Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Keeper of the Memories

Just got a package from my Mom today (don't you just love getting packages in the mail? Yup. Me, too...)

Being the oldest child, she is the official "keeper of the memories" of the previous generations. When we were visiting them a few weeks ago, she showed me some wonderful things I had never seen before, such as my great great grandmother's cookbook (more on that in a minute) and my great grandmother's diary. I was so fascinated by it all that she made me a copy of everything and sent it to me (hence the aforementioned package in the mail).

What a treasure trove of... stuff!

It's not actually a diary as such... more of a "one sentence every day or so" type of entry that shows the ups and downs of her life, what fascinated her, and what was going on with the world. On March 17, 1950, for example, they repealed the tax on margarine. Elsewhere she mentions (although I can't find it at the moment) that she got to eat colored margarine... and believe it or not, I actually knew what she was talking about! If you are eager to find out why on earth margarine wasn't colored, you can check it out here.

Some of the stuff she mentions is so fascinating I just want to run up and ask her, "What???? You've got to give me more details than that!" For example, she mentions that on October 14, 1950: "The Pope saw the Virgin Mary at about 4 o'clock p.m." Nothing more. Just dropped that bomb and went on. On November 1, 1950, she notes that the doctrine of the Assumption was proclaimed (again, wouldn't you think that would deserve more than a one-liner?)

Ah. Here's the colored margarine. She bought 10 lbs of colored margarine (at 25 cents/lb) on February 24, 1952.

She goes on with who got married, who died (some poor guy died from drinking turpentine), etc etc etc. and then decides to drop this one on us:

April 5, 1954: "A woman in Chelsea, Mass. has a baby girl March 15 and April 5 had a boy, and they were not twins. The boy weight (sp) 4 lbs. 6 1/2 ounces, the girl 3 lbs. 4 ounces. The woman has two procreative organs, unusual in medical history. The doctors think both babies were conceived at the same time. Mrs Thelma Chapman 32 years, the names are Susan Joy and Wilbur Francis Foxboro." Of course, I had to look that one up and sure enough, TIME mentions it!

Fascinating stuff...

And then there's the cookbook.

If this is real, and people really ate this stuff, I

(1) admire them for their courage and
(2) thank God that I didn't live back then.


Here's just one example for your enjoyment:

Calf's Head in a Mold

Boil a calf's head until tender, the day before you wish to use it. When perfectly cold, chop -- not too small -- and season to taste with pepper, salt, mace and the juice of a lemon. Prepare half as much cold ham, fat and lean -- also minced -- as you have of the chopped calf's head. Butter a mold well, and lay in the bottom a layer of the calf's head, then one of ham, and so on until the shape is full, pressing each layer hard, and moistening it with veal gravy or the liquor in which the head was boiled. Pour more gravy over the top, and when it has soaked in well, cover with a paste made of flour and water. Bake one hour. Remove the paste when it is quite cold, and turn out carefully. Cut perpendicularly.

This is quite good as a relish when made of cold roast or stewed veal and ham. It will keep several days in cool weather.


There's also entries for:
"Breaded Calves' Brains"
"Brown Fricassee of Sheep's Tongues"
"Croquettes of Odds and Ends" (you REALLY don't want to know!)
and, of course, "Brain Fritters".

WHO ate this stuff? Ugh. Mom said the book was from the early 1890s, and I see from doing a quick search that other cookbooks from this time period carried this recipe as well.

Ugh. God bless 'em, whoever they were.

Anyway, just had to share my treasure trove with you all!


Cydney said...

How fun to see the way your ancestors lived and what they thought of the events of their time!

A friend of mine has her grandmother's cookbook, which includes not only instructions for cooking bear meat but cautions that if the bear is angry when killed, it will make the meat bad!

Ouiz said...

Oh my goodness, that is so funny! How can you NOT get a bear mad when you're trying to kill it?

I tell you, we are soooooooooooo blessed to live in a time when we don't have to hunt and scrape for every bit of food... and we certainly don't have to sit down to a table of "brain fritters."


Cydney said...

I think "unique up on it." LOL

My grandparents were farmers who raised their own animals and ate... well just about everything! I've definitely eaten parts not considered edible by most, but never brains (I'm pretty sure). My husband's grandfather still hunts for most of their meat and I've helped butcher my share of deer meat. Definitely thankful for most modern food and cooking conveniences!

Amber said...

Wow, amazing. That sounds appalling, and I am certainly thankful that I can hop down to Safeway and pick up all sorts of meat products that do not include brains and other lovely tidbits. Of course, I also have to worry more about drug resistant E. Coli and the like... but I think I'll take that trade-off!

Thanks for sharing what you found, what a treasure trove! I bet that snippet journal is just fascinating. And I can't imagine writing a line like that - I'm just way too verbose! *grin*

Ouiz said...

Cydney, my husband grew up on a farm, so he's eaten lots of...interesting... things as well. My hat's off to both of you! (I am SUCH a wimp!)

Amber, I'm thankful for local grocery stores as well! I don't think I've got much of that "pioneer spirit" in me... And congratulations on getting close to a move-in date on your home!

Malia said...

Ouiz, I followed your link to the recipe , and I'm sure even brain fritters lose all of their disgust factor when served on lace papers. :-) Breaded gray cells on lace-- what could be more appetizing?