“GOOD OLD DAYS IN THE KITCHEN”, edited by Ken and Janice Tate, is without a doubt one of the most entertaining—and interesting—combination cookbook and memoirs that I have encountered in a long time.
“GOOD OLD DAYS IN THE KITCHEN” is, as the editors note, “a collection of stories from the gardens, kitchens and pantries of our youth”.
“Did you ever notice,” they ask, “how everything seemed to be bigger back in the days of our youth? The pastures were bigger, the trees taller and the creeks wider and deeper….”
“Nothing seemed bigger to me in my young life,” Ken Tate recalls, “than Mama’s kitchen. It, not the living room, was really the center of our family. There, yes, we ate our meals—but so much more. There we baked cookies, our first scientific experiments. There we kept chicks, piglets and baby kitchens warm from winter’s bitter cold…”
Ken philosophizes, “If there is one thing I think the children of today are missing above all it would have to be those hundreds of hours outside the presence of television and in the presence of love…”
And, although I didn’t grow up on a farm, the center of my childhood certainly was my mother’s kitchen, where I learned to cook, where we sat around the kitchen table doing homework while listening to the old-time radio shows like Baby Snooks and Boston Blackie, where supper was put on the table at 6 O’clock every night and woe betide the child who wasn’t sitting at the table at 6 p.m. sharp.
What follows is the most charming collection of stories told by many different authors—and you will love each and every one of them, starting with the chapter “FROM THE GARDEN” (“Our Apple Peeling Parties”, “Mama’s Pantry”, “Canning Tomatoes” to “When Grandpa Made Apple Butter”)—to name just a few.
Stories under the Chapter of “TO THE KITCHEN” include essays such as “Grandma’s Kitchen”, “A Free Soup Bone” and “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”.
“TO THE TABLE” is the next Chapter, offering stories such as “Baked Beans and Bath”, “Homemade Bread” and “10 Cents Worth of Ginger” – among many others.
“AROUND THE KITCHEN” offers a delightful variety of stories ranging from “Homemade Ice Cream” to “The Old Kitchen Floor”—with fourteen additional stories in-between. Actually, there are 67 stories in this unique collection, and that doesn’t even include the variety of recipes, designed to fit the subject matter so that when you read about “Grandma & Green Tomatoes” you will find, quite naturally, a recipe for Grandma’s Green Tomato Pie, while when you read “Christmas Smiles & Sugar Cookies” you will find, of course, a recipe for Sugar Cookies.
The art work in “GOOD OLD DAYS IN THE KITCHEN” is simply incredible; there is a wide variety of old fashioned illustrations, sure to charm every reader.
And then there is the poetry….you know I have always been partial to “food related” poems and rhymed recipes. “GOOD OLD DAYS IN THE KITCHEN” offers “Ode to Apple Pie”, “Canning Tomatoes”, “Doughnuts in Rhyme”, and “When Grandma Rang the Dinner Bell”.
One of the most curious things about “GOOD OLD DAYS IN THE KITCHEN” is simply this: even though these stories are memoirs of an era that preceded my own, I found that many of the memories are of things I shared with the authors, such Ken Tate’s nostalgic, “I learned to sing while doing the dishes. That may sound silly, but it’s true. One of the chores my sister Donna and I had was to wash and dry the supper dishes. On day she washed while I dried: the next we alternated. There we would sing together: ‘Oh Misty Moon, Moon, bright and sil’vry Moon, won’t you please shine down on me…’ ”
Well, I don’t think it sounds silly because my sister Barbara, brother Jim, and I learned the words to all of the current popular songs in the late 40s and 50s while doing the dishes. Barbara washed, Jim dried, and I had to put them away. My sister would buy the weekly songbook for ten cents and prop it behind the faucet. That’s how we three learned the words to all of the popular songs of the day—most of which I still remember, today.
I wish I could share each and every one of the stories and recipes from “GOOD OLD DAYS IN THE KITCHEN” with you, but I can’t. I can only urge you to find a copy for yourself.
“GOOD OLD DAYS IN THE KITCHEN” was published by House of White Birches in 1998. Amazon.com has many available copies; you can buy it new for $5.67 or used, from a private vendor through Amazon, starting at one cent (as noted previously, there is a standard $3.99 shipping and handling fee but still – you can get a copy for $4.00. They also list 6 collectable copies for $10.00 each.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith