Summer Food Memories

(This post written by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain, for the Our Echo site.)
Many childhood memories of Mom are centered on food. Perhaps that’s natural since motherly caregiving included keeping six children well-fed. We probably seemed like bottomless pits to her. After playing around the farm for hours, wading in the creek and wandering the pastures, we were ravenous. Many of our games involved running like wild yahoos through the sparse Kansas woods or galloping our pretend horses across the prairie. These activities guaranteed a good appetite.

Many childhood memories of Mom are centered on food. Perhaps that’s natural since motherly caregiving included keeping six children well-fed. We probably seemed like bottomless pits to her. After playing around the farm for hours, wading in the creek and wandering the pastures, we were ravenous. Many of our games involved running like wild yahoos through the sparse Kansas woods or galloping our pretend horses across the prairie. These activities guaranteed a good appetite.

To stave off the hunger pangs until supper time, we had some favorite snacks to fill the void. Bread with a liberal layer of white sugar, saturated with rich cream, was a favorite. We spooned the cream onto the sugar since it was too thick to pour. The golden cream from our jersey cow soaked into the sugar coating in a most satisfying way. Probably a nutritionist would cringe, but we worked off the extra calories running around the countryside, working in the garden and hauling buckets of water to the rabbits. Chubbiness was not a worry.

The garden yielded another favorite snack of tomato sandwiches. We sliced an oversized beefsteak tomato and placed the slices between two pieces of white bread. Of course, we slathered Miracle Whip salad dressing on the Rainbow bread first. We didn’t mind when the juicy tomato and excess Miracle Whip dripped down our chins. We ate the sandwiches outside anyway. When we couldn’t wait to return to our play, we just grabbed a tomato and bit into it. A little sprinkle of salt enhanced the flavor.

Sometimes we pulled out the standard peanut butter to spread on bread or saltines. Again we added extra sustenance by spreading home-churned butter on top of it all. Our peanut butter came in bucket-shaped tins, not in a jar. An oily layer rose to the top and had to be stirred in for creaminess. A topping of Mom’s jam or jelly or preserves completed the sandwich.

Mom kept the cookie jar full. She taught us all to make no-bake cookies, snickerdoodles, brownies and muffins. These weren’t the spongy, cakelike muffins served nowadays. Muffins in the 1950s were similar to hearty bread in texture. We also learned to make fudge, but it didn’t always stiffen properly.

karens muffins

Old-fashioned muffins like we ate in the 1950s and 1960s. Gail’s daughter, Karen, made these recently.

I tried raiding the cookie jar, but it was hard to lift the lid without making a clinking noise. Sneaking a piece of cake was even harder, especially since I cut so crookedly that it was easily detected.

Sometimes we had waffles or pancakes for supper. We looked forward to this treat, but I’m guessing it was a last minute measure when Mom forgot to defrost meat for the meal. She made the pancakes special by pouring the batter into odd shapes. Other families can have their stacks of round pancakes, but we had cloud shapes, turtle shapes, and even swans. Drowned in Log Cabin syrup, from the can that was shaped like a little cabin, the pancakes filled all our hungry tummies. Sometimes we spread jam on the pancakes or sprinkled on powdered sugar. I even remember putting peanut butter on pancakes.

log cabin syrup tin etsy

Photo of Log Cabin Syrup tin from Nutmeg Cottage on Etsy

Eating out was a rare treat. The A&W Root Beer stand was an occasional stop. They had 5 cent (was it really that cheap?) kid’s mugs of root beer. The mug was tiny but coated with frost and the tangy root beer tasted so good on a hot summer day. It was one of the few affordable places to take six children.

Sometimes we visited the Dairy Queen to get the soft serve vanilla ice cream cones. These were the ones with the curl on top. My Mom was a very brave woman to take a carload of kids there. We left with six of us licking our treat as fast as we could to keep the ice cream from melting in the searing Kansas heat. Even so, we always ended up with drips running down our arms and creating sticky spots on our clothing.

retro ice cream cone classic round sticker
retro ice cream cone  by doonidesigns

We sometimes went to a tiny diner where one day a week they had eight hamburgers for a dollar. They weren’t very large hamburgers, but it fit the family budget to eat there on the rare occasion. I think we drove the counter girl crazy when we ordered our eight hamburgers. Each child had their own preferences; with pickles, no pickles, ketchup, no ketchup, mustard, lettuce, etc.

I’d better stop now, as this is making me hungry for a tomato sandwich. I’d love to see other people’s food memories in the comment section.

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3 thoughts on “Summer Food Memories

  1. Although we lived in the city we ate many of the same things, minus the additions of homemade butter and thick cream. I’ve always loved a fresh tomato with salt. I’m glad you mentioned the muffins of today being unlike those we grew up with. They are truly like cake whereas the old ones (and any I make today!) are bread like. Sort of like banana bread, without the bananas 🙂

    Finding Eliza

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always thought pancakes topped with over-easy eggs were the best. That’s still my preference. Now French Toast, with butter and lots of powdered sugar (really, it was icing!), is another matter! I was just thinking about our summer stops at A & W Root Beer the other day. I remember Mom would take us there on hot days after we spent the afternoon at the swimming pool. No frosted glass mugs at today’s A & W—and they put ice in the root beer, which is just wrong! Dairy Queen–since it was just across the street from the county fair grounds, an ice cream treat was always the first thing we bought with our prize money. I would splurge on a banana split.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We enjoyed many of the same foods growing up, you and I. To this day, I look for the first truly vine-ripened tomatoes of the summer for tomato sandwiches. We toasted our bread, then, and still do, then slathered one side with Miracle Whip (Is that a Midwest thing?) and the other with peanut butter. Thick tomato slices landed on the peanut butter side of the bread, their tops liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper, before adding the “mayo” side. Quite often we ate these sandwiches while the tomatoes were still warm with the noon-day sun. Next to them we’d pile on fresh-cooked garden green beans and cool cucumbers swimming in slightly diluted apple cider vinegar with onions, fresh dill, mustard seed, salt and pepper. For dessert, more tomatoes, sprinkled lightly with sugar. I surely do miss the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

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