A distant cousin, Susan Hunnicutt-Balman, remembers her grandparents “had a big old mulberry in their back yard also good for climbing. My sister and I had the job of climbing it, shaking limbs to Grandma’s clean sheet below for collecting mulberries for baking. We liked just eating them off the tree!”
A friend of Mom and Dad’s, Tonda Alvarez, just mentioned them on Facebook. She wrote, “Made bierocks for supper tonight. Missing my friend Gail Lee Martin, because I always took her some for her freezer.” That surprised me, as I had no idea that Mom ever ate something as exotic as bierocks.
Immigrants of Russian or eastern European origin brought the recipe with them to Kansas and Nebraska. Our family leaned strongly to the meat and potatoes diet of England, Ireland, and Scotland. As far as I know, there are no Russians or eastern Europeans on our family tree.
If you want to see a recipe and photos of bierocks, follow the link. If you live in El Dorado, Kansas, check with the Alverez family at the farmer’s market in the summer. Maybe they have bierocks along with their famous fruit pies.
I asked Tonda about the folks liking the small meat pies. She said, “She loved them. I would wrap them individually for their freezer, but she would always eat one the minute I got them there!”
I’d never eaten bierocks until visiting my sister, Karen, in Lexington, Kentucky a few years ago. She made a batch which we enjoyed very much. Since we were traveling in our RV, she sent some along with us for our lunch further down the road.
This is a guest post, by my sister, Karen Kolavalli.
Whenever anyone asks “Where’s home?” I immediately picture an isolated farmhouse north of El Dorado, Kansas. I’ve been thinking about the concept of home this week as part of the coursework in an anthropology class I’m taking.
While I don’t have the writing skills of Daphne DuMaurier (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”) or Isak Dinesen (“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”), my memories of my growing-up home place are just as poignant. The house burned down a few years after we moved out. I remember as a child, a family brought their elderly mother to the house and asked if she could look around. She had grown up there herself. I’m sad that I can never be that old lady revisiting my childhood home.
My family moved to the country when I was just 6 years old and we remained there until we moved back to town when I was in junior high. Growing up free and wild in the country was, and still is, the best childhood I could imagine. My four sisters and brother and I endlessly explored the woods, the pastures, the creek, and the river, together and on our own. It was a magical time and place.
I was a big reader and I would also get lost in the make-believe world of paper dolls cut from the Penney’s and Sear’s catalogs. We played a lot of board games as a family when bitter winter cold and snow kept us inside. The downstairs of our house was kept warm with a wood-burning stove. The upstairs was not kept warm at all. We children shared beds, which helped keep us warm, although not “toasty” warm. I remember ice on the inside of the windows upstairs in our late 19th-century farm house.
So, yes, that’s “home,” even though I’ve lived in many other places. “Last night I dreamt….”
The recipe has gone around the world with me. As I pulled it out today to make my “Texas” banana bread, I took a minute to read the notes I’d jotted down over the years. It looks like I first made it in 1991 when I was newly married and living in Ahmedabad, India. Another note shows that I made it for my daughter’s 4th birthday party in July of 1994, still in Ahmedabad. In 2008 I’m divorced and back in Kansas, still using this recipe. At some point, my daughter started adding her notes to the recipe as she began baking. She was the first to add a lemon glaze to the bread. I see that I substituted 1 cup of dahi or curds (plain yogurt) for some of the bananas when I was short on bananas one time.
The recipe is from a cookbook my aunt gave me for Christmas back in 1978, when I was living in Wichita, Kansas, and she was a new Texan. She was working as a typesetter in Austin and The Wide, Wide World of Texas Cooking is one of the books she worked on. When I moved to India to marry, it was one of the few books I packed to take with me. It was my go-to book when I was homesick for American food.
Tonight I spent some time flipping through the pages of the book and realize that it’s a veritable journal of that part of my life. I’ve never been able to keep a real journal for more than a few days at a time (despite good intentions!), so it’s a delight to see that I WAS actually keeping a journal of sorts during those years.
The first note in the book dates to the time before I moved to India, when I was single and living in Wichita, Kansas: Jalapeno Buttermilk Cornbread (served with country spareribs) in Wichita before I moved to India. The note is brief, but I vividly recall serving this meal to my parents and my brother in my apartment along the Arkansas River in Wichita. Dad was a big fan of the jalapenos, but Mom and Owen would have preferred plain cornbread. My parents are both gone now and my brother is in a nursing home, partially paralyzed from a stroke, so these are bittersweet memories of a happier time.
My first years in India show that I must have really been missing American breads and pies! I made Flannel Cakes, Sour Milk Cornbread, Amarillo Risen Biscuits (for Easter), and Butter Biscuits. Pies just weren’t something you found in India, so the only way to get my fix was to make them myself and, boy, did I! Apple Cream Pie, Osgood Pie, Pumpkin Custard Pie (from fresh pumpkins from the market), Oatmeal Pie, Fried Pies (that page is really grease-spattered!), Old-fashioned Egg Pie, Lemon Chess Pie (I substituted rava, which is coarsely ground rice, for cornmeal), Lemon Meringue Pie, Buttermilk Pie, and Banana Cream Pie. These would have been served with chai in the afternoon or for dessert after an evening meal.
