As the air gets cooler, even here in Sunny Central California, my thoughts start to shift to the holiday season. Memories of family that have passed on, Thanksgiving tables loaded with the best cooking you can find just about anywhere, Christmas madhouse get-togethers that included literally 60 or more family members, including way to many kids, all start to flood back into the recall areas of my mind.
I especially start to remember those that have passed away.
I am getting a little bummed that I am starting to reach the point of being the "old folks" of the family.
Over the years, as families have grown and changed, it is easy to lose touch with cousins, and even brothers and sisters. The ebb and flow of life have taken us all on our own paths and journeys that extend across the nation. Our family has married and mingled with other families that pull us away from each other at holidays.
Life has, as it should, been rolling on.
The stand out memory that we all have is the food. Smell and taste are powerful reminders of the safety and security of home and a large rambling family.
Memories of Grandma's potato salad, Aunt Marla's macaroni salad, my mother's strawberry jello (thank God, or we would still be eating the green stuff), Aunt Joanne's spicy relish trays, Great Grandma's butter rolls, Grandma's chocolate cream pie, Uncle Don's BBQ, all come back in an instant with a faint smell, or a picture in a magazine.
Let's not forget the mashed potatoes. It did not matter who made them in my family, they were always loaded with real butter, sour cream, and real cream, and cheese. Did I happen to mention that I am married to a dairy farmer? I did not start out in a dairy farming family, but I got to one as soon as I could. But that is another story for another day.
As each of the women that made these wonderful dishes passes on, our family has put together cook books to share these greatly loved dishes with everyone. Many of the recipes were passed down to them from their mothers and grandmothers. Strong farm women that made stout food for hard working family and fellow farm working people. Our heritage is moving on, standing the test of time.
Woven through the recipes are shadows of our history. Flavors of the Deep South, the Tennessee hills, the Oklahoma land rush, the Republic of Texas, the labor camps of the Dust Bowl, the spicy mix of the addition of the flavors of Mexico. We have been taught ability to use whatever was free, available, and in season. Most importantly, we were taught the way to use what could be grown at home.
Most of us have taken the recipes, and since we are from a long line of women that cook, we give them our own twist, providing a heritage for our daughters and daughter-in-laws to use for their families, and pass on to their daughters. A shared food heritage provides ways to share the stories of the family and relish memories that make up our history.
Today, I honor those wonderful women that shaped my family. The ranch wives, the farm wives, the field workers, the gardeners and the food they made - thank you ladies!
It's time to go pull out that 75 year old cast iron skillet, a hand me down from one that has gone before - and cook.