I’m enjoying thinking about all the celebrations around my hundredth birthday. My phone continues to ring with friends checking in. I get emails and letters every day from people I’m so pleased to know.
Having reached the goal of living for a century, I’ve started wondering what to do next.
One thing I want to do is always be cheerful and optimistic. I want to keep looking to the future. I’m not just doing that for myself, but for others, too. I feel like maybe that is where my value is, that I can help lift spirits.
I remember doing that when I was starting out as a third grade teacher. I wanted the children to go home feeling good about themselves and all they could do.
That continued when I worked in the Methodist Church in Waterloo, Iowa, and then for three years at the church in downtown Chicago. Some of my time in the city was during World War Two, and many young people who came to the church were in the military and uncertain about their futures. The programs we developed helped take their minds off of things and to enjoy sharing time with others who could give them support.
Soon after I came back to Iowa, Robert and I became part of the Madison Methodist Church. It was a country congregation ten miles south of Farragut. My father had been a pastor there when I was in high school. The church was very dear to me.
As a new member, I volunteered to do whatever I could to help the church succeed. I became the director of the children’s choir, and dearly loved that. Years later when I would see some of the children all grown up, they would greet me and say, hello Sunday school teacher! Or hello, choir director!
I hope I can also continue to bring joy to people through cooking. I understand that many people today have packed schedules that limit the time they have to be in the kitchen, but even having an hour during the weekend to prepare a meal can be very satisfying.
Couples can share time cooking. If they have children, they can start their cooking experience early by letting them help out. Even very young children can pour and stir ingredients. They can knead dough, twirl it, pound it, and have fun fixing food.
I’ve been asked to name my favorite recipes. Most of them are for cookies of various kinds. When I think about why, the reason is that they are easy to share. Sharing brings smiles to people’s faces, and that makes me happy, too.
For main courses, my favorite of long ago was fried chicken. We would get a hundred baby chicks to raise out in the farmyard. When the chickens were six weeks old and older, my mother and my mother in law would come to help dress them. Robert would boil a big vat of water over a fire in the back yard.
We butchered the chickens, dipped them in the boiling water to loosen the feathers, and then plucked them clean. Next they went into the kitchen to be cut up into useable pieces. We wrapped most of them and took them to our freezer locker at a grocery store in town to store for future meals. A few made it immediately to the dinner table to feed lots of happy, hungry mouths.
I’ve also been asked what I don’t like to cook. Sauerkraut is near the top of the list. So is anything with coconut in it. I don’t care for that.
I also stay away from recipes with garlic or strong spices and hot peppers. My mother never used spices. She was a good, basic cook, not a gourmet. I probably inherited some of that from her.
Perhaps that has to do with bringing joy, too. If I don’t like the taste of something, it doesn’t make me happy, and I always want to be cheerful and upbeat. So please, no garlic, coconut, or hot peppers for me, at least for the next hundred years.
A top Fremont County Fair recipe in 1964 came to me from Leola Nenneman. It is as good today as it was then.
Leola’s Prize Winning
3 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ¼ cup shortening
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup black walnuts, chopped fine
Sift the dry ingredients together. Cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir in nuts, then add the dry ingredients.
Shape into small rolls, wrap in waxed paper and chill well. Slice and bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 5 to 8 minutes at 400 degrees. Do not over bake. They should be a light brown with no brown ring around the edge.