Monthly Archives: December 2011

WHEN MAMA BAKES A CAKE

Sometimes when breakfast dishes have
Been washed and put away,
My mama looks at me and says
“Let’s bake a cake today!”
From a peg she takes her apron
While from a low peg, I take mine,
We tie the strings behind our backs,
And don’t we look just fine?
Mama’s biggest yellow bowl
Stands upon the kitchen table,
And I step up on a little stool,
To help, because I’m able.
Mama cracks some eggs fresh from the barn,
I take a fork and stir them up,
You have to beat those eggs a lot,
Before you can add a cup
Of sugar, butter, flour too,
And soda for the rising,
And Mama grates some nutmeg in,
For a taste that’s right surprising;
It’s my job to butter up the pans
And dust them both with flour,
And then the cakes go into bake,
And that takes ‘near an hour.
While they bake, we tidied up,
And tiptoe cross the floor,
Cause you don’t want those cakes to fall,
And have to make some more.
The kitchen fills with spicy scent,
And I can hardly stand the wait,
It’s always something special, when
My Mama bakes a cake.

–Sandra Lee Smith

NO TIES ON EARTH TO BIND HIM (FOR ROBERT)

NO TIES ON EARTH TO BIND HIM
(For Robert)

No ties on earth to bind him,
This spirit freely soars,
Spanning mighty mountains,
Skimming distant shores.
Amongst the stars in heaven,
Beyond the reach of man,
This spirit wakes in wonder,
And cries aloud, “I can!”

And seeing those who loved him,
Still bound by earthly ties,
He hears their sounds of mourning,
And feels their sorrowed cries.
Yet from that timeless, distant space,
Beyond the reach of man,
His spirit wakes in wonder,
And calls to home, “I am!”

–Sandra Lee Smith,
September 22, 2011

ONE DAY WHEN MAMA AND PAPA WENT TO TOWN

One summer morning I woke up
And much to my surprise,
I didn’t smell the coffee brewing;
I went down—and could not believe my eyes;

There mama sat, in her Sunday best
With gloves, her purse and hat –
Then pa came in –and he’s dressed up too,
What could I make of that!

He said “The team is hitched to go”
Mama said “I’m ready too,
I just need to give young sis a list
Of things for her to do”

My eyes were wide; I took the list
That mama wrote for me;
I was to go and gather eggs,
And give the hens some feed;

I was to take some jars from the pantry shelf,
Some applesauce and beets,
And there was bread and butter that
My brother and I could eat.

”He’s got his own chores,” Papa said,
And “You have got your own,
Don’t want to hear about no fussing,
Feuding over some old bone”

“Yessir,” I said, my eyes still on
The list that seemed so long,
Ma said “I want you to make up supper
And we’ll eat when we get home”

“Yes mam,” I answered, feeling fearful,
They’d never gone away before;
Mama gave me a kiss and off they went
Out through the kitchen door.

I fixed tea for Bud and milk for me,
And got out bread and jelly,
I ate a lot of fresh baked bread
To satisfy my belly.

Then Bud went out to tend the pigs
And led the cows to pasture,
Then he went out to sow the seed
That Pa said he should master.

With mama’s basket, I gathered eggs,
And fed the hens some mash,
Mama sells the eggs in town,
That’s how she gets some cash.

I cleaned the eggs like mama did,
And laid them down in straw,
I swept the kitchen and the yard,
It wasn’t hard at all.

I brought up applesauce and beets,
And then thought I’d bake a cake;
I followed mama’s recipe
And put it in to bake,

From the smokehouse I cut a slice
Of ham and chopped it up,
Then in a pot I put runner beans
And carrots, ‘bout a cup,

Midday my brother came to eat
More mama’s bread, and butter,
Then I tidied up the kitchen,
So there wasn’t any clutter.

‘Bout supper time it all was done,
And I had the table set,
When we heard the wagon wheels,
Bud said “That’s them, I bet”.

Oh, pa and mama praised us both
And said we’d done them proud,
They ate the supper that I made,
And Pat said that he allowed

He’d left some room to try the cake,
I fixed the plates with pride.
I saw my mama’s eyes fill up;
The first time I’d seen her cry.

Then Papa said “We have some news”
We wondered what it was,
They went to see the bank, today,
And the reason was, because,

He said they’d paid the mortgage off,
The farm was free and clear.
Bud and I stood up and clapped
And gave a rousing cheer.

