52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: In The Kitchen

“From farm to table” are catch words for today’s marketing approaches. If my Grammy were here today, she will smile and shake her head. She must have been a woman ahead of her time: she always cooked from her farm to her table.

When I visited my grandparents on their Alton, Osborne County, Kansas farm in the summers, my Grammy was as busy as a hen in a barnyard. She raised her own chickens, pigs, and goats. She cooked big hearty meals for my grandfather. During harvest time, she and some neighbor women would gather in her kitchen to cook up the noon day meal. They set up a big table with a piece of plywood stretched across sawhorses. Yep, the table even sported a tablecloth.

The cooking would start early that morning. Hens were gathered and meet their fates at the chopping block. Plucked and butchered for frying in cast iron skillets, the chicken was seasoned with salt, pepper, flour, and paprika along with a buttermilk soak. Can you smell that yumminess frying, sizzling, and popping on the stove? After the chicken was done, flour, milk, salt, and pepper were added to the pan drippings to make the white gravy for the mashed potatoes. Using those little crispy bits as the base for the gravy gave it its perfection of a taste. Yummo! Fresh corn was a grand side dish along with homemade yeast rolls. Then the piece de resistance was being served a piece of homemade pie, possibly boysenberry. Oh, that homemade pie crust (made with lard) and filling made for tasty bites. At the end of the meal, the ladies gathered up the plates and utensils so they could set up washing and drying everything. Often, they washed up the pots and pans before the meal so final clean up would be easier. The men would return to the fields, and the women would return to chatting and catching up. The next week, the farm hands and ladies would set up harvesting some other neighbor’s fields.

When I think about those long ago days in my Grammy’s kitchen, I would love to sit again at that sawhorse table and enjoy that wonderfully cooked meal with her friends and neighbors.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Favorite Photo

The biggest treasures I have ever uncovered…that still make my heart pound and bring tears to my eyes…are black and white family photos. Beautiful, stunning, memory-raising, they escort me back to their given time periods. I can envision that snapshot of a moment as I notice the details all around me. Once again, I can hear the sounds of voices, the glee of laughter, and the vastness of smiles.

My favorite photo, I am asked to share. Which could it be? Who will be there with me? When I think of my father, Edward Joseph Slabik (1924-2007), one definite picture comes immediately to mind. My guess for the year is 1954. We lived in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. My mom, Merna Mae Storer (1924-2014), took the picture in our living room. I was my dad’s little girl, and he always took time to play with me. We would laugh and carry on. Always, he showed great affection and talked with me. He would teach me little lessons in how to throw balls, pat the dog, and run through the backyard. This photo is a summation of the joy we felt with each other.

Two years after my father passed away, I made a scrapbook about his life as part of my grief therapy. The album I chose had a cutout for a photo on the front cover. What would be placed there? I knew exactly what photo…our photo together…a piece of a golden memory from my treasure chest.