Saturday, August 31, 2013


Linking to Beverly's Pink Saturday today---do go see all the lovelies.
Our town had a wonderful tradition, started and maintained by a lady of a certain age (quite young when it started, as it happens, for she would relate that she “used to could buy them six for a quarter”).


And the THEM of the equation was a pair of two dishcloths---that knitty-plaid kind that looked loomed a bit too loose, but whose cotton threads stood by you through thick and thin for everything in your kitchen from china to crystal to the grits pot, though not really recommended for those trusty old black skillets.  Those dishcloths (commonly called dishrags amongst even the most elegant of the ladies of our town, even those who hadn’t ever used or wrung one in their lives, and almost certainly by any home-maker who'd ever wielded one with her own two hands). 

But every local bride, kitchen-savvy or graduating merely from her Mama’s maid  QueenElla, who had practically raised her, to her own hired woman Delaweese---welcomed and expected a pair of the cute little Dish Britches made by Miss Yvonne Cain.   Not Miss Yavonne  or even Miss Evvaahn---Miss Y-Vonn was her name, emphasis on the WYE.   She and her Mama were forever companions, living not quite the austere widow-and-spinster lives one would assume, but keeping a good table belied by her Mama’s delicate frame, and confirmed by her own handsome figure, wide of peplumed hip and the button-waisted serge suits she wore to school every day.   They motored about the county to little occasions and clubs and meetings in that big Fifties Packard, smooth as it ran when her Daddy bought it nine days after Korea.

The two ladies seemed a perfect couple all on their own, meshed by time and custom, their likes and dislikes and little joys shared for so long.   Miss Yvonne taught third grade---she always said they were still young enough to mold into nice people, and they could already read and add.


Whenever an engagement announcement appeared in any of the little papers in the county, or postcard invitations to the shower at the Methodist/ Baptist/Pentecostal Church went in the mail, you could always count on Miss Y.  In those cool echoing Fellowship Halls where the start-housekeeping goods were spread like a colorful buffet atop a dozen tables, somewhere amongst the linens in those ranks of quilts and blankets and sheets and towels, sitting alongside the myriad one-pair-of pillowslips ranged in overlapping rows of embroidery or crochet or tatting with a neat card inserted into the cuff of each, there they’d be. 
The Dish Britches, set apart a bit by the jaunty tilt of the little flat box, open for display, and slanted a bit into its lid for best effect. They were just as cute as cute could be, and important, somehow, for everybody got them.  It was a mark of belonging, I think, like an innocent little small-town version of a bid at Rush.   

  Nine-tenths of the married women there had received a pair, and any single girl there, no matter her age, expected to someday.   You just DID.   They were as much a part of the wedding festivities as the gathering-to-make-rice-bags and picking out the silver pattern.


Everyone who passed that table seemed to smile, or simper a little at the guileless naughtiness of the poem, typed up on Miss Yvonne’s Olivetti in that distinctive flowing script:

Don’t be excited, don’t be misled.

These aren’t for you, but the dishes, instead. 

So get out your scissors and rip out the stitches,

And get in the kitchen and wash up the dishes.

It was a custom, a rite, and a sweet remembrance through the years.  Miss Yvonne herself did not marry until she was in her sixties, and my Mother always said her shower was the biggest one in the county, ever.   And as we ladies walked amongst the beautiful presents, holding our small doilied  plates of tiny Paminna Cheese Sandwiches, Cheese Straws and cups of Lime Punch, we just all broke out laughing.


For on a table all their own, like a set of game tiles laid squarely down for the match, were rows and rows of little flat boxes.  There were tiny britches of every color and shape---TWENTY-TWO pairs of them, each from someone who had treasured her little remembrance from such a nice lady.


Miss Yvonne was many years older than I, but I enjoyed being her Birthday Twin---we swapped cards for years and years, even after I moved up here.  When we went down there for my Mother’s funeral, Miss Y hugged me tight and handed me a pint of her homemade strawberry preserves.  She said, “Nobody ever thinks about bringing something for breakfast.”


She’d be a Hundred today, and I still miss my friend.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I’ve always wondered about the people who had Sunday Night Suppers.   When I was a child and teen, those were portrayed in magazines and TV commercials and cookbooks as a meal apart from any other, with chafing dishes and pale trays of Welsh Rarebit and Chicken Veronique cooked and served right there on the coffee-table by chic women in Hostess Gowns.

Even the attire was special---long robish Auntie Mame dresses  sweeping  the floor as the ladies daintily stirred and arranged the food, floating past their smiling, well-groomed children in a cloud of Chesterfield smoke, while they all conversed or sat neatly awaiting Disneyland on their pale-ivory Jetson TVs. 

My Mother had a robe kinda like that, a long pale pink quilted one, a gift from Aunt Cilla, and I longed with my heart that she’d wear that some Sunday night and we’d cook in the living room, all fresh food for special, instead of the perfectly wonderful leftovers from the good Sunday Dinner we’d had right after church.   

Never happened.  Though the books and magazine were couched in terms of "taking the trouble out of all the planning," for those special weekly evenings, our own leftovers WERE certainly perfectly good.  Even a Day of Rest could leave you too tired to cook again, and Mother would no more have worn that robe to cook in than she’d fly. 

 I loved those pictures, and coffee-table cooking or serving, in those rooms of stick-legged furniture amongst the knotty-pine walls and pyramid lampshades and drifts of Arpege seemed an exotic thing to me, like people sitting cross-legged on carpets in India or Arabia, around an ornate communal dish.  And of course, Sunday Night Suppers were even more elegant.

 Instead of being in Church for the fifth hour that day like me, in the same clothes and with the same folks---neither of which were as fresh or bright as their first appearance at Ten O-clock Sunday School, I imagined that all the classy folks were home on Sunday nights, freshly dressed for Supper and graciously anticipating that gentle, rich fare.   And it always happened at Six O’Clock.   Nobody told me that, and I didn’t read it.   It just WAS, somehow, the Right Time.

rubylane photo

All the magazines listed small, easy-to-prepare egg or chicken or cheese dishes, some with their own specific bread or biscuits, and sometimes the almighty TOAST POINTS to serve as cushion beneath those lovely concoctions.    Things with sauces were lavishly portrayed, as were NESTS of things---rice or grated potatoes or mashed potatoes or chow mein noodles, to cuddle all those splendid sauced things in.

After all, chafing dishes were invented especially so you could put a can of mushroom pieces and a jar of paminna in most any chicken dish, and call it a la King.

There were often crepes, one time savory and another, sweet.  And THAT one I had a hard time getting.  I’d MADE crepes, and you certainly didn’t rely on the iffy Fahrenheit of a Sterno can, not if you had a dozen crepes to turn out, and then the sauce besides.

Anything in a casserole dish that you could nap with white sauce and brown was perfect for a Sunday Supper.  Extra points for a little Colman’s in the sauce.
Image result for bowl of green peas

And always, always, the green peas.  Everything required peas.  And never had I ever seen such a green pea in my life---the bright fresh color in the pages was tiers above the gray-green softness in the School Day can, and even the short-term crop of English Peas we grew in the Spring were shelled and boiled and creamed into canned-pea gray.   I guess if I’d peeked into the pot, somewhere between two minutes and baby food, that heavenly color might have shone for an instant.

Things in Rings were immensely popular, and that's all I have to say about that.

There was usually a light, colorful dessert of daintily cut fruit or fancifully-molded sherbets or Jello.   Both salads AND desserts were of the fiddly-poo sort, with nary a normal cake or pie in sight.   And they had NAMES.   The above is called "Cut Glass Salad," and it's usually made with several different colors of Jello, made separately, cut into cubes, and then folded into whipped cream or Kool Whip with more Jello to make it set.  And all cooks know that that lady above had to go around and wash the face of every pee-diddly cube of that Jello up there to get it to show through.
Perfection salad also comes to mind (though seldom voluntarily), and though I like every one of the ingredients, together it seems a misbegotten match, too much like putting Italian dressing over marshmallows and beets.  This one, like most of the others of my childhood, reminds me of a mother Horta and her babies.  
SAST: this one's for you

There always seemed to be a plate somewhere of tiny weenies on picks, or crab puffs and exotic-sounding devils-on–horseback in the timer-set Tappan as you took your ease, awaiting a mere TING and a graceful bend and sweep to waft them to the living room.  


Good Luck on that, with the folks that I knew.   Knew personally, that is, for I never doubted that there must have been people named Carstairs or Langdon or Van Something who surely enjoyed such sumptuous evenings. 

And of what they were watching, moirĂ© non, 

Saturday, August 24, 2013






Someone who gets up on Saturday while you’re still sleeping, and brings great bounty home from the Farmer’s Market?



And cuts it and cooks it and brings you a taste on a spoon?


Tee-ninecy baby straight-necks, shiny and new?

Green-crisp snap beans, perfect for the pot, to go with tiny new-dug potatoes---extra points for birth-earth still clinging?

Beloved sets of hands, to snap and shell and peel as they laugh and chat and carry on family rites older than memory. Sweetpea, Sis and Caro:


The differences in tomato countenances, just like people---rugged or smooth or innocent or guarding secrets within.  I prefer to look at them straight-on, because in those usual back-of-the-head displays, you can’t tell who is sweet and who is not, or if they’re tender and good, or stem AND stern all the way through. 


A promising fellow, mature enough to be mellow, but still with a smile and a spring in his step:


We had that one for lunch today, with peppery bacon, Wonder Bread, and Blue Plate.  A peach cobbler, also from the market, cinnamony and crusted with sandy sugar, still warm from the baking, from a nice lady with a lovely name. 


Perfectly peeled by Chris, with the shine and depth of gems. 


Heavy, juicy peaches, with the scent of sun still on their fuzzy cheeks.

The genuine, flowery-faces of patty-pans.   They’re like some people, who never realize how beautiful they are.


The view from my patio chair:

Sunny bench for Morning Coffee:


Same bench, with its green welcome of an afternoon: 


Yes, I’m aware of the dangers in the pot---we don’t shun people or places because of a few prickles.   We just try to keep out of prickle-range.

Fairy dell with its year-round carpet of ivy, violets and moss, with the most enchanting strange little glows in places, as the twilight  comes down.




Paddling with flamingoes in the pond: 


Caro’s Blueberry Trifle:


In the shady arbor:


And people who love you through all your flaws, even a bad toupee.


All you dear folks who visit, who comment, who drop in from time to time, those who are unknown save for the same familiar towns popping up so faithfully on the sidebar, and those who have been here every day of these 900 posts---ALL OF YOU:




Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Photo courtesy of Janie, bless her Dear Heart and carte blanche

On this absolutely-couldn't-have-been-chosen-more-perfectly Summer day, with the sunny skies and 66 degrees, with all the windows open wide with sheers stirring in the breeze, and the music of all six sets of wind chimes accompanying Pete the Canary in his joyful solo, another gift:

A gift of memories---memories so clear and vivid that they're as if my much-younger friend Janie had walked in my shoes, through that clattery screen-door into Aunt Lou's store, to the scents of sawdust sweepings and coal oil and the dusty burlap feed sacks and the exotic whiff of the bunch of bananas hanging on the big iron ceiling hook, the sweet fragrances of candy case and the tiny glassed-in counters holding "Voilet" and "Lavender" and "Lily of the Valley" colognes in their dear tiny bottles.

A trip to a century-old mercantile store provided Janie's talented lens with more memories of my childhood than I could take in---it was as if huge baskets of fudge and taffy and marshmallows had spilled out, to be eaten in huge greedy gulps of sweetness.   I could hardly breathe, and so fled away to share this glorious gift---my mind is too fluttery with memories and words and stories to come, of all the long-ago kindled and eager to be set down whilst I can. 

Do go and have a look---I'll be unashamedly borrowing pictures for all the deluge of words and thoughts I feel, and for now---just go and revel in the short-ago past.   It's too soon for words.

Thank you, Janie.