Mom had an undeniable gift for writing, which began at a young age. Her dedication to writing began in 1946, after seeing the Warner Brothers movie, Devotion, about the Bronte sisters. That’s when she began journaling seriously, on a daily basis; mostly writing about her life, dreams, and faith.
Mom filled journal after journal, for more than 70 years, with her ideas, feelings, and observations; from the time she was 10 years old until she physically couldn’t, shortly before she passed away in January 2018. Writing was so much more than a hobby or vocation, to Mom. It was definitely a DEVOTION!
You could say writing was in Mom’s blood, as her dad’s family published the newspaper for the Union Mills-Cromwell area of Indiana during the late 19th century. Mom, herself, worked in the newspaper industry for over a decade, before quitting to develop her own small, family operated, recipe business, in the early 1970s.
Mom was very creative at whatever she attempted. I wish I had half of her talent. She wore so many hats in our family and in the “family enterprise”. For our family, she was the cook, housekeeper, chauffer, doctor, seamstress, counselor, mentor, teacher, and so much more.
Within her small business, Mom was the recipe developer, author, illustrator, layout creator, publicist, promotion specialist, public speaker/lecturer and, again, so much more! She didn’t do it all by herself, as she also employed me and my siblings to help; and, later, Dad.
As a semi-modern, yet somewhat old-fashioned housewife-turned-homemaker-turned-entrepreneur, during the 1970s and amidst the Women’s Liberation Movement, Mom felt extremely blessed to be able to write for a living – and to be able to do it from home.
She always said, she made a living with her writing, but it was her writing that made living worthwhile! By the way, Sunday kicked off the beginning of National Business Women’s Week, plus it’s still National Women’s Small Business Month, too. Women entrepreneurs and small family businesses actually run in our family, in both sides of my parents’ ancestors.
In honor, this week, I wanted to share some of Mom’s stories about “Grandma’s Backdoor Bakery”. This series of stories, about which Mom wrote over 40 years ago, are based loosely on family fables that were passed down (and embellished) through a couple of generations. I call it her “kin-folklore”.
[NOTE: The following part of “The Backdoor Bakery” saga (pictured below) – from Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 24) – includes recipes for “Saturday Bread Dough” and “West Virginia Bread”. These were posted once before, in a previous blog, and can also be found on the Recipes tab of this website.]
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 24)
[Below, continued from THE BACKDOOR BAKERY (pictured above).]
THEY BARTERED FOR THE baked goods when they didn’t have the cash to pay. A bushel of apples or a peck of potatoes might be a fair-trade for bread, sufficient to feed a large family for a week. From the batter bread recipe, many versions of baked goods were created.
Greased cupcake or muffin wells half-filled with the batter produced a good dinner roll (when baked at 375° for 20 to 25 minutes.) Grandma insisted on one test for ‘doneness’ – tapping the crust with a finger. If it made a hollow sound – it was done! Grandma and the five girls were up at 4 AM to begin the baking each Saturday.
During the bristling winter days at her ‘Backdoor Bakery’, there was a large enamel pot of lemonade keeping hot on the back of the stove. She sold [the warm lemonade] for a few cents a cup to go along with a doughnut or cookie to those customers warming their hands over the heat of the stove before departing.
When Jasper Fillmore turned up, she noted in her journal, there was a slug of Grandpa’s favorite whiskey added to it – providing no local ladies from the Temperance Society were about.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 42)
HOMESTEAD, HOTEL AND RESTAURANT
(The continuing family saga by Gloria Pitzer, based on ‘kin-folklore’.)
INSTINCTIVELY, GRANDMA KNEW what food combinations had to be ‘balanced’. She didn’t know why, nor did she anguish over the possibility that somebody in the family might be suffering from nutritional deficiencies. She didn’t fret because she lacked a formal education in the science of food chemistry or dietetics.
She just knew that 11 children grew healthy and strong with one soapy hot tub bath a week, baking soda-brushed teeth once a day, church on Sunday, school attendance without excuses – except for illness (and being sick of school was not an acceptable excuse).
[All of that was] combined well with definite daily chores, hot food, ample drinking water, sufficient sleep and loving tolerance of each other in spite of personal faults. Cheese and eggs were both important ingredients in Grandma’s cooking.
The eggs came every other day from Cousin Nell, who had a lucrative ‘egg route’ for many years, sufficient, in fact to feather her nest nicely with an all brick house of nine rooms and a live-in housekeeper and a handyman to tend to the chickens in the coops on the back of the 20 acre parcel where she resided.
