From my mom, Grace Christine 1926-2009
I was born during the “Great Depression” in 1926. It was a sad and poor time for most of the people in our country. However; as a child, my world revolved around my parents and I was untouched by our country’s struggles.
My dad was a barber and my mother was a happy homemaker, in every sense of the word. My parents welcomed friends and relatives into our home, and fed the occasional strangers who knocked at our door, looking for a meal and a place to spend the night.
We had a small garden in the backyard which supplied the family with fresh vegetables all through the summer and enough preserves, jams and pickles to last the winter. The chairs around our table were never empty because my parents loved to invite people to share our meals, and I believe our company came for the generous measure of love and conversation that was dished out with the food.
Mum made cooking an easy chore and she always had a smile or a funny joke as she stirred her pots and pans. Her cakes and pies were rumored to have come straight from a heavenly source to our table. Saturday was the high spot of our week because it meant a trip to Boston for our weekly supply of meat and staples. My sister and I loved the little treasures Mum bought us, such as a pomegranate or an orange, and Dad’s favorite treat, chestnuts.
When I close my eyes, I can still see my mother at our kitchen window, and I can hear her saying, “Here comes Aunt Georgiana and the children. I’ll have to put more water in the stew and another potato in the pot. I should have made more pies!” (She might have had two apple pies cooling in the pantry, but she always wanted to have more than enough for everyone at the table.) Here’s Mum’s (Harriet/Great Nana) recipe for Baltimore Stew, our all time favorite!
Put the following ingredients into a large, heavy pan.
Two pounds of stew meat, cut into small cubes.
Two pounds of fresh carrots, peeled and sliced one inch thick.
One small can of whole tomatoes. One large diced onion.
Two slices of fresh white bread, broken into pieces.
Three whole cloves. One teaspoon of salt. One-half teaspoon of pepper.
Cover with cold water and simmer for about three and a half hours.
Add one can of drained peas and simmer about thirty more minutes. Remove cloves.
Add two heaping tablespoons of regular tapioca.
Cook uncovered for fifteen more minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Serve with mashed potatoes.
As Mum would say, “Eat hearty and enjoy! There’s plenty for all!”