Joy of Cooking
Everyone agreed that lanky Nettie Hale was the best cook in our small town. Her dishes came out of her kitchen like magic, her secret was the ample use of real cream and butter, fresh ingredients, and a joy of good food that was catching.
Take her pie crusts, for instance. If a shadow of a fork passed over those delicious concoctions, they would begin to flake. Nettie’s secret was the use of lard in the making.
Lots of folks said she could take blue ribbons in any state fair in the union, if she would only enter, but Nettie preferred to give to church bake sales. That caused a little friction from those jockeying to be the first buyers.
Our family got a taste of Nettie’s cooking on winter when my mother was laid up with a case of pneumonia. Nettie brought over a whole, piping hot dinner for us. Time has dulled some memory of the dishes but I recall two of them: a toasty, brown-baked chicken and a chocolate cake that was frosted with Nettie’s famous, real candy fudge – an inch thick. We ate “high on the hog” that day.
Thinking of those bygone recipes, and the women who created them, always is very pleasant. Take a plate of Nettie’s juicy and crispy, spare ribs, with the sauerkraut, tamed so even the most delicate of stomachs welcomed it.
Think of apricot pie with foamy custard and the tart bits of fruit under that remarkable crust. Think of fresh peach ice cream served with a ginger snap cookie. Recall ice lime sherbet riding on one’s tongue when it’s 90 degrees outside. Bring back those homemade Christmas candies, featuring those gobs of white goodness known as divinity.
Alas, those creations were soon to be just memories, for Nettie Hale’s husband went to Dr. Folger and was put on a horribly strict diet.
The inspiration of Nettie’s kitchen was dried up immediately, and Nettie herself, became listless and dark of mood. Her giggle and her sugar jar were things of the past. We heard she cooked a lot of plain rice and lamb.
Even when Dr. Folger told her to cheer up because he gave permission for Frank to have everything forbidden once a year on his birthday, the gloom settled over her and those of us who had eaten her wares.
Sad to say, good eating times never last long as nutritional, educational flourishes.
Mary Elizabeth Mruzik