a tree and verbally chastised us. He then found two quart Bell jars and filled them with a mix of sand, soil, and water--I think. He explained propagation as he reinforced these life lessons on the evils of vandalism and respect for life. He later planted those two seedling Willow trees on the far side of the creek and they grew to be fine Willows. I always claimed the larger as mine--NC's was a runt!

There was a spreading black walnut tree just up the rise. Mostly the nuts fell to the ground and became compost. But, sometimes we gathered the black walnuts and shelled them around the dining room table. Such work! And, for so little reward as I had no taste for black walnuts. Grandpa considered them a delicacy

He was a baker in his later years when his eyes failed him for carpentry. His favorites were Lazy Daisy Cake and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies--the recipe off the Quaker Oats box. At Christmas he would recreate the fruitcake of his youth--this is the one that originated the fruitcake legends... Unpalatable. You know, the same fruitcake has passed from person to person for years--each one re-gifting the despised fruitcake. There was also something called "hard sauce." Not memorable.

Grandma was a decent cook of plain food. When she felt fancy she would look up a recipe in "Meals from the Manse" a Methodist church-lady publication. We loved the egg-a-la-goldenrod--creamed eggs on buttered toast. Just a couple of years ago I realized that our pronunciation was very Midwestern and surely the recipe was for "Eggs Ala Goldenrod." Grandpa's Lazy Daisy Cake originated from the same cookbook.

They made us clean our plates. There was wheeping and wailing over creamed asparagus. And the biggest deceit--Oyster Stew. I hated the thought of those slimy, non-redemptive little shell fish. I kind of liked the neat round cardboard carton they were freshly packaged in at the butcher. They made a veritable festival of the Oyster Stew event. Grandma promised us that we didn't have to eat it, she would give us broth. I loved broth. Then, I made the mistake of going into the kitchen and saw that she dipped the broth out of the same pot as the Oyster Stew. HORRORS! Grandma lied to me! I exclaimed wildly and it took lots of talking by lots of relatives to convince me that I misunderstood. The jury is still out.

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