No one knew what happened to Cousin Nell’s husband, Regis, who (some whispered) had up-and-left with one of the saloon girls on a train heading for St. Louis. Nell pulled herself together quickly when she realized she had no one to look after her and the four children.
She tended her garden, started selling the eggs from a dozen hens until she had enough money to buy more laying-hens from a hatchery and [her] business grew.
The cheese, in grandma’s kitchen, was homemade – if it were the soft type that could be used within a few days. But she bought the hard cheese from the mercantile in town once a month.
She would wrap it in smaller portions, in wine-soaked cloth, or dip some in melted paraffin to keep even longer. These were interesting ingredients in the products of her ‘Backdoor Bakery’.
When grandma sliced warm, fresh bread in her ‘Backdoor Bakery’ and made sandwiches for her customers, she kept it simple, using her homemade cooked salad dressing, sliced cheese, and their choice of apple butter, marmalade, or walnut butter with.
Together, with a cup of hot cinnamon tea [or lemonade], from the enamel cattle (which I have now, sitting on the hearth in our living room) – no customer had to brave the chilly April rain without a warm cup of tea before leaving.
The food industry today markets their products in a more sophisticated method than Grandma did when she packaged her baked goods in brown paper and string, neatly piled in a large basket – sometimes in several baskets – and delivered by carriage over some curved roads between Grafton and Morgantown, West Virginia…
As for Nell, Grandpa’s brother’s girl, life was difficult at first. When the egg route began to support her nicely, there was talk around town that most of Nell’s money came from the card games she would sit in on when she delivered eggs to the hotel.
No one ever confirmed it, since Nell was a handsome woman, to be envied by many of the matrons whose husbands found her attractive – and a good listener when they needed one.
The Homestead Hotel was the only place in town to stay – if you had to stay in town. And Vivian told how she ‘spent a week there one night’, when a snowstorm kept her from returning home from town. That was the night that Grandpa was with her – and Nell was sitting in on one of those ‘naughty’ poker games.
Grandpa was holding a full house, trying to beat the town’s commercial Baker, and Grandma’s competitor. When Grandpa ‘called’ him, Hartwig Horton was holding a flush of diamonds, but confessed he couldn’t pay Grandpa in cash.
However, he would call the debt squared, if Grandpa would agree to take, instead of cash, a much-coveted recipe for his family’s ‘Texas Fruitcake’ that Grandma had been trying to duplicate for years; the secret formula closely guarded by Horton’s Texas family. Grandpa agreed.
But there were other hands dealt that wintry night, as Nell took on Morris Weismann, a few others, and came away holding the mortgage to the hotel as her winnings. The rather scarlet details of the all-night card game between Nell and the men, have been lost in translation among aunts and uncles who still recall its excitement.
We only know that Nell and her four children, in their teens by then, moved into the hotel, staffed it themselves and kept the 20 upstairs guest rooms with the five baths between them, continuously occupied and tidy.
Meanwhile, grandma worked out an arrangement with her niece to furnish the hotel restaurant with all of its baked goods for a fair price if Nell promised to shut down the saloon and the card games.
According to NationalDayCalenar.com, “In many parts of the world, women are less likely to own land, a business, or attend school. Education alone is a powerful tool, leading to financial independence for women. Their children reap the rewards, often for generations to come.”
As an avid reader, Mom often promoted, in her many food-for-thought articles, the benefits of always trying to learn something new each and every day.
Since today is National Department Store Day, here’s Mom’s imitation of J.L. Hudson’s Butterscotch Biscuits; as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; June 1997, p. 17). Hudson’s was Mom’s favorite department store dining destination, developing more than 65 imitations from there.
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
This week also observes… National Food Bank Week! Plus, as the third week in October [15th-21st for 2023] it’s also… National Kraut Sandwich Week, National Friends of Libraries Week, Free Speech Week, and National Retirement Planning Week!
Today is also… National Sports Day, National Liqueur Day, National Dictionary Day, and Global Cat Day! Plus, it’s National Boss’s Day (which is always on Oct. 16th, unless it falls on a weekend; then it’s observed on the closest Friday/Monday workday)! Additionally, as the third Monday in October (for 2023), it’s also… National Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day!
October 19th is… National Kentucky Day and National Seafood Bisque Day! Plus, as the third Thursday of the fourth quarter (for 2023), it’s… Get to Know Your Customers Day, which occurs on the third Thursday in every quarter of the year (during Jan., Apr., Jul., and Oct.).
…42 down and 10 to go!