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From a Farmhouse Kitchen – Jo-Ann Reed

From a Farmhouse Kitchen

The first thing I noticed was a patch of red.
Faded now,
but once as bright as a ripe, shiny Macintosh.
Gently, I coaxed it out from under the folded linen napkins.
Hidden for years. Thirty-three years.
Thirty-three years since my grandfather died
and my grandmother hung up her best
Sunday apron.

“Could I have this?” I asked my aunt, as we stood side-by-side in the attic of the long-vacant homestead.
“My mother’s tablecloth? Why would you want this old thing?”
I offered something about collecting old fabric…1940 fabric…feed sack fabric.
“OK,” she said.
“You can have it if you want it, but it’s just an old tablecloth.”

Just an old tablecloth? Not to me.
It’s a musty cotton memento of salt pork and gravy.
New potatoes.
Apple Pan Dowdy and white cake “from scratch.”
It’s a tumbler of water from the spring up the hill, and it’s my grandfather sitting in the old wooden chair, laughing at all the latest jokes from Summer Street School.
It’s my sister teasing to ride the horses after dinner, and it’s my brother begging to go out to the barn to jump in the loose crackly hay.

Just an old tablecloth?
It’s the ride from St. Johnsbury to West Burke.
Eighteen miles, almost every single Sunday with Mom.
An excursion.
A trip we might take on a Saturday,
but never on a Thursday.

It’s itchy snow pants and handmade hats
coasting over crystallized crust
on cut-up cardboard boxes.
It’s wet, woolen mittens sizzling on the
wood stove.
It’s the first song my grandmother ever taught me.
Mares-eat-oats and does-eat-oats and

Just an old tablecloth? Not to me.
It’s a homespun recollection of memories
in patchwork.

Good As Bread – Donna Panaccione Otto

Flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast
a few ingredients
mixed, kneaded, molded
sensory satisfaction
a well risen dough
hot oven
magic begins
smell of baking bread
rich invitation
aroma spreads
essence of comfort
open oven
heat on face
perfect loaves revealed
crusty top
tender within
butter ready or
olive oil dip
minced garlic, basil, oregano
slices of fragrant cheese
olives, black and green
grapes, red
firm, sweet
uncork the Merlot
a feast for a queen
as good as bread

A poem – Deborah Kuprunas

Slowing down my process of gather and cook became like a production of an Opera.

Observation. Listening. Appreciation.
Prelude. First Act. Intermission. Second Act.
Finale. Curtain Call. Fin.

Easy as Pie – Jeanne Desrochers

The crust rolled out satiny and silky, the perfect combination of flour, butter, sugar, and salt, perfectly held together with ice water, refrigerated for the perfect amount of time, perfectly rested and relaxed now on the floured board. With a bit of folding and lifting the disc gently settles in the pie plate. In over 50 years of crust making, this is one to remember. I think of calling my mother and telling her of my success, though she wouldn’t hear the ringing phone.

Over our lifetime together, there have been struggles, competitions, and judgments handed out and received that challenged our relationship.

She, in my earlier estimation, never had a crust that wasn’t perfect. The dusted maple pie board was the easel for her art. While I sat at the counter on the red stool, a castoff from the drugstore soda fountain, twirling around until she was irritated enough to scold me, she would turn out, deftly punch and knead and slice dough for rolls, braided breads and sticky buns and roll out crusts for the apple, custard, pumpkin, and pork pies that she’d serve at the dinner and holiday tables.

Our relationship has changed. I know she must have botched a crust or two and failed at greater things. It matters not. Competition melts away like soft butter. The critical voices are no longer there. Mine maybe from the acquisition of wisdom or bites of humble pie, hers from her withering brain. We can be together now, side by side, laughing and talking about crusts, easy as pie.

Two Beets – Jeanne Desrocher

I heard a radio interview with the head of Public Works in Laval Quebec discussing a plan to mix sugar beet extract with road salt as a way to lessen, as he says in his Quebecois accent, “high-cee” roads. The problem using the red beets is that people would track the solution inside, staining their rugs and clothing, plus the solution smelled like…rotting vegetables. An alternative is being tried with white beets where stain and smell are minimized.

Gazing into the refrigerator before dinner, I’m uninspired. Walking into the pantry, I find 2 softening beets. They’re almost ready for mixing with road salt but not quite.

I consider myself frugal. Formed by parents who lived during the depression and reminded us to take what we could eat and to not waste food, we gardened and canned and cooked much of what we ate. Of course, we also were reminded of all those starving children in India. There’s the frugality and the guilt, and maybe also a dose of smugness and determination.

Can I take five loaves and 2 fishes and feed thousands? Can I make dinner without running to the store? Can some of my frugality and guilt be re-labeled creativity?

My hands are full of ginger and garlic, almonds, prunes, bulghur, yogurt, and the beets. A few minutes in the food processor and the veggie burgers are ready for frying. The cutting board and my hands are the only things stained.