The notes show that I managed to celebrate American holidays in a traditional way during my years in India. For my first Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I made Baked Hen with Dressing, Buttermilk Pralines, and Date-Nut Roll, which I wrote was “like Uncle Glenn’s recipe.” I also found recipes that reminded me of my Mom’s cooking when I was growing up, such as Mrs. Spitzenberger’s Apple Oatmeal Strudel, which I noted was similar to my Mom’s apple crisp. Another recipe was for Cinnamon Puffs, “like Mom’s cake doughnuts she used to make on the farm.” I remember teaching my Indian cook how to make egg noodles, but my daughter liked to be the one to cut the dough into noodles, just as I did when I was her age.
The banana bread is out of the oven, cooling on the kitchen counter. And I make another entry in my well-worn recipe book/journal before I return it to the bookshelf. In the fall, the cookbook will be packed away to make the journey across the country with me when I move to Kentucky to start a new stage in my life. I’m enjoying the adventure!
To follow Karen’s adventures in Kentucky, check out her blog, Kentucky Day Trips.
This is a guest post by my sister, Karen Kolavalli:
“Tonight I’m remembering the cinnamon and sugar pie crust scraps Mom used to make for us. I don’t know if this is just something my mom did or if it was a common practice back in the day. The scraps, of course, are what’s left over after a pie crust is rolled out and fitted into the pie pan. The excess is trimmed off with a knife.
The pie crust scraps are placed on a cookie sheet and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and then baked for about 10 minutes. As soon as they’re out of the oven, they’re divvied up among the kids and eaten hot and fresh.
The ones I made tonight (in the picture) are bigger and not as “scrappy” as my Mom’s because I had a small ball of dough left over after making a small fruit cobbler. I rolled out the ball and cut it into strips. They were lovely. 🙂
Those sweet pie crust scraps are a special childhood memory.”
(A Christmas memory by Virginia Allain) Although I’m 65, I still play with dolls. Well, that is, I have a vintage doll and I make clothes for her. I think the reason I enjoy this goes back many years. Here’s my memory:
One Christmas when money was extra-tight, all the gifts were homemade. With six children to provide a Merry Christmas, it must have been quite a challenge. Mom helped each of us to make gifts for the others, plus she sewed and created gifts to give us from Santa. Heaven knows where she found the time for this.
I particularly remember the doll dresses she sewed from scrap of material for my sister’s doll. Karen’s doll was a Toni doll and she came with the standard short dress of the 1950s.
The outfits that Mom made were straight out of Gone with the Wind and Dr Zhivago, well, at least straight out of Mom’s imagination of outfits from those eras. She used leftover curtain material to make an ivory ball gown. Another dress of blue plaid wool even had a warm hat to go with it. There was a lightweight dress of green with cap sleeves and a ribbon around the waist.
My sister still has the doll dressed and on display in her home. Even after all these years, I was jealous of her doll and the dresses created by Mom. That’s when I went to eBay and found a Toni doll for myself a few years ago.
My sewing skills are not nearly as good as Mom’s but I’m having fun making outfits for my doll.
Read more about the Toni doll and my pages with instructions for making outfits.
Guest Blogger is Les Paugh Sr. who married Gail’s cousin Treva Mae Davidson. He remembers that he was out of work for 6 weeks when the union went on strike, so he went to El Dorado after hearing from Roy McGhee (Treva and Gail’s uncle) that Clyde needed help on the oil drilling rig.
“I went to work there November 1957. We only had two weeks of work in November and 1 week in December. We were living with Gail and Clyde Martin at that time. We had 3 kids and they had 3 or 4.
The only meat we had on the table was rabbits that I shot. Clyde had a Frazer car with wide flat fenders.
1951 Frazer autombile ad Mouse Pad by The_Olden_Eye
At night we would go out on the country roads and I would set on the fender and shoot rabbits with my pistol. Red Drilling Company gave us a turkey at Thanksgiving and one at Christmas.”
He found other work and the Paugh family found a place to live about a block from the hospital. “While I was working on the highway, east of town with the blade operator, a tornado came up on the west side of town. I told the operator that it looked like it hit our area. We both took off and went to the tool shack and our cars. I got into my 55 Packard and he went into the tool shed.
The tornado turned and came over the cars and the tool shed. My Packard and his 56 Chrysler parked by mine tipped up on their sides and I thought they were going to go over, but they didn’t. The blade operator and about 6 other men came out of the tool shed and they were all as white as a sheet. I asked what had happened. They said that a long piece of 2 X 6 had went through the shed but didn’t hit anybody there.
I was afraid that the tornado had went over to Clyde and Gail’s which was closer to the path of the tornado. I started over there and Treva and my kids came out of a house up the block that had a basement. When I saw all of you were OK, I went over to Gail and Clyde’s. The tornado hit about 1/2 a block from them.”
Note by Virginia Allain: At the time of the tornado, Clyde Martin was in the hospital after a serious car accident. Gail was pregnant with their sixth child, Shannon.