Almost seventy years ago I sat in my little kitchen on our farm south of Farragut and wrote my first column for the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel. As I look at it now, I realize how much has changed and how much is the same. Enjoy!
November 24, 1949
Life on the farm has certainly stopped being a seasonal type of activity. I’m beginning to suspect that it has always been an ugly rumor that farmers tucked away the last bushel of corn and then settled down to the life of Riley until spring planting started. Unless the man is nearing retirement age, or inherited a fine fortune from his father, I know of no farmers in this vicinity who are fortunate enough to take a long breather come winter. Now that our last ear of corn is safely sheltered, the man of the house (and the farm lot) is busily occupied in fixing the fences, buildings, and various pieces of equipment that were so woefully neglected during the furiously busy days of the past few months. Wintering livestock is a task in itself. Even the hour before bedtime is crammed full of study into the various nutritive values of different feeds and feed mixtures.
The most interesting person I met all week was a lovely elderly lady in the yard goods section of a big department store in the city. I was buying some colorful print material to make some tea aprons when she remarked that she was also interested in making bazaar items. It seems that every woman’s church group in the country is up to its collective ears getting ready for the big annual money making event which precedes Christmas. We exchanged all sorts of interesting ideas on bazaar booths while the rush of modern business continued to bustle around us. I’m sure she enjoyed as much as I did the feeling of friendliness and working together which two strangers felt, all because of a yard of red gingham.
I spent the most enjoyable Sunday evening I’ve had for a long time last night reading Bess Streeter Aldrich’s collection of stories compiled under the title “Journey into Christmas.” It is the kind of book every family should read and reread each Christmas. She has really captured the secret of our Midwestern Christmas spirit…from the early pioneer days, of which Miss Aldrich writes so convincingly, up to the problems and situations which make our own Christmas sometimes involved and usually so wonderful. It is a book aptly named, for I truly took a journey into Christmas along with the folks who walked through the pages of this fine collection.
This week has been a busy one. Our “Country Club” met with its usual relaxed good humor. I have often felt that its greatest value was to give farm wives a chance to just sit for two afternoons a month. “Just sitting” is almost a luxury to me anymore. Perhaps riding herd on a two year old has made more difference in my sitting time than any other activity in a crowded day. But getting back to our country club, we found ourselves far too imbued with the Christmas spirit to be content to do nothing creative toward sharing our own good fortune. So to the thread and the needle we flew and soon had the beginning of a Christmas prepared for a needy family in the neighborhood. Doing something for those near at hand is a good exercise of the Christian spirit. Sometimes it is far easier to send a box to the poor in India than to the family just down the road. It will be interesting to see how our basket of clothing and gifts will grow during the coming weeks.
One of the good old country customs I hope will never be abandoned is that of sharing recipes. If I could listen hard enough and long enough, I’m sure the secrets of the fine cooks in our neighborhood would someday make a good cook out of me. Baking mixes are fine for busy days and new brides, but the fun of going into the kitchen and getting my hands into some new recipe will always transcend the value of the time saved in the “open-the-box-dump-in-the-bowl” method. The following drop cookie recipe is one that has been handed down for several generations in the Raymond family, and is by far the best recipe I have ever found for this type of cookie.
Raymond’s Chocolate Drop Cookie
Cream: 1 cup brown sugar with ½ cup butter
Add: 1 beaten egg
Dissolve 3 tablespoons of cocoa in 3 tablespoons of hot water. (This amount may be increased if your family likes lots of the chocolate flavor…or 1 to 2 squares of melted chocolate may be used.)
Measure 2 cups all purpose flour into the sifter (do not sift before measuring). Add ¼ teaspoon vanilla and ½ cup nut meats.
Chill and drop by teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
These are good frosted with any kind of frosting.
MY fresh batch of Raymond’s Cookies just came out of the oven, just in time for a hungry farmer and a famished little girl to see that the number is rapidly diminished before suppertime.