I really didn’t understand
How much it meant, that day,
Years would pass before I knew,
By now I’m old and gray;

Bud and I stayed on the farm
Long after our folks had died,
And now the land belongs to us;
I feel gratitude, inside;

It could have all been left to Bud,
A lot of people think that way,
But papa left it to me, too,
There was naught anyone could say.

And so I cooked and kept the house
And tended to Ma’s hens;
I sold the eggs to folks in town.
The circle never ends.

–Sandra Lee Smith

WHEN IT’S CHRISTMAS ON THE PRAIRIE

Come winter on the prairie and as far as you can see,
Snow makes a great white blanket across the endless prairie sea,
Pa gets the big sleigh from the barn and greases up the blades,
To make the pulling easier for the horses, on the grades.

Mama takes out the oldest blankets, that help to keep us warm,
Pa checks the sleigh most carefully, to keep us all from harm.
Then snug in mittens, scarves and coats that mama made from wool,
Pa takes us every morning to our little country school.

He stays a while to help our teacher fill the old wood bin,
She thanks him with a curtsy, brings out the gentleman in him.
We students hang our coats and things in the cloak room at the back,
And teacher claps her hands and says, “Since Christmas’s coming that—

Today we’re going to decorate a tree that kind Mr. Mc Clune
Went up north to get for us and will bring it to us soon,
For now we’ll all make popcorn garlands and chains of colored paper,”
And from a box she lifts up a silver star—nothing had escaped her.

No reading, writin’, rithmetic, no studying today!
We’re going to decorate a tree and enjoy a day of play;
On Christmas Eve our families will come to see the tree,
And Santa will come and give us each a bag of candy, free!

“Tain’t no Santa,” One of the big boys in the back row shouted out,
The little girls in front began to shriek and cry and pout;
My younger sis is with the little girls that were in tears.
I knew I had to do something to take away their fears.

“You take that back!” I said with fists clenched, ready for a fight,
When teacher intervened and said “Now, boys, this isn’t right.
On Christmas we all celebrate the birth of Christ the King,
George, you say you’re sorry and we’ll all forget this thing.”

Then teacher told a story, while we cut and pasted rings,
As we made a garland for our tree, she told of many things,
Of the birth of one small baby, in a manger far away,
And how folks far away and near remember Him on this day.

She told about Saint Nicholas who filled the wooden shoes,
Of all the good Dutch boys and girls to remember this Good News,
She said how now, we all remember Jesus in this way,
And all of us remember Him on every Christmas Day.

The big boy, George, he was abashed, and said he didn’t mean it,
But he had no ma or pa and no Santa Claus would visit;
He lived with one old aunt who had no time for foolishness,
No time for trees or holly, for Santa Claus or Christmas.

On Christmas Eve our families came and crowded in the room,
We’d cleaned our desks, the blackboard, and candles chased off gloom,
Then Santa came and brought a sack, and we all lined up to get
A little bag of peppermints, a night we’d not forget.

When all the candy had been passed out, Santa stood upright
And asked, “I wonder if a boy named George is here tonight?”
George came forward and I noticed that his face had turned beet red;
As he said “I’m sorry, Santa, I really didn’t mean to be so bad.”

“Oh, I know that!” Santa laughed, “Why, I know what’s good and true,
There’s just one gift I have to give, and George this one’s for you!”
And from his burlap bag, he reached and handed George a box;
George opened it and all of us heard him gasp with shock;

Inside the box there was a very fine Swiss army knife;
George’s eyes lit up with wonder, “I’ve wanted one all my life,
But,” he said, “I never told this to a single living soul!”
Santa patted him on his shoulder and said “Oh, George, I know!”

We all shed tears and teacher said “Let us sing a song of praise,
That we all remember this night all our living days.”
And so we sang, then hurried home in the cold night with elation,
Before we left, I heard my ma extend a special invitation.

George said he didn’t think his aunt ever would agree,
Ma said “I won’t take no for an answer; dinner is at three.”
And so next day, George and his aunt and our teacher came for dinner,
That all of us told mama was so fine and sure a winner.

In the parlor there were presents for sis and George and me,
Scarves and mittens ma had stitched and it was plain to see
That no one had done this much for George in all his sorry life,
“Scarves and mittens!” George exclaimed, “And a fine Swiss Army knife!”

We all sipped hot tea with cookies ma had baked, just for this day,
And our guests all carried home tins of cookies wrapped so gay,
Before we went to bed that night, I heard my mother whisper,
“You dear old Claus, I do believe, I’d like to kiss your whiskers!”

Years later, when my pa was old frail and could not see,
I ventured then to ask him what had long been bothering me,
“How could you know,” I asked him, “About George and that army knife?”
“Because,” he said, “I wanted one, most of my own life.”

