Made the Most Wonderful __________

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, December 7, 1914:  <<no entry>>

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
Angle Food Cake Pan (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’ve gotten to know Grandma as a teen very well over the past few years—and I remember what she was like as an older woman when she was my grandmother. But as the diary winds down, I realized that I didn’t know much about what Grandma was like during her middle years—the years when she was raising her family.

So I went to the experts—her children. Today, I’d like to share Aunt Eleanor’s food memories:

As I get older I appreciate more and more that Mom put food on the table three times a day, day after day after day, year in, year out. There wasn’t much elegance about it, but by and large it was good food.

Probably because I married into a family which emphasized presentation and because in truth I was a guest at their company meals, I began to think my mother wasn’t a very good cook. The things I was zeroing in on were the occasional overcooking of meats and a relaxed attitude about cookie ingredients and baking times.

BUT the gravy was wonderful and in her words the cookies “always went.” In speaking of her until recently, I would say, “My mother’s cooking wasn’t great, but she did make a wonderful _______, and that blank could be her vegetable soup (I ate until I was tight as a tick), her angel food cake (before the advent of electric mixers!), her pies (my husband raves about the raspberry custard ones), her cinnamon rolls, etc., etc.

Until she gave in and bought store stuff, she baked loaf after loaf of very good bread, home-canned, and made noodles and deep-fried doughnuts. I’m fairly sure she even made deep-fried potato chips a few times.

And, like Aunt Eleanor, as I get older, I realize that I also appreciate the simple foods that I grew up eating more and more.   My friends eat sushi and fusion foods—while I enjoy trying to replicate the old recipes of my ancestors.

Grandma’s Bake-a-thon
continues. See previous post for  information about how to participate.

39 thoughts on “Made the Most Wonderful __________

  1. So true about how much work it once was to create meals day in and day out – we forget with all our convenience foods these days. It’s interesting to try and fill in the years this way.

    1. In the past people (generally women back then) spent so much more time cooking than what they do now. It’s nice to hear that you enjoyed reading my aunt and uncle’s stories. I had a lot of fun talking and emailing with them as we worked on these posts.

  2. Nothing fancy about our food choices either! My mother made the best potato salad, cornbread dressing and fried chicken!
    I loved reading your aunt’s remembrances of her mother’s cooking.

  3. This is so true. We always remember our mother’s and grandmothers’ cooking as the best, whether it was perfect or not.

  4. I have fond memories of watching mom make egg noodles which ended up in a chicken gravy with some biscuits. The dough was mixed up and rolled out on the floured counter, not too thin. She would run the rolling cutter along making them about 1/2″ wide. Marvelous tasting.

    1. I’ve never made homemade noodles; but when I told my husband about my aunt’s memories of homemade noodles, he said that his mother used to make them. . . . Somehow I think that we will decide to try making homemade noodles sometime in the next few weeks. 🙂

  5. “Overcooking?” Yes, I frequently joke that my mom made everything “extra-crispy.” But…speaking of “gravy,” she also made the best and SO effortlessly!!! I can still see her doing it and that’s how I make mine…no recipe…just add stuff to the pan and cook.

    1. My mother also could effortlessly make gravy. I never cared much for it when I was a child–and never paid attention when she made it. Now, as an adult, I like it and wish that could remember how she made it.

      1. Well, one secret of my mom’s was that she would peel and boil potatoes for mashed then…save the water from them for the gravy!!! She did it all the time as do I. I can remember seeing her remove the meat from the pan, turn up the heat and briskly cook the drippings while adding flour. Then, she added the potato water and continued cooking and stirring until it was done. No whisks in those days but…the gravy didn’t have a lump in it. I’m sure that was magic!!!

        1. I’ll have to try using the water from potatoes when I make gravy. It sounds like she didn’t add water to the flour before stirring it in. Maybe that’s the secret to no lumps.

          1. Sheryl…flour doesn’t need to be added to a liquid before stirring it in like cornstarch. I always remember my mom sprinkling flour over the hot fat, stirring it in, cooking for a few minutes then adding the potato water. So good…you will not be disappointed!!!

          2. I’m getting hungry for gravy, and am going to have to try making some this week-end. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll buy some beef and make beef gravy.

  6. Yes, I also grew up with the old-fashioned every day cooking and that’s what I enjoy cooking these days 🙂

  7. While my vegetarian-veering toward vegan diet has evolved away from that central PA fare, I still can taste it in my memories. I love that you enjoy trying to replicate the old recipes–I may try that myself. Just not with scrapple!

    1. I agree about the scrapple. 🙂 My father always liked scrapple, and he used to occasionally make it when I visited him. I gave it a try thinking that it would be better than what I’d remembered. But, I discovered that I still strongly disliked it.

  8. I really like the idea of filling in the “missing years” with the memories of her children. And don’t forget to write your memories of her too!

    1. I’m glad that you like them. I really enjoyed communicating with my aunt and uncle as we worked on them. Many of my memories of Grandma when she was my grandmother are scattered across the posts of the past several years, but I’ll include a few this month. Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. We are so bombarded now with perfect recipes for perfect meals–in magazines, on Facebook, on Pinterest–that we forget that food, and its preparation, has traditionally been simply one more chore among many, part of daily life. Helena’s cooking was real-life cooking, not Martha Stewart cooking!

  10. Enjoyed your aunt’s perspective on your grandmother’s cooking. They knew how to put food on the table, without the conveniences we have.

  11. I’m just as happy some things are gone. Cooking with cream of mushroom soup isn’t my thing any more — nor are “salads” made of jello, canned fruit and whipped cream. But, in those post-depression days, foods like that might as well have come straight from heaven.

    And we did eat well. Fresh veggies from the garden, meat butchered and hung at the locker, fruit from our own trees. Homemade was the key. I don’t remember going to a restaurant until I was in junior high — we simply didn’t eat out. Who would want to, when there were homemade biscuits, fresh-baked pies, good hot breakfasts and hand-churned ice cream in the freezer?!

    1. I agree-cream of mushroom soup and jello were probably considered modern and very convenient back then. My family also almost never went to restaurants when I was a child. I think that my parents thought that it was an expensive luxury to eat out.

  12. My Dads mama could cook like a pro and then some!!! She loved to cook and bake for family ,friends and strangers. The house always smelt soo good. How ever there was one dish that Grandma would make , cream dandelion salad… I hated that stuff with my whole being!! My mama had a rule that you always eat a little of everything even if you didn’t like it.So a little it was and I ‘d hold my breathe and swallow it with out chewing. Lol!
    Now I know that Grandma made it for my Mama who loved it! 🙂

  13. So true what you said about appreciating what our parents and ancestors cooked/baked. When I was growing up I wanted anything else than what my mother or father cooked, after all my friends moms cooked different delectable things, until friends started to comment on my mothers German foods that were different and better than their mothers. But they made leftovers taste like a fresh meal and it was my husband who never ate leftovers came to love “whatever night”. Today I savor my mothers farmers potatoes, German potato pancake (from grated from raw / fresh potatoes.), dads chicken and dumplings to name a few. You are making me hungry for moms homemade applesauce, chocolate layer cake, cheese cake, German potato salad, German three bean salad and tomato salads, along with her German stews and sauces over vegetables. 🙂 Memories are wonderful aren’t they? I would have enjoyed Helena’s homemade cooking too I am sure – nothing beats home cooking that is for sure and certain!

      1. She did and like your uncle I did not appreciate it when I was younger. Now I would give anything to have her in the kitchen cooking away… 🙂

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