Holidays are the time of the year when we think about family and our food traditions. I was thinking that I identify each of my relatives with some particular food. This actually has nothing to do with holiday foods as much as that whenever I visited someone like Aunt Blanche she would fix Chicken Cacciatore. Now her sister Aunt Lena lived close by and therefore we visited on an almost daily basis and I can’t remember sitting down to a meal in her home but I do associate her with making Fig jam. The figs were placed on sheet pans in the sun to dry. What sticks in my memory is that she placed those sheet pans with figs on top of the chicken coops, where the chickens were running loose in her yard.
My grandparents’ home was in Davis California and we would spend weeks at a time there during the summer. Breakfast always included half a grapefruit. We would go to the grocery store in Woodland where they bought most of their supplies and buy the grapefruit by the bag full. They came in a yellow mesh bag. Evenings grandma loved her ice cream and afterwards before bed time she would dose us kids with a teaspoon of honey and a clove of garlic. Madeleine remembers her mixing the biscuits right in the flour drawer. The flour was kept in a tilt out drawer that was lined with tin. Must have been about 20 pounds of flour and more in there. She would pour the milk and crack an egg into a depression she made in the flour and mix up the biscuits with her hands. Grandpa was not much on sweets, but he always used evaporated milk in his coffee. After stirring his coffee he would put that hot spoon on the kids elbow closest to him that had his elbows on the table. That is why I always sat next to grandma.
Aunt Babe was not much of a cook. Her specialty was picking up Corn Husk wrapped Tamales from Estrades in Visalia. After we moved to Placerville she would always bring them for Christmas Eve dinner.
Gay, my father’s mother was a basic ranch style cook. My favorite of her specialties was Spanish Steak. Every Christmas, Gay would make her Divinity candy. I have never been able to get mine to set like hers. One Christmas when I was home sick from school at Christmas time she helped me build a Christmas house out of sugar cubes. We kept that for several years before the ants found it.
I have lots of recipes from my mother, of course, but my all time favorite is still her Rice Pudding. At Christmas she usually made Stollen. One Christmas she made her favorite candy, Peanut Brittle, what a chore. But the holiday snack I enjoyed the most was probably Gay’s recipe. Powdered sugar dates stuffed with 1/4 walnut. Walnuts and dates were a big treat for the holiday, lots of walnut trees in Visalia. Aunt Babe would always shell a large bag of walnuts to include in our Christmas box.
The food I associate most with my father are game birds, but mostly Doves. He loved hunting and would always bring lots of game home, but doves were something he seemed to especially enjoy. For me there was just never enough meat on them and you always had to be on the lookout for gunshot. Also as I got older I had to finish cleaning them. He would do the initial field gutting and then dump them in the sink for me to finish. Living those early years on the ranch we always ate liver and heart. That’s the other food that brings my dad to mind, liver and onions. I still like liver and heart, just can’t get my husband to truly appreciate them.
Now that I have tripped down memory lane in the kitchen I am ready to put 2016 behind me and commit myself to another year of looking for those elusive relatives. Thanks to everyone who has read my blogs this past year and I hope you will continue to share in my family quest.