Memories of a Farm Kitchen (Pelican Publishing Company, 2010) hearkens back to when the hearth of the farm — the kitchen — represented the warmth and well-being of the family. Brothers Bob Artley and Rob Artley evoke these ideals in this touching homage to the traditional Midwestern farm kitchen. The following selection is excerpted from the fifteenth chapter.
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While we enjoy our memories of the past and remember those who made those memories for us, we must understand that they did not just “appear” in our midst. They were created through much effort and difficulty by the people of that time.
In the farm kitchens of the 1930s and 1940s, there was no refrigeration and therefore no frozen food, except in winter. There were no electric toasters, blenders, mixers, or microwaves. Potatoes were truly mashed, and cakes were diligently whipped 100 times by hand. Not only did meat need to be rendered and canned, it needed to be cooked. To be cooked, it needed to have a fire … that had to be built. And to build a fire, wood had to be cut and split. All these efforts have been considerably simplified by conveniences we have today.
The recipes of this time were created and shared, in many cases through necessity, by caring individuals who wanted to prepare delectable and nourishing dishes. The wholesome, tasty meals Mom fixed for us were much appreciated. However, it never occurred to us that there might be recipes involved in these wondrous foods she had prepared.
Mom had a recipe box in her kitchen. In that box were treasured recipes, and many of them came from a lady by the name of Laura Taggart.
Mac and Laura Taggart’s farm was only about two miles from ours. Their apple trees inspired many of Laura Taggart’s apple recipes: wonderful applesauce, jellies and jams, pie, and apple crisp. Over the years, her recipes have filtered down to form our expectations of “how things should taste,” without us knowing where they originated.
Thus, it was the sharing of recipes like those from Laura Taggart, in a certain locale of the country, that gave each neighborhood and culture its own individual recipes and tastes.
Perhaps in some Midwestern park on some future summer day, a small child who can no longer wait will reach onto a picnic table and put his finger into a wonderful dessert that descended from some farm kitchen of long ago. For much of what has been handed down to present generations was created in the farm kitchens of our past, under what today would be considered primitive conditions, as I have shared with you on these pages, and these recipes are now remembered as masterful culinary creations.
From Memories of a Farm Kitchen, text by Bob Artley and Rob Artley, illustrations by Bob Artley, © 2010 by Bob Artley, used by the permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Co., Inc.