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Family Recipes: Get 'Em While They're Hot
I feel as if I’ve arrived too late at the station only to see the train going down the track. Labor Day has passed, and another summer of my life has sped by before I fully appreciated it. What a change from the slow summers of my youth when a day seemed to last forever, let alone a whole season! Perhaps our lives are crammed so full of TV shows, Internet, E-mail, and work that we don’t notice time’s passing.
For one thing, school let out before Memorial Day and didn’t start until after Labor Day so that summer vacation was longer. By the end of the rather humdrum summer, we were more than ready to go back up the long diagonal walks to the old Academy building down which we had so joyfully skipped on the last day of school. The older kids returned to their lunch-hour perch on the iron fence on the west side of the schoolyard to flirt and gossip, and in the wintertime we had basketball.
When my grandsons say, "I’m bored." I have little sympathy for them. They don’t know the meaning of boredom! There wasn’t much to do in Knightstown during the late forties and early fifties--no swimming pool, television, computers, electronic games or malls. Ho hum . . .
Summer brought picnics out at the Springs that used to be by Road 40 east of town, 4 H, the carnival at Sunset Park, tennis at the athletic field south of the Keesling farm, our annual trip up to Aunt Laura’s for Sunday dinner and a pilgrimage to the Old Home Place, and occasionally at the drive-in theater up on Road Three south of New Castle. (What was it called?)
It was a fun to swim in the round pool at Greenfield’s Riley Park or at Baker Park in New Castle. Some teenagers, rumor had it, skinny-dipped at the Classified Forest. (Not I, not I!) The Nine Nifty Nicitinos went to see and be seen at the Sullivans’ Drive-in East of Town. Some went dancing at the Indiana Roof or out at Westlake in Indianapolis.
One of the best things about summer was the food that you couldn’t get any other time of the year because produce wasn’t shipped in from California or Hawaii. What a treat it was to eat the fresh bounty of a Hoosier garden! Come summer, I’d hear a man coming down the street, singing out "Strawberries . . . Strawberries!" I’d run in and call to Mother, "Strawberry man’s comin’!"
Mother’s strawberry shortcake was different from that of Bill’s mother who made the biscuit kind. Mother baked rounds of her short pie crust and layered them with the small strawberries which were, according to the taste that lingers in my memory, more flavorful than the huge tones that we get today. She also baked a luscious, double-crust, strawberry pie.
Daddy and she had a big garden up by the greenhouse. "We’re having a garden dinner tonight," she’d announce. This consisted of whatever was ready: slow-simmered green beans seasoned with bacon and sometimes cooked with potatoes, corn on the cob or perhaps fried corn, slaw, Big Boy tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in vinegar, mangoes as they called them back then (green peppers), lettuce wilted with hot vinegar and bacon grease, corn bread and her homemade lemonade. No fancy restaurant meal tastes better!
After dinner, the neighborhood kids played kick-the-can or bicycle slips until dark. Then I’d join my parents on the swing until the house became cool enough for sleep as there was no central air back them. Back and forth, back and forth we’d gently swing to the thrum of the cicadas and the chirp of the crickets interspersed occasionally with the deep-voiced "Katy-did.". (Haven’t heard one in years!) It was on that swing that I learned many of the stories about my family and the olden days.
Every summer I try to make Mother's other’s corn fritters--actually thin, lacy cakes—but they aren’t the same. Some things such as Mom’s Hoosier, home-cooked comfort foods, the games of yesteryear’s summers with the neighbor kids and hanging out at the drive-in can be savored only in memory . . .
Folks, get those recipes while you can!
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