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Stirring up memories



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Stirring up memories all the times
November 7, 2006

Not long ago—wait a minute—it only seems like not long ago; let me start over.

Almost exactly three years ago on Nov. 20, 2003, I wondered about my grandmothers and some questions I wished I had asked them.

I did that wondering right here in the pages of The Post-Searchlight in the very first Stirring up memories column. Since then I've asked lots of questions—some of them the same ones I wished I had asked my grandmothers about how their little-girl days and the days they made the homes my parents loved.

How do you know when the wood stove is hot enough to put in the cake?

And what do you do when it's too hot?

How can you keep milk when you don't have a refrigerator—or even an icebox?

How big is a pinch of salt?

But I also wondered about bigger questions. I wished I had asked for more stories about happy times and sad ones.

Tell me about your parents. Where did you go to school? What games did you play?

Tell me about your wedding day. Did you have a honeymoon?

What was it like to watch a loved one go off to war? How did you celebrate when he came home?

I never did get to ask those questions of my grandmothers, but during these three years, I have been able to ask them and many more over and over again as I met and heard the stories of the folks in our corner of the world, our corner of Georgia.

The very first person I chatted with, that "Queen of Swine Time," Bessie Phillips, told me all about cooking on a wood stove, so did Gloria Coppinger, Sammie Battle, Eva Causey, Betty Williams. I also heard about rolling stores, grinding corn, getting up early to put the coffee on—memories as beloved as that smell of morning coffee.

Sis Cook, Linda Barber and Gwen Conyers shared their wedding memories. Annie Mae Norris told me about waving good-bye to Homer as he set sail across the Pacific headed for what they were both sure was combat, and about her huge relief for her country and her husband when V-J Day—victory over Japan—was declared while he was still at sea. Frances Lee did not wave goodbye, she went herself to serve as an Army Nurse in the World War II European Theater. She let me tell her story.

In three years, I have heard and told lots of stories. It has been fun and, I hope, it has helped to preserve our local history. But stories have a way of disappearing—even when they have been in the newspaper, and these stories are too important, too meaningful, to slip away from us again.

So, with the great help of the folks here at the paper, I have collected many of the memories I have stirred up. We have put them together along with scrumptious recipes folks have shared with me, so that we'll have a more lasting record of these important times and events. In years to come the children and grandchildren of Southwest Georgia can drop by the Gilbert Gragg Library or the Decatur County Historical Museum to read about what life was like "way back when."

Plus, we'll be offering copies for Stirring up memories readers who want to save these memories themselves. There are lots of stories, lots of names (the index has almost 400 entries—check out some of them in the adjacent box!), and lots of good cooking. I'll keep you posted on the details of how and when you can obtain a copy.

Meanwhile here are some of the recipes we've shared. No, I don't have a favorite, but if I did, this would come close. It's the great candy that the Circle-K Club under the direction of Ray Chambers offered in the early days of Bainbridge College.

Circle-K Buttermilk Candy
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk

Cook five minutes and then add ½ teaspoon soda. Cook until a soft ball forms in cold water. (This is 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. It's hot! Be careful!) Add 2 cups pecans, 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir and drop onto foil.

A warning: You need a bigger cooking vessel than you may think. When the soda hits the sugar and buttermilk, it foams 'way up. I had to change pans. I wouldn't do this without a candy thermometer; you don't have time with all that boiling sugar to be dropping syrup in cold water. It took 10 minutes or more from the soda addition to the softball stage. I did a light chop on the pecans. Finally, exert self-control, call in the neighbors—it's so good you may end up in your favorite chair with a good book or an old movie and eat it all up in one sitting.

If one cake is a favorite—it's pound cake. Seems like almost everyone has a special technique. Memories flooded back for me when I tasted Carolyn Pierce's mother's cake—it's like my grandmother's, calling for one pound of each ingredient.

Mary Carter's Pound Cake
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 pound butter (no margarine)
10 eggs
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time to the butter, and then add the vanilla. Add flour. Beat 2 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1½ hours until a tester comes out clean.

Finally, since this is Turkey Day month, here's a casserole in honor of Georgia's own revolutionary and Revolutionary War heroine, Nancy Hart.

Revolutionary stew—in honor of Nancy Morgan Hart
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup diced onions
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 cup corn kernels
15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 quart chicken stock
3 cups diced turkey (or ham or chicken)
salt to taste
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (or fresh rosemary and thyme to taste)
1 generous cup frozen collard or turnip greens

Cook the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil until soft. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and serve. I'm going to double it for the crowd I'm expecting at my house the day after Thanksgiving!


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network