George married my kid sister and they have a bunch of boys;
Their farm is off in Kansas and sis tells me it’s a joy,
For George just loves his rowdy bunch, for them he’d give his life,
And every one of those young boys owns a fine Swiss Army knife.

–Sandra Lee Smith, 2010

(*This was a poem I wrote in a small collection of poems called An American Childhood, for my poetry club in 2010. Then my Canadian girlfriend, Doreen, took all of the American Childhood poetry and put it together with illustrations and one of her own poems, and compiled a booklet titled MAMA IN THE KITCHEN/AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, 1900, RECEIPTS AND VERSE WRITTEN BY SANDRA LEE SMITH).

THE APPROACH OF WINTER…AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD

THE APPROACH OF WINTER

We knew that it was coming; all the leaves had fallen down
And lay in wet and heavy clumps and clusters on the ground;
The cats and kits and dogs and pups had gotten winter coats,
And ice was forming on the pond where in summer we sailed boats;
My ma had taken out our scarves, warm mittens, and galoshes,
And got out heavy blankets that we laid across the horses;
The cellar was jam-packed with fruit and veggies ma had canned
All through the scorching summer months, and we all took a hand
Making jams and jellies, packing eggs in lots of straw;
Apples filled the barrels and it was late in fall
When papa butchered us a pig and hung the hams to cure,
We all helped make the sausages; the smokehouse was a lure;
We all strung miles of pole beans that ma hung up in the rafters,
And thought that we would surely eat like kings forever after,
Along with apple slices that she hung up there to dry,
On some snowy winter morn, they’d be great to fry;
We gathered nuts from all the trees and put them all in sacks
And in the cellar loaded squash where pa had put up racks,
Ma quilted through the winter making covers for our beds,
And using feathers from the geese, made pillows for our heads;
Pa and I had chopped up wood until the shed was overflowing,
Through the cold and bitter months, the woodstove would be glowing,
The pantry shelves were overfull with flour, salt and honey,
All the things that ma had bought selling eggs to get the money;
The cabbages had been shredded and were salted in a crock,
And when we had put up everything, my ma and pa took stock
And pa would look into the skies and say that winter’s here;
But we would have a lot to eat and there was naught to fear.

–SANDRA LEE SMITH

T’WAS A WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS

T’WAS A WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS

T’was a week before Christmas
And all through the house,
Gift-wrap was littered,
It even covered a spouse,
Who sat forlorn in his old easy chair,
Wondering if there was
An extra cookie to spare—
For cookies were baked
And filled every tin,
But to eat even one
Would be considered a sin—
(Unless it was one that was broken or burned)
Decorations hung every where that you turned.
In the guest room, presents were piled everywhere,
And trees were put up, not a moment to spare—
Twinkling lights and ornaments too,
But it will look pretty, when we’re all through—
I’ve scorched all my fingers giving candy a test
And thought it was time that I had a good rest;
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I dashed to the door to see what was the matter;
Up on a ladder, Grandpa swayed to and fro—
Trying to decide where the fake reindeer should go—
I was sure he would fall and smash all the lights,
I shouted come down and we’ll fix it all right!
The dollhouse is back where it belongs
And hundreds of CDs play holiday songs,
Pork Loin’s in the freezer and wood on the fire,
Eggnog in the frig we hope will inspire
But if not there is brandy, bourbon, and port,
To serve every guest who is a good sport;
We’ll work at it all until we fall with a jerk
And let Santa get credit for all our hard work!

–Sandra Lee Smith

THAT’S WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SOUTH – PART FOUR

From Virginia, I have VIRGINIA HOSPITALITY by the Junior League of Hampton Roads first published in 1975 and reprinted many times since, and THE MOUNT VERNON COOKBOOK by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of Mount Vernon, Virginia, first published in 1984 and from WEST Virginia there is an excellent cookbook titled MOUNTAIN MEASURES (1974) and the sequel, MOUNTAIN MEASURES, A SECOND SERVING (1984) both by the Junior League of Charleston, West Virginia. Many years before, the Charleston (as in West Virginia) Woman’s Club published CLUB HOUSE COOKBOOK, grandiosely subtitled “COMPILED BY YOUNG WOMEN’S DEPARTMENT, CONSERVATION DEPARRMENT, AMERICAN HOME DEPARTMENT OF THE CHARLES WOMEN’S CLUB (1929)—another old cookbook that makes for good reading, while from the State of Arkansas, I have not one but TWO copies of SOUTHERN ACCENT by the Junior League of Pine Bluff, Arkansas (because my 1976 copy bore so little resemblance to the 1993 edition that I got fooled into thinking it was one I didn’t have—you know you have too many cookbooks when you start buying duplicates). I also have EVENING SHADE COOKBOOK which also falls into the celebrity category , and a cookbook titled RECIPES FROM HOPE, ARKANSAS, BIRTHPLACE OF BILL CLINTON, which offers lots of neat photos and presidential trivia, along with recipes.

What’s left? Kentucky! I must confess, I seldom think of Kentucky as truly Southern—I was born and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, only a few miles from the Ohio River, across which is Kentucky. (In fact many people don’t realize that, when you FLY to Cincinnati Ohio, the airplane LANDS in Kentucky. Greater Cincinnati Airport is located in the State of Kentucky!) Over the years, whenever I have flown to Cincinnati, you get the feeling you are home when you cross the bridge over the Ohio River, into downtown Cincinnati.

Helen Lawson, Courier-Journal staff writer, in commenting on Marion Flexner’s book OUT OF KENTUCKY KITCHENS, wrote “Kentucky food is a happy combination of both Northern and Southern cooking. Since this is a border state, our food was influenced by the hot-tasty food of New Orleans and the bland food of New England…”

In the introduction to the same cookbook, Ms. Flexner writes, “It was said in the old days that if you had examined the contents of a Kentuckian’s pockets, you would have found a bowie knife, the précis of a lawsuit to defraud his neighbor and a copy of ‘Paradise Lost’. There would also probably have been a sheaf of invitations to a ball, a New Year’s Day ‘Open House’, a formal hunt dinner, a Derby breakfast or, in summer, a burgoo or a barbecue party. For Kentuckians have always loved to entertain and have always been overly fond of good ‘vittals’.

Flexner further explains how Kentucky’s cuisine was shaped by “unknown culinary artists”—early settlers, English and Scotch, French émigrés, Austrian and German refugees, and African slaves who came to “Kentuck” (Land of tomorrow) to make their homes Other recipes, she explains, crept in with Yankee traders, steamboat passengers, Southern planters, and foreign dignitaries who passed through the State or made long visits.

OUT OF KENTUCKY KITCHENS was published in 1949 and copies may still be found in used bookstores. There is also a 1993 reprint of this famous title, published by the University Press of Kentucky. (I was excited to discover, when I Googled the 1949 title, that copies are still available for the original and Amazon.com has copies at a most reasonable price, around $5.00.

Another of my favorite Kentucky cookbooks is a little book titled WHAT’S COOKIN’ IN BARBOURVILLE KENTUCKY. Published in 1948, it was compiled by the Younger Woman’s Club of Barbourville, and my copy used to belong to my best friend’s mother, who came from that State. When I googled the title, I discovered it was reprinted in 1964. This one may be a little more difficult to find. There is no ordering information provided by Amazon.com for either the 1948 or the 1964 edition.

For those of you who think of Texas as southern, I offer my apologies. I’m not including Texas in this post because I think of Texas cuisine as being more southwestern than southern. And I probably have at least several dozen Texas community cookbooks and intend to write about it at a later date, if this is something my readers would like to see. My apologies, too, if I didn’t mention YOUR favorite cookbooks—but this was only intended to be a sampler and is based on the cookbooks in my own collection. I wouldn’t want to recommend a cookbook I didn’t have and had never read—and have anyone disappointed

Finally, I want to tell you about an offer that was recently made to me. Many—several hundred—community cookbooks, many of them southern, are available at Favorite Recipes Press, through their Marketplace Cookbook catalog. From now until January 31, 2012, the Marketplace is offering a 50% discount on the cookbooks of your choice, to Sandychatter readers. You must enter the code SCHAT-HOL at checkout . The books ship from Nashville, UPS ground.
The Marketplace is a great source for finding many of your favorite community cookbooks (southern and otherwise). They have nearly 300 titles from which to choose and color illustrations of the covers. You can get a catalog by writing to the Cookbook Marketplace at 2451 Atrium Way, Nashville, TN 37214 OR call them toll free at 1-800-269-6839. This offer is good to Sandychatter readers until January 31, 2012 – so this may be a perfect opportunity to obtain some of your most coveted cookbook titles.

This concludes THAT’S WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE SOUTH but as soon as I get my head back on straight after Christmas, I would like to share with you some of my more recent southern cookbooks!

Happy cooking – and even happier cookbook collecting!

Sandy