Family Stories

Loving to Eat – Is it Instilled in Our DNA?

Let’s talk about food.  That doesn’t seem to be very genealogy oriented, but, if you think about it, food is very much a family and friends occasion.  It doesn’t matter if you are cooking for two or twenty, the thought and preparation beforehand will make it a feast.

Whether it is a meal for Ritchey and I, or cooking for a crowd, there is much preparation before hand – not only just the cooking, but the thought of what herbs and spices would make this taste better?  How about this vegetable and a small salad?  What bread would taste best with this meal?  We want our family to enjoy their food and make this meal a memorable occasion.

Once during the 1930’s a salesman happened to stop by my great-grandmother Frances Barber Linton Montgomery’s home at lunch.  Even though she was having only the very basics of a depression era meal – fried pork fat, greens, potatoes and boiled eggs –  she invited the gentleman to eat with them.  My grandmother was distressed that her mother would ask someone to eat their ‘poor’ meal!  But since the invitation was issued with a kind heart, and the food was served with love, he said it was the best meal he had eaten in quite a while – and ate with relish.  The definition of hospitality – ‘the cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests’.  We should all remember that – it says nothing of fancy food, crystal plates or numerous dishes offered.  It speaks of treating guests, or family, with love.

My paternal grandmother, who cooked on a wood stove all her life, always added fried chicken wings to my father’s lunchbox – specifically for my mother.  It was her favorite piece of chicken and my grandmother remembered it.  This was before my parents married, so it was the love for a possible daughter-in-law that drove her to do this.  I remember her biscuits, warm and golden from the oven, her fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  I always wanted to be in the kitchen with her when she cooked, because it was warm and cozy, and the smells were wonderful!

My son-in-law once said he wished he appreciated his food as much as we did.  He likes to eat, but it’s not quite the almost ‘religious’ experience we have when it comes to food.  Is that part of his DNA – eat to live, but not an experience to enjoy, not only the food and the thought and preparation that went into, but the tantalizing tastes in your mouth and the discussion of how it was fixed, what was used, how did you get that particular flavor?  As we eat one meal we will discuss what we will have at another!  Is that instilled in your DNA?  Is it something you can learn?

Both sides of my family loved to eat.  My parents both came from farming families, so much of the food was grown on the farm – from the livestock they raised, to the vegetable gardens and fruit trees growing in the yard.  Both were young children that lived through the depression, but as my mom said many times, they always had plenty to eat.  Any time there was a gathering food was involved.  From the treats my paternal grandmother brought out while the adults were playing cards, for all to share, to the wagons filled with food in the yard when everyone gathered – such as for my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary.  I can remember special delicacies that each of my aunts made – and we always wanted that particular aunt to make that dish!

My maternal grandmother sold her fresh churned butter to make a little extra money.  Mom said before she sold it she took a knife and made little flowers and leaves on top for a pretty pattern.  Her butter and eggs were gladly accepted by the Springfield grocers – because they always sold well!  And grandmother’s baked chicken and dressing are something I drool over to this day – I can still taste it!  Mom always talked about her mother’s bread pudding.  I never had it, but it must have been superb.

And to make special memories with your family doesn’t require expensive ingredients.  My sister loves my Cannellini Beans paired with a skillet of cornbread.  How easy can you get?  Her family doesn’t care for dried beans, so she never cooks them at home.  I try to make this for her often, and  I thought I would share this recipe with you today.  What special dishes do you serve to those you love?

Cannellini Beans with Sage and Garlic

  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans
  • water
  • ½ stick butter
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • handful of dried sage

In a large pan rinse cannellini beans thoroughly. Add water to cover beans by about three inches. Bring to a boil then turn heat to medium. Stir occasionally, watching beans carefully. You may need to add a little water now and then to keep at the suggested level. After an hour add the butter and a good pinch of salt. Continue cooking until beans have softened and the soup becomes thick – approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Lower heat to medium low.  Add black pepper, garlic and sage. Cook an additional 30 minutes. Serve with cornbread.  Enjoy!


5 replies »

  1. Loved this post, Phyllis. I had forgotten that story about Mom putting fried chicken wings in Dad’s lunch. I have the recipe for the cannellini beans in the cookbook you gave me, but since you fix them for me when I come, I don’t make them. This would be a good idea for our Friday get together – hint, hint.

  2. I enjoyed this post, as i’m sure did many others. The story of the humble meal served to a guest reminded me of my mother’s grandmother. Three generations lived together during the depression, very near a train track. They got frequent visits from rail riders looking for a meal. Great grandma Sue always provided them with a complete meal and not just a sandwich, as they were more likely expecting. They didn’t have much themselves, but always shared what they